WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats were swift to condemn President Donald Trump on Tuesday for announcing his intention to deport undocumented immigrants — a pledge that appeared to be made on the eve of his re-election rally in Florida to spur his voters.
It also comes as illegal immigration to the United States is falling, particularly in Southwest states that include Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico, according to the Pew Research Center, a non-partisan think tank.
Trump used his Twitter account late Monday to announce that the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement would begin to deport “the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States,” although the agency has yet to announce a large-scale action.
The president told reporters at the White House that ICE was aware of the planned roundup. “They do know about it,” he said.
Of the undocumented immigrants, Trump said on Twitter: “They will be removed as fast as they come in.”
‘Utter malice and bigotry’
His message received a quick rebuke from Democratic leaders.
“The president’s new threat of a mass deportation dragnet is an act of utter malice and bigotry, designed solely to inject fear in our communities,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
“Donald Trump’s deportation scheme is designed to inject fear in our communities and tear families apart,” said Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev.
The president has praised Mexico for cracking down on immigration from Central American countries and blamed Democrats in Congress for not doing enough to stop the flow of immigrants coming from those countries.
“The Democrats should get together and solve the asylum problem, which is very easy to solve,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.
Some Senate Republicans attending party luncheons on Capitol Hill on Tuesday downplayed the president’s surprise crackdown announcement. They noted a similar announcement by Trump months ago was not carried out by ICE, or the Department of Homeland Security.
“I don’t know any more than I’ve read,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., brushing the subject away during his weekly news conference.
But Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the surprise launch of deportations was just another chaotic move by the Trump administration, and a crackdown made just hours before he was scheduled to speak at his re-election rally in Florida, a key electoral state in 2020.
“He seems to be doing it for political purposes,” Schumer told reporters.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said Trump could have achieved comprehensive immigration reform when he was first elected and Republicans held majorities in the House and Senate.
“This is just one more example of the chaos he causes,” said Klobuchar, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, one of two dozen in a large field of candidates.
“He creates this chaos, and then goes out and talks about it at a rally,” Klobuchar told reporters.
ICE officials said earlier this month that they anticipated deportation actions, and that those would include humane efforts dealing with families.
An administration source said the deportations announced in Trump’s tweets would be people who have received final deportation orders from immigration judges, according to the Associated Press.
Trump, in the past, used immigration to drive his voters to the polls. In the 2018 elections, he used the wedge issue to gain Republican seats in the Midwest, but his use of the issue was also credited with losses in suburban House districts that became part of the “Blue Wave.”
Illegal immigration falling
The number of undocumented immigrants in this country is shrinking, according to the Pew Research Center, a non-partisan think tank that studies immigration and Latino issues.
The number of undocumented immigrants in the United States in 2017 was estimated to be 10.5 million, a 14 percent drop from the 12.2 million thought to be here in 2007.
And Mexico, now accounts for less than 45 percent of undocumented immigrants, with larger influxes of immigrants coming from the “Northern Triangle,” the troubled violence-prone countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, according to the Pew Research Center.
While undocumented immigration populations continue to grow in Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois, fewer immigrants are going to Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, California, Oregon and New Mexico, the Pew Research Center found.
“Every piece of his anti-immigrant agenda is cruel and counterproductive. The president needs a reminder that the United States is a melting pot and the symbol of our nation is the Statue of Liberty,” Titus said.