President Donald Trump has described his administration's efforts to increase the number of illegal immigrants to be deported as a "military operation."
Trump has issued new guidelines broadening the categories of people considered priorities for deportation, The Hill reported.
"We're getting really bad dudes out of this country," Trump said Feb. 23. "And at a rate nobody has ever seen before. And they're the bad ones. And it's a military operation."
The president's comments appeared to contradict his immigration guidelines, which did not specify that the military would be involved in the deportation process.
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Trump alleged that those being removed from the United States were mainly criminals.
"You see what's happening at the border," Trump added. "All of the sudden, for the first time, we're getting gang members out. We're getting drug lords out."
Trump's regulations allow thousands of additional border agents and police to be hired to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the clampdown.
"When you see gang violence and you've read about it like never before, all of the things, much of that is people who are here illegally. And they're tough ... but they're not tough like our people," he added.
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Trump's measures prioritize immigrants for deportation who are merely suspected of a crime. This goes further than the procedure under former President Barack Obama's administration, which only deported those convicted of a crime.
Following his inauguration, Trump promised to deport up to 3 million illegal immigrants. An estimated 11 million people live in the United States without legal papers.
Groups on social media and volunteer networks have been set up to support immigrants affected by deportation raids. Over 22,000 people signed up to the #HereToStay network, an organization which seeks to plan protests at short notice against deportations.
Raids have been conducted in a number of states and the increased presence of ICE officials is causing concern in some immigrant communities, reports The Guardian.
"People are scared, they don’t want to leave their homes or take their kids to school. Businesses are already hurting as a result of people stopping to engage in everyday activities," said Sarah Owings of the American Immigration Lawyers Association in Georgia.