The Trump administration is preparing an immigration enforcement blitz that would target arrests in places that have adopted “sanctuary” policies, reports the Washington Post. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement operation, known informally as the “sanctuary op,” could begin in California as soon as this week. It would then expand to cities including Denver and Philadelphia. Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, probably will travel to at least one of the jurisdictions where the operation will take place to boost President Donald Trump’s claims that leaders in those cities have failed to protect residents from dangerous criminals. Trump has complained about sanctuary jurisdictions throughout his presidency, and he has expanded those attacks to include Democratic mayors in cities convulsed by racial justice demonstrations and sporadic rioting after the killing of George Floyd.
The immigration operation would sync with two themes of Trump’s reelection campaign: his crackdown on immigration and his push to vilify cities led by Democrats he blames for crime and violence. Officials described the “sanctuary op” as more of a political messaging campaign than a major ICE operation, noting that the agency already arrests immigration violators with criminal records without much fanfare. Cities with policies that prohibit coordination with ICE refuse to hold immigrants in jail longer than they are required to so ICE officers can take them into custody. Such cities do not help ICE by checking the legal status of suspects arrested for minor offenses. Some 70 percent of the arrests ICE makes occur after the agency has been notified about an immigrant’s pending release from jail or state prison. ICE has lodged more than 160,000 such “detainers” with local law enforcement since 2019. Sanctuary policies have worsened a backlog of what ICE calls “at-large criminal and fugitive aliens ICE seeks to apprehend,” the agency says.