US to deport hundreds of Central American families: Report
US immigration officials are planning a series of raids in May and June to deport hundreds of Central American families found to have entered the country illegally.
The month-long operation would likely be the largest deportation sweep targeting immigrant mothers and children by the administration of US President Barack Obama this year after, according to sources and an internal document seen by Reuters.
There were similar raids over two days in January that focused on the states of Texas, Georgia and North Carolina.
Those raids, which resulted in the detention of 121 people, mostly women and children, sparked an outcry from immigration advocates and criticism from some Democrats.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), part of the US Department of Homeland Security, has now told field offices nationwide to launch a 30-day “surge” of arrests focused on mothers and children who have already been told to leave the United States, the document seen by Reuters said.
The operation would also cover children who have entered the country without a guardian and since turned 18 years of age, the document said.
The operation in January marked a departure for ICE, from one-off deportations to high-profile raids meant to deter migrants from coming to the United States.
An ICE spokeswoman said immigrants who arrived illegally after January 1, 2014 are priorities for removal. The spokeswoman said the agency does not “confirm or deny the existence of specific ongoing or future law enforcement actions.”
Federal resources were strained in 2014 under a wave of illegal migrants crossing the US-Mexico border, especially women and children fleeing violence from Central American nations, including Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
From October 2015 through March 2016, the US Border Patrol apprehended more than 32,000 family “units”, defined as mothers and children traveling together, for crossing illegally into the United States.
Over the same period in 2014-2015, there were about 14,000 such apprehensions and about 19,800 in 2013-2014.
Many of those apprehended for illegal border crossings are put into deportation proceedings in court but do not show up for their scheduled appearance before a judge or ignore court orders to leave the country.
The surge in unlawful entries has put Obama in a tough spot in a presidential election year in which he wants to see a fellow Democrat elected as his successor. Obama has said criminal immigrants and those who have recently entered the country are priorities for deportation
Obama is regularly criticized by Republicans over the presence of more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.