The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly planning a series of raids targeting immigrants who have illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents could be set to conduct a nationwide sweep, targeting adults and children who have already been ordered deported by an immigration judge, according to The Washington Post.
Figures reported by The Washington Post suggest that more than 100,000 families have fled Central America across the border since 2014.
Many immigrants were freed on arrival and ordered to appear at a hearing where an immigration judge would decide on their asylum application. Those who failed to appear were ordered deported, and it is expected the raids will target these people.
The legal procedures have been attacked, with advocate groups saying immigrants have not had adequate legal representation.
The Obama administration has established two detention centers in Texas and another in Pennsylvania to hold immigrants. Up to 1,700 people are currently being held in them, under conditions which immigrant advocates have described as inhumane.
“It would be an outrage if this administration subjected Central American families to even more aggressive enforcement tactics,” Gregory Chen, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told The Washington Post. “This administration has never acknowledged the truth: that these families are refugees seeking asylum who should be given humanitarian protection rather than being detained or rounded up. When other countries are welcoming far more refugees, the U.S. should be ashamed for using jails and even contemplating large-scale deportation tactics.”
Others want to see the government do more.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, told The Washington Post. “What share is this going to be? ... It’s a drop in the bucket compared to the number they’ve admitted into the country. If you have photogenic raids on a few dozen families and that’s the end of it, it’s just for show. It’s just a public relations thing, enforcement theater.”
A Guardian investigation revealed that some of those already sent back to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras were killed in the violence they tried to flee. One study based on local newspaper reports suggested that at least 83 immigrants deported from the U.S. since January 2014 were killed on their return.