(CNN) — Immigration authorities are expected to begin conducting raids in nine cities today, targeting about 2,000 undocumented immigrants who courts have ordered to be removed from the country, a US official has said.
The raids are slated for Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco, a senior immigration official said. New Orleans is also on the list, but the city tweeted last week that US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement said it would suspend operations through the weekend in areas hit by Tropical Storm Barry.
ICE will not comment on operational details of the raids, spokesman Matthew Bourke said, but the department is focusing primarily on those it considers dangerous.
“ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of unlawfully present aliens who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security,” Bourke said.
News of the raids has left many undocumented immigrants frightened. They’ve been stocking up on groceries and making plans to stay in their homes with the lights off and the blinds down. Some are staying home from work. Others are posting signs inside their homes reminding them what to do if ICE agents show up. Unsure of where to turn, they’re flooding hotlines with calls.
ICE had planned to arrest and deport families with court-ordered removals in late June, according to the senior immigration official, but President Donald Trump delayed the raids to give Congress time to “work out a solution” on what he said were asylum and loophole problems with the country’s immigration policy.
Mark Morgan, acting commissioner for US Customs and Border Protection who was acting ICE director at the time, said the raids were postponed because operations details had been leaked. Former acting ICE director John Sandweg also expressed concern.
“You never want the target to know you’re coming. You want that element of surprise because it keeps you safe,” he said. “From an effective perspective, that’s why you don’t announce these things.”
Trump has repeatedly tweeted about the impending operation, which is expected to target recent arrivals to the country.
In February, ICE sent around 2,000 letters to families who already had received final orders of removal by judges in absentia, asking them to self-report to ICE offices by March. The upcoming operation is expected to target approximately 2,000 people, the senior immigration official said.
According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement statistics, 256,085 people were deported in fiscal year 2018, up from 226,119 removals in fiscal year 2017.
Acting US Citizenship and Immigration Services director Ken Cuccinelli, who has confirmed the raids are “absolutely going to happen,” has said there are 1 million people in the county facing removal orders.
“Of course, that isn’t what ICE will go after in this, but that’s the pool of people who have been all the way through the due process chain,” he said.
-Eliott C. McLaughlin reporting for CNN
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