ICE officers at the home of a suspected undocumented immigrant. Courtesy ICE

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California filed suit Thursday to protect thousands of immigrant families and children targeted for deportation in mass raids expected Sunday.

President Donald Trump revealed last month that the raids were coming, vowing on Twitter that “millions” would be deported, but the action was delayed amid the resulting publicity.

The preemptive lawsuit was filed in federal court in New York on behalf of three Los Angeles-based non-profit service groups — Central American Resource Center, Immigrant Defenders Law Center and Public Counsel — as well as the New York’s Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project.

Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement are reportedly targeting more than 2,000 immigrants in Los Angeles and other major cities who have missed a court appearance or been ordered removed from the country. San Diego has not been mentioned as a target for the raids.

ICE spokesman Matt Bourke would not confirm the pending raids or offer details, citing “law-enforcement sensitivities and the safety and security of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel.”

The lawsuit argues that constitutional due process requires the government to bring arrested families and children before an immigration judge so they can have a day in court before facing deportation.

ACLU said the suit aims to protect refugee families and children who fled widespread violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and other countries at the hands of their governments and murderous gangs. For many of these migrants, obtaining asylum in the U.S. “could be a matter of life and death,” according to the ACLU.

Bourke said ICE “prioritizes the arrest and removal of unlawfully present aliens who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.”

He added that 90% of those arrested by ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations division last year had either a criminal conviction, pending criminal charges or had illegally re-entered the country after previously being removed.

“However, all of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and — if found removable by final order — removal from the United States,” he said.

— From Staff and Wire Reports

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.