US immigration authorities plan to launch on Sunday a sweeping effort to deport recently arrived undocumented families, the Washington Post reported on Friday, citing three unnamed US officials.
The operation is expected to target up to 2,000 families facing deportation orders in as many as 10 US cities, including Houston, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles, according to the newspaper.
A spokesman for the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) declined to comment, saying: "Due to law-enforcement sensitivities and the safety and security of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel, the agency will not offer specific details related to enforcement operations before the conclusion of those actions."
In a call with reporters earlier this week, Mark Morgan, the acting director of ICE, told reporters the agency would target for deportation families that have received a removal order from a US immigration court.
Morgan said ICE wanted to deport undocumented families who had recently arrived in the United States to discourage more Central Americans from arriving.
Trump had tweeted on Tuesday, before the formal kickoff of his 2020 re-election campaign, that ICE would begin removing "the millions" of undocumented immigrants in the US.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the country's top Democrat, responded, saying, "The president’s new threat of a mass deportation dragnet is an act of utter malice and bigotry, designed solely to inject fear in our communities."
'Know your rights'
Rights groups slammed the announced crackdown, sharing information about what immigrants should do if they are approached by ICE.
Erika Andiola, the chief advocacy officer for immigrants' rights group, RAICES, tweeted an emotional video she recorded just after she said her mother and brother were taken by US authorities in 2013.
"I still have constant nightmares about this," she said in the tweet. "Imagine having the most precious person in your life taken from you by force."
The number of migrants and asylum seekers apprehended crossing the US-Mexico border surged in May to the highest level since 2006, many of them families fleeing violence and poverty in Central America.
The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Separately, the governor of Texas said the state was deploying 1,000 National Guard troops to the border after he said more than 45,000 people were apprehended after crossing the border between official ports of entry in the past three weeks.