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Nielsen, Vitiello pushed back on White House plan to arrest immigrants

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Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and former Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Ronald Vitiello were given the boot in April of this year — and a new report from The Washington Post gives insight on one of the last plans they allegedly quashed before their ouster.

The plan reportedly targeted migrants who crossed the US-Mexico border. The goal of the sweeping measure — aimed at arresting and deporting recent migrants — was to deter further crossings, after the failed “zero tolerance” policy.

The proposal called for speeding up the court process, allowing the issuance of deportation orders even if migrants didn’t show up to their hearings, according to The Post, and the Department of Justice prioritized recent immigrants so that officials could more quickly secure deportation orders. Around 2,500 deportation orders had been secured for adults and children, according to the report.

Per the proposed plan, ICE would then conduct raids to arrest thousands across 10 cities — including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago — according to The Post, which spoke to seven former and current DHS officials.

Read more: Trump is booting out anyone who tells him his immigration ideas are illegal. Experts are worried about what will happen next.

Unlike other cases, if migrants are seeking asylum, the US cannot use a policy of “expedited removal,” Vox explains, in which a person may be deported without going before an immigration judge.

Asylum-seekers, whether they arrive at a port of entry or not “can’t be deported until they’ve been screened by an asylum officer to see if they have a ‘credible fear’ of persecution,” Vox reports. The Department of Health and Human Services takes the responsibility of unaccompanied minors, and families are usually released after 20 days, because of a 2015 court ruling that says they cannot be detained indefinitely.

The Post reports that the “vast majority of families who have crossed the border in the past 18 months seeking asylum remain in the country, awaiting a court date or in defiance of deportation orders.” And the cities that would have been targeted by this plan were reportedly top destinations for migrants.

Nielsen and Vitiello pushed back due to logistics: They were “concerned about a lack of preparation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, the risk of public outrage and worries that it would divert resources away from the border,” The Post reported.

Read more: Nancy Pelosi gave a full-throated defense of Rashida Tlaib after Trump and Republicans called her Holocaust comments anti-Semitic

The two were reportedly concerned about children and parents getting separated, having enough beds to house those detained, the impact of this blitz on other border operations, among other tactical issues.

White House adviser Stephen Miller and then-Acting Deputy Director of ICE Matt Albence were reportedly in favor of the plan. Albence was tapped to be acting head of ICE last month.

The formulation of the plan began in September 2018, according to The Post, and it is still under consideration.

Between February and April, there was a surge in migrants at the US-Mexico border, and Border Patrol was struggling with the increase. The number of migrants apprehended by Border Patrol was 109,144 in April, the highest number since 2007, INSIDER’s Michelle Mark reported. Of those apprehended, over 58,000 were part of a family unit.

President Donald Trump has made hard-line immigration policies a major pillar of his administration. Some of his policies have been overturned by courts, while others were stymied by officials.

He recently threatened to close the US-Mexico border and also cut off aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, where the majority of the migrants originate from — fleeing violence in their respective countries. He has also sparred with Congress over funding for a wall along the southern border, which experts argue will not secure the border.

INSIDER contacted the White House, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security for confirmation and more information on this report.

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