The Trump administration is to begin rounding up and deporting thousands of migrants living in the US illegally this weekend, according to a report.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids are due to target people in 10 or more major cities who have already been ordered to leave the country in a crackdown lasting several days, the New York Times reported.
The Times cited unnamed homeland security officials as saying ICE would target about 2,000 people who crossed into the US in recent months – but also carry out “collateral” deportations of people who happen to be nearby.
Families would, where possible, be detained together in facilities in Pennsylvania and Texas, the paper reported, with people who cannot be held there due to space constraints put up in hotel rooms.
Despite delays, “they are absolutely going to happen”, Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, has publicly said.
However, the families’ lawyers are likely to oppose their deportations in court, causing delays in the process or possibly halting it, according to the Times.
Mr Trump has tweeted about detaining “millions” of people, while Mr Cuccinelli said about 1 million people had exhausted their legal appeals and were eligible for deportation.
Nancy Pelosi, the top House Democrat, has previously called on Mr Trump to call off his planned mass raids. “It’s outside the circle of civilised human behaviour to just be kicking down doors, splitting up families,” she said last month.
The renewed push to deport illegal residents came after the White House suffered a storm of criticism for the conditions in which migrants, and particularly children, have been held after crossing into the US.
Stories have been collated by doctors, lawyers and government inspectors of sick babies living in squalid, overcrowded cells; children forced to sleep on the floor by vindictive guards and without access to showers; cells holding adults filled to double their capacity; and diets consisting only of processed sausage sandwiches.
Politicians have been forced to supply billions of dollars in additional funds to help border agents move people out of their camps.
On Wednesday officials said they were holding about 200 unaccompanied children along the southern border, down from more than 2,500 in May, thanks to congressional funding increases.
Additional reporting by Reuters