If you don’t like what President Trump does, wait about five minutes. What started as a joke is quickly becoming a theme. On Friday afternoon, it was reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement was planning raids in more than a dozen major cities, targeting up to 2,000 families for deportation. By Saturday, Trump tweeted the raids would be delayed another two weeks, ostensibly so that Congress could “work out a solution.” It’s the third such instance this week— and second on immigration— where Trump has threatened major action, only to pull back at the last minute.
This latest fire started on Monday, with Trump boasting, again on Twitter, that “next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States.” The bombshell caught ICE officials completely off-guard, with one telling the Washington Post “that they were not aware that the president planned to divulge their enforcement plans on Twitter.” That appeared to be the end of the operation, at least, until Friday.
Trump tweeted that he called off the raids “at the request of Democrats.” Indeed, Speaker Pelosi evidently called Trump Friday night, asking him to do just this. Trump wants action on “the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border.” A $4.5 billion package, consisting of both humanitarian support and immigration enforcement, is currently floating through Congress. It’s likely the raids could have endangered that carefully-crafted deal if carried out. Democrats are highly unlikely to accept any changes to asylum law, however. They prefer comprehensive immigration reform, and a path to citizenship for those in the country illegally.
There was also speculation that Trump’s tweets effectively blew ICE’s cover and endangered the mission, forcing them to abort. A former DHS official told Politico some ICE officers pushed back on the raids once they became public, citing both officer safety and child welfare concerns. Namely, the high publicity and widespread public scrutiny following the tweets might have put officers in at least some degree of danger. What’s more, the intended targets of such raids might have been tipped off, with some making emergency contingency plans to hide and wait.
Trump’s voters knew what they were getting when they voted for him nearly three years ago. Trump was, above all, unpredictable; a disruptor, someone who would shake up the system and break down the barriers preventing other presidents from keeping their promises. That unpredictability has led to an image of a president who is only consistent about being inconsistent. Only time will tell whether his strategy of issuing threats as a means of extracting concessions from his political opponents (at home and abroad) is really working. Immigration was and remains the number-one issue to Trump’s base, and they won’t wait forever to see results.