House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced the move as a “mass deportation dragnet.”
Trump, who was speaking to reporters at the White House before a trip to Florida, praised Mexico for action he said it had taken in recent days to stem the flow of immigrants to the United States.
The Republican president wrote in a tweet on Monday that US authorities would next week begin the process of removing millions of immigrants who are in the United States illegally.
Responding to a reporter who said immigration officials did not know about his planned action, Trump said on Tuesday: “They know, they know. They’re going to start next week, and with people coming to our country, and they come in illegally – they have to go out.”
Pelosi, the top Democratic elected official, said in a statement: “The President’s new threat of a mass deportation dragnet is an act of utter malice and bigotry, designed solely to inject fear in our communities.”
There are an estimated 12 million immigrants who are in the United States illegally, mainly from Mexico and Central America.
Under a deal reached earlier this month, Mexico has agreed to take Central American immigrants seeking asylum in the United States until their cases are heard in US courts.
The agreement, which included Mexico pledging to deploy National Guard troops to stop Central American immigrants from reaching the US border, averted a Trump threat to hit Mexican imports with tariffs.
“Mexico has been doing a very good job the last four days … I appreciate the job they’re doing,” Trump said.
“Guatemala, likewise is much different than it was under past administrations, so we’ll see how that works out,” he said without giving details.
US rights group Human Rights First has said it was “simply ludicrous” for the United States to assert that Guatemala was capable of protecting refugees, when its own citizens are fleeing violence.
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