Washington — Echoing the concerns of immigrant advocates across the nation, Democratic Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said the expected Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) roundups of undocumented immigrants will lead to government-sponsored family separation — effectively, a second round of President Trump's infamous "zero tolerance" policy.
"This will be the interior version of family separation," Castro told CBS News Thursday, referring to the policy in 2018 that led to the forcible separation of nearly 3,000 migrant children from their parents and provoked a massive public outcry. "Rather than happening at the border, it's going to happen in cities across the country."
As part of a crackdown ordered and publicly pushed by Mr. Trump, ICE is planning to carry out a new wave of raids on Sunday in major immigrant-heavy urban centers, targeting undocumented families with pending removal orders, two administration officials told CBS News. Top Democrats have urged the president to scrap the operation — which he first telegraphed last month, only to postpone it.
ICE has said the approximately 2,000 families the agency is focused on finding and apprehending are part of an expedited docket in the immigration court system and were ordered deported for failing to appear in court.
Administration officials have defended the operation by saying these families had "due process" in the immigration court system — a claim disputed by advocates and attorneys, who point to bureaucratic errors that led many families to miss their court dates. Some families were never notified of their court dates because the notice was sent to the wrong address.
Castro predicted the imminent ICE sweeps will inevitably lead to the separation of families because the government is likely to apprehend undocumented individuals with family members — particularly children — who are U.S. citizens, green card holders or have other types of legal status in the country. It is estimated that there are millions of these so-called "mixed status" families.
The Texas Democrat, considered a rising star in the party, views the operation as a politically motivated maneuver by the president to galvanize his supporters through the hardline immigration platform that helped fuel his presidential campaign.
"He's doing it to inflict pain and to intimate immigrant communities," Castro said, referring to Mr. Trump. "He's doing because he's gearing up for his reelection and needs to prove to his base that he's tough on immigrants."
Castro's twin brother, Julián, a Democratic presidential candidate, also weighed in on the raids with direct advice for immigrants who are worried about being targeted. "My message to our immigrant families is to know your rights, to understand that if an ICE agent shows up at your door, you don't necessarily have to answer unless they have warrant from a judge," he told CBS News' Ed O'Keefe on the sidelines of a Latino citizens conference Thursday. "Demand to see that warrant from a judge."
The looming raids and the president's repeated threats of mass deportations, Castro added, have further fractured the already contentious relationship between the White House and Democrats in control of the House. "This further erodes whatever trust is left between this administration and any members of Congress — and I believe a majority in the House of Representatives."
And Castro also suggested the deepening schism will stonewall legislation, especially measures related to funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE. Last month, divisions within the House Democratic caucus were exposed when a version of border funding legislation with stronger protections for migrant children in U.S. custody favored by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and progressives was derailed in the House after a group of moderates threatened to revolt.
Joining progressive lawmakers, Castro and other members of the Hispanic Caucus voted against the Republican-led Senate version, calling the bill a "betrayal of our American values." The Texas Democrat said it is now incumbent upon him and other lawmakers to press their fellow Democrats to consider the expected ICE raids — and their impact on immigrant communities — before approving any measure to fund immigration enforcement and DHS.
"Will I consider this the next time a funding request comes up? Yes, absolutely," Castro added. "And I think that all of us should."