U.S. President Donald Trump said Sunday he wants to give opposition Democratic lawmakers "every last chance" to stiffen the country's asylum laws and immigration policies before launching nationwide raids to deport undocumented migrants.
Trump, without identifying the details of what he wants, said the lawmakers who oppose his tough immigration stance could "quickly negotiate simple changes to Asylum and Loopholes. This will fix the Southern Border, together with the help that Mexico is now giving us. Probably won't happen, but worth a try. Two weeks and big Deportation begins!"
Trump had called for the raids in more than a dozen major U.S. cities to start Sunday, but abruptly called them off on Saturday.
Vice President Mike Pence told the CNN television network, "We've got to close the loopholes" at the border, where he said more than a million undocumented migrants, mostly from Central America, are expected to arrive this year to seek asylum in the United States.
"We've got to end the day where people believe they can come in and seek asylum and be released into the United States," Pence said. "The days of our porous border are over."
The vice president contended that 90 percent of undocumented migrants ordered to show up for later court hearings on their asylum requests skip the hearings, but the country's Justice Department says the figure in 2018 was the opposite, with 89 percent showing up as ordered.
But whether any immigration deal between Trump and opposition Democrats can be reached is questionable. Previous partial agreements have foundered in Congress in recent years, with Republican and Democratic lawmakers unable to reach a final accord.
The reports that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency planned to conduct large-scale enforcement actions sparked an outcry from Democratic leaders in many major U.S. cities, who condemned the plan and initiated efforts to help affected undocumented migrants.
Trump said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged him Friday night to call off the raids, to show the same compassion he had in calling off a retaliatory military strike against Iranian targets after Tehran shot down an unmanned surveillance drone last Thursday.
"The President spoke about the importance of avoiding the collateral damage of 150 lives in Iran. I would hope he would apply that same value to avoiding the collateral damage to tens of thousands of children who are frightened by his actions,'' she said in the statement, in which she called the raids "heartless.''
Pelosi responded later Saturday to Trump's announcement to delay the raids, tweeting, "Mr. President, delay is welcome. Time is needed for comprehensive immigration reform. Families belong together.''
Just hours before his tweet that announced the postponement of the migrant raids, as he departed the White House Saturday for Camp David, Trump said migrants who were to be targeted in a nationwide roundup should return to their native countries.
ICE Acting Director Mark Morgan told reporters days earlier the agency would round up and deport families who have received a removal order from a U.S. immigration court.
The operation had been expected to initially target up to 2,000 families in large cities that are major immigration destinations, including Houston, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles.
Trump tweeted Saturday morning that ICE agents will pursue those who "have run from the law and run from the courts."
He added, "These are people that are supposed to go back to their home country. They broke the law by coming into the country, & now by staying."
The Miami Herald reports the other cities to be targeted were Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, New Orleans, New York and San Francisco.
Last Monday, Trump had tweeted the U.S. would start deporting "millions of illegal aliens" from the country next week, but the announcement appeared to catch the country's immigration officials by surprise.
Administration officials said the deportation plans have been under consideration for months, but immigration officials said earlier this week that raids on migrant families were not imminent.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan has warned that an operation to arrest migrants in their homes and at work sites risked separating children from their parents.