The speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said Thursday that President Donald Trump's threats to round-up and deport undocumented immigrants are meant to sow fear in Latino communities.
"Families belong together. Every person in America has rights," the California Democrat told a press conference on Capitol Hill, the Efe news reported.
"These families are hard-working members of our communities and our country.
"This brutal action will terrorise children and tear families apart," she said, responding to media reports that the raids - first signalled by Trump last month - are set to begin next Sunday.
"When he announced this before, I called - God bless you - some people of faith about this, evangelicals who support the president for other reasons, but who have been good on immigration issues, usually," the House speaker said.
"And basically, they were very concerned that this goes too far. Because these raids were not what they signed up for with President Trump. And I think their calls to the president made a difference," Pelosi said.
Her press conference followed a story in The New York Times that cited current and former officials of the Department of Homeland Security as saying that the raids would start on Sunday in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York and San Francisco.
Recounting an exchange with representatives of Hispanic evangelical groups, Pelosi said they told her: "on Sunday, west of the Mississippi, our people are in church. And as they prepare to go to church, they feel very threatened and scared by these raids."
"So hopefully the president will think again about it or these groups will weigh in once again," the speaker added.
She emphasised the importance of protecting the US-born children of undocumented migrants detained in raids.
While the official rationale for the sweep is to apprehend roughly 2,000 people facing deportation orders, the sources for The New York Times story said that Immigration and Customs Service (ICE) agents will be authorised to detain any undocumented migrants they encounter in the course of the operation.
"When possible, family members who are arrested together will be held in family detention centres in Texas and Pennsylvania. But because of space limitations, some might end up staying in hotel rooms until their travel documents can be prepared. ICE's goal is to deport the families as quickly as possible," The Times said.
The Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy toward unauthorised immigration has led to the separation of migrant families taken into custody on the US southern border.
Taking children from their parents was unpopular from the start and public outrage has grown following reports of terrible conditions inside facilities holding the minors.
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