It says a lot about how far astray America is when nobody is surprised to learn that the president once hatched a plan to orchestrate mass arrests of immigrants in a “blitz operation” across 10 major US cities.
Early last month, Stephen Miller succeeded in “purging” DHS of anyone deemed not sufficiently zealous when it comes to immigration policy. Kirstjen Nielsen was the highest profile casualty, but Miller’s efforts also deep-sixed Ron Vitiello’s nomination to lead ICE and led to the ouster of Secret Service director Randolph “Tex” Alles.
According to reports, Miller was in the habit of calling mid-level officials at multiple federal agencies to badger them into adopting a tougher approach to immigration policy.
Shortly after the details of Miller’s purge became public, the Washington Post revealed that according to a chain of e-mail messages reviewed by the paper, the Trump administration attempted to pressure US immigration authorities to flood the streets of sanctuary cities with illegal immigrants. Specifically, Trump sought to compel agencies to round up detained immigrants, throw them on buses and literally dump them into certain districts (including Speaker Pelosi’s district in San Francisco) as a way to punish his political rivals.
Miller was said to be a staunch supporter of the plan. Although the White House claimed the idea was nixed after ICE’s legal department advised against it, Trump would later insist it’s still under consideration.
Fast forward a month, and we now know a bit more about what happened just prior to Nielsen’s exit. As it turns out, Nielsen and Vitiello fought against what WaPo calls “a secret plan” to arrest families and children who entered the US illegally following Trump’s ill-fated “zero tolerance” policy early last year. Here’s the Post:
The ultimate purpose, the officials said, was a show of force to send the message that the United States was going to get tough by swiftly moving to detain and deport recent immigrants — including families with children.
The sprawling operation included an effort to fast-track immigration court cases, allowing the government to obtain deportation orders against those who did not show for their hearings — officials said 90 percent of those targeted were found deportable in their absence. The subsequent arrests would have required coordinated raids against parents with children in their homes and neighborhoods.
Nielsen and Vitiello reportedly wanted nothing to do with that. They were, according to former officials who spoke to WaPo, worried about a lack of preparedness for such a sweeping endeavor. They were also concerned about the terrible optics it would create and the distinct possibility that it would siphon already scarce resources from the actual border.
Unsurprisingly, Miller was “especially supportive of the plan”, officials said. WaPo notes that he was “eager to execute dramatic, highly visible mass arrests.”
If you’re wondering whether this idea has been scrapped, the answer is apparently no. It’s still under consideration and the ultimate goal is to arrest some 10,000 people, allegedly.
WaPo’s sources also said Nielsen’s objections were tied to what she considered to be insurmountable logistic concerns, not to any ethical or moral qualms. [So, don’t go thinking she’s a good person, or anything]
Everyone involved declined to comment, but it’s clear that the pushback from Nielsen and Vitiello was in no small part responsible for their exits, likely at Miller’s urging.
In addition to serving as a reminder of how truly vile an individual Miller is and how receptive Trump is to manifestly cruel ideas, the above also underscores the president’s tendency to forge ahead into potentially dangerous territory without any semblance of a plan.
“Vitiello urged ICE agents to conduct more surveillance work, in particular to ensure that children would not be separated from their families in the blitz”, WaPo goes on to write, adding that Nielsen and Vitiello’s objections “reflected a deeper concern that the White House was pushing a shock-and-awe operation designed for show, but lacking in deliberative planning and research.”
All of this is inexcusable and once again highlights Trump’s ongoing effort to make an absolute mockery of what was, until recently anyway, America’s unwavering promise to the world as immortalized by Emma Lazarus.