President Donald Trump's promise of sweeping deportation raids has so far resulted in 35 arrests, about half of which were families, the head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told reporters on Tuesday.
The coordinated enforcement push fell well short of the "millions" Trump promised on Twitter last month, but has been enough to stoke fear across immigrant communities across the U.S.
There were 18 family members arrested along with 17 others picked up over the course of the operation, Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence told reporters.
Albence would not provide specifics on when or where the family members were arrested, citing concerns for the safety of ICE agents in the field. The enforcement actions targeted families who were issued final orders of removal by an immigration judge.
“We went out there to try and enforce these judges’ orders,” Albence said Tuesday.
The ICE enforcement efforts were limited because they relied on the addresses those unauthorized immigrants provided to authorities, Albence said.
Overall, the Trump administration still falls behind the number of formal removal orders issued under President Barack Obama.
But the Trump administration still continues to modify federal government policy in an effort to conduct larger numbers of deportations.
The Department of Homeland Security formalized a policy change Tuesday to expedite deportations for people who cannot prove they’ve been in the country for more than two years.
The new Homeland Security policy would apply to nearly 300,000 unauthorized immigrants, according to estimates from the Migration Policy Institute.
The rule would require people to prove they were, “physically present in the United States continuously” for two years before the first time they’re told by immigration authorities they cannot be in the country.
Omar Jadwat, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, said they plan to stop the rule in court.
“Under this unlawful plan, immigrants who have lived here for years would be deported with less due process than people get in traffic court,” Jadwat said in a statement Monday.
Lawyers who constructed the legal framework for the Obama administration’s immigration policies told ABC News that the Trump administration has obstructed itself from carrying out it’s deportation goals.
Peter Vincent, a top ICE lawyer under Obama, said Trump’s elimination of the Obama administration’s enforcement priorities have resulted in a less efficient process for deportations.
“The Trump administration has no priorities whatsoever,” Vincent said. “If everything is a priority, it’s axiomatic that nothing is a priority.”
The number of unauthorized immigrants issued formal removal orders hit a record high under the Obama administration in 2013 and has continued to decline into the Trump administration.
Leon Fresco, who represented the Obama administration in litigating their immigration policies, said Trump himself has made the job of deporter in chief more difficult announcing ICE arrests on twitter rather than carefully coordinating with state and local authorities.
“You have to build confidence and trust with local communities that grandma isn’t going to be scooped up in this,” Fresco told ABC News.