Acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Ken Cuccinelli kept quiet Sunday on details of the nationwide immigration raids that began Saturday night, including whether or not families would be separated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Cuccinelli said he would not discuss any operation details of the raids in order to protect ICE agents from any danger and would not guarantee that families would not be separated in the raids.
“In the same way I wasn’t willing to talk about operation details …. I won’t comment on that,” he said. “There are 1 million people, including families, with removal orders.”
CNN’s Jake Tapper pressed Cuccinelli on how pledging that ICE would not separate families is “operational.”
“I’m not going to say yes or no to anything like that, because then certain people can write themselves off … or play a loophole,” Cuccinelli said.
Cuccinelli also would not confirm that the raids had started, even as a senior administration official told Fox News earlier that the crackdown began late Saturday evening.
ICE resumed its previously announced plan to apprehend thousands of undocumented immigrants who’ve been given orders to leave the country, targeting people living in at least 10 cities. The ICE raids began late Saturday and into the early morning hours on Sunday in “a number of jurisdictions,” not just New York City, a senior administration official confirmed to Fox News.
Cuccinelli said the main goal of the raid was to apprehend violent criminals, but that “will not be the exclusive limit of any operation.”
One group that will not be targeted in the raids, however, is migrant families evacuating due to Tropical Storm Barry.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in a news release Thursday night that it is focused on ensuring that people along the Gulf Coast stay safe during the storm.
Officials said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not be conducting the immigration operations in places where evacuations or sheltering is occurring, unless there is “a serious public safety threat.”
Immigrant communities have been on edge since President Donald Trump’s administration announced plans for the operation, inflaming the political debate over immigration. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a pre-emptive lawsuit Thursday that aims to protect asylum seekers. Activists held demonstrations and advocates coached immigrants on their rights.
Administration officials have said that the coordinated action will target about 2,000 people with final deportation orders in major cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Miami.
Fox News Travis Fedschun and The Associated Press contributed to this report.