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Trump delays mass deportation of ‘illegal immigrants’

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President Donald Trump said he will delay mass deportation raids scheduled for Sunday as he seeks compromise with Democratic leaders on immigration issues.

In a Twitter message Saturday afternoon, Trump said at “the request of Democrats, I have delayed the Illegal Immigration Removal Process (Deportation) for two weeks to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems.”

Trump warned that if no compromise is reached, “Deportations start!”

Trump was under pressure from Democrats to call off the roundup, which was expected to target families in up to 10 U.S. cities on Sunday.

U.S. House of Representatives’ Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, asked Trump by phone on Friday night to call off the raids, according to a person familiar with the matter. Pelosi also urged religious leaders on Saturday to put pressure on Trump.

The president, a Republican, has made illegal immigration a centrepiece of his administration and is highlighting the issue in his campaign for the 2020 election.

He has railed against an increase in people crossing the U.S. southern border, many from Central America who are seeking refuge in America under U.S. asylum laws. On Saturday he said the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was focused on getting the transnational street gang MS-13 out of the United States.

Neither Pelosi nor Senator Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, had immediate comment on the delay. Pelosi said earlier in the day the expected raids would “inject terror into our communities” and tear families apart.

“The President’s action makes no distinction between a status violation and committing a serious crime,” Pelosi said.

Mark Morgan, acting director of ICE, said this week his agency would target for deportation families that have received a removal order from a U.S. immigration court.

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An operation was slated to launch on Sunday and expected to target up to 2,000 families facing deportation orders in as many as 10 U.S. cities, including Houston, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles, the Washington Post reported on Friday.

Trump wrote on Twitter earlier on Saturday that ICE will apprehend people who have run from the law. “These are people that are supposed to go back to their home country,” Trump wrote.

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