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Everything You Need to Know About The Central American Deportation Raids


Over the holiday break, we learned of a disturbing development: the Obama Administration appeared to be preparing a series of ICE raids targeting Central American refugees currently living in the US for deportation.

Here’s everything we know about the Obama Administration’s deportation raids.

What We Know About the Obama Administration’s Deportation Raids

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported that at least 11 Central American families were rounded up for detention in targeted raids, signaling the Obama Administration’s plan appears to have begun taking motion. These fears were confirmed following the Department of Homeland Security’s announcement that 121 members of Central American families in North Carolina, Texas, & Georgia had been arrested and detained as a result of early morning raids.

According to eyewitness reports, ICE agents arrived in an unmarked car and in some cases presented warrants for unknown people. And despite being told to stay outside, the agents often went in anyway.

In Norcross, Ga., on Saturday, Joanna Gutierrez said her niece and niece’s 9-year-old son were taken by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent. They searched the house before revealing who they were looking for. Esther Lee of ThinkProgress details what some people have faced during these early-morning raids here.

Officials in the Obama Administration said those who were detained over the weekend were:

  • Apprehended after May 1, 2014, crossing the southern border illegally

  • Have been issued final orders of removal by an immigration court

  • Have exhausted appropriate legal remedies, and have no outstanding appeal or claim for asylum or other humanitarian relief under our laws.”

The raids were overseen by Sarah Saldaña, director of ICE, who received widespread criticism last year for deporting Pastor Max shortly after being appointed. They are the first large-scale effort to deport people fleeing violence in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Belize.

How Immigration Advocates Are Responding to the Obama Administration’s Deportation Raids

Advocates have condemned the Obama Administration and DHS for these Trump-inspired raids. #Not1More has gathered over 1,000 signatures demanding ICE halt these tactics, with the petition noting that, allegedly, immigration “agents barged into homes across the Atlanta area, at times pretending to be local police in search of a non-existent suspect, pulling people from their beds.”

Numerous groups, including the National Immigration Law Center, NDLON, United We Dream, ICE Out Of LA, and Presente have blasted vital information in both English and Spanish to their constituents and advocates in case they are faced with an immigration raid:

How Congressional Leaders Are Responding to the Obama Administration’s Deportation Raids

Senator Robert Menendez: “I have deep concerns of the chilling effect these home raids will have among immigrant communities who will understandably be terrified and deterred from approaching law enforcement to report crimes and forced further into the shadows.  As we begin to get more details on these operations, let’s not overlook the devastating effect and cost to spending our limited DHS funds on deporting women and children and not violent felons.”

Representative Nancy Pelosi: “This is a very serious challenge. In the processing of asylum claims of these women and children and others fleeing really horrific violence in Central America, the Department of Homeland Security must ensure that no person is wrongfully deported to face certain persecution or mortal danger — and that’s what’s happening there.”

Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chairwoman Linda Sánchez: “Raiding people’s homes to forcibly break families apart is not what our country stands for.  Our federal government should not be separating parents from their children.  As the mother of a young son, it’s easy for me to imagine how traumatizing having ICE agents storm someone’s home and tearing families apart can be for a young child.  Invading homes is inhumane and adds to the trauma of these families fleeing violence and oppression.  Many recent immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are escaping one of the most dangerous regions in the world.  In the past, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has spoken in defense of the unaccompanied minors fleeing the Central American countries.  These minors could be our sons, daughters, nieces and nephews.”

Representative Xavier Becerra, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus: “We’re going to continue to see a lot of heartache unless we fix this broken immigration system. Many of these individuals, especially if they’re children, probably have little understanding of what the process is. Did they get a fair hearing? Did they have an opportunity to have an advocate help them in preparation of their case? It’s not easy to demonstrate that you are fleeing death or persecution — real persecution — that could leave you in grave concern for your life. That would be my concern.”

Representative Joe Crowley, vice-chair of the House Democratic Caucus: “The recent reports of enforcement tactics used by immigration officials are incredibly troubling, and I’ve heard from our immigrant communities that families are scared and hurt by actions that seem to have been unnecessarily cruel. I fear that this approach may just force people back into the shadows – many of whom have come here to escape violence, live safely, and ensure their children are protected. I urge the Department of Homeland Security to stop and reconsider their current methods.

“The harm done by these raids is more than just a blow to community trust, it diverts attentions from the broader issues that must be addressed. I hope that instead of provoking fear, our federal agencies can pull back and devote resources to solutions like strengthening legal representation for those requesting asylum, ensuring that our detention and adjudication policies protect civil rights, and perhaps most importantly, pursuing regional solutions that respond to the violence and conditions that are driving women and children to leave their homes in hopes of finding safety in the U.S.”

Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard: “I am deeply disappointed in the harsh enforcement tactics the Department of Homeland Security is using to apprehend vulnerable migrant women and children.  At a time when DHS is attempting to rebuild a relationship with Latino communities, the invasion of people’s homes and neighborhoods sows fear and distrust, and subjects migrant women and children to further trauma.

“Many of the individuals targeted by DHS fled violence and terror in their home countries, and made the difficult journey to our nation because it was the only way to protect themselves and their families.  Throughout America’s history, our country has been a safe haven for those seeking asylum.  We should not turn our backs on these women and children or attempt to deter them in their moment of greatest need.

“I am also greatly concerned that the people who have been targeted in DHS removal operations have been unable to fully present their case for asylum due to a lack of legal representation or inadequate representation.  In keeping with our immigration laws, removal from the country is sometimes required at the conclusion of immigration court proceedings, but our government should have absolute confidence that due process has been afforded to the women and children seeking our nation’s protection, and that returning these vulnerable populations to their home countries will not place them back in harm’s way.”

Representative Zoe Lofgren: “I think we made the concerns clear and we’ll see. People are staying home for work out of fear … it needs to be analyzed.”

Representatives Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison: “As Co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) we understand our nation’s need to enforce immigration laws, but we must not sacrifice the values that compel us to help those in need. According to recent reports, the Board of Immigration Appeals has delayed the deportations of some of the families who were granted emergency stays of removal because of ineffective assistance of counsel. We are deeply concerned that families are not getting the legal assistance they deserve.

“We ask that your Administration end these immigration raids immediately. This practice is immoral and does not reflect who we are as a country. We should ensure these women and children have an opportunity to present their asylum claims in court, with full access to counsel and due process protections prior to deportation.”

Representative Luis Gutiérrez: “The government is saying they could be coming to your house and they could be coming at any time. Already, we are seeing signs of panic. We hear that children are not going to school and parents are not going to work out of fear. Not even a week into the New Year and 2016 has turned into one of fear and hiding.  I have gone to the detention centers in Texas and met with the moms and kids who were detained there when they came in. One woman summed up their plight concisely by saying, ‘In Honduras, my family and I could live in poverty, but we could not live in peace.’ Raids will not bring her peace.  Raids will not bring us order. Raids will only bring misery.’  This is not the Democratic Party’s solution to immigration questions, nor should it be America’s. We expect heated calls for raids and deportation from the other side. We hear their calls for walls, bigger jails, and further restrictions on legal immigration. We will fight their efforts to erect religious or economic barriers to who can qualify for a chance to come to America. Our Party has rejected those calls, with good reason. Americans want order and legality in immigration, not deportations and families forcibly split apart or exiled.”

Representative Bennie Thompson, ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee: “There’s real concern” about “splitting up families. I assume some of us [House Democrats] will be talking very shortly with [DHS] Secretary Jeh Johnson to see if there’s a middle ground. There is concern. It is an issue. I think they want to know: is this the beginning or is this it?”

Representative Nydia Velázquez: “We have heard of ICE using deception and misinformation to gain access to residences. Immigrants – documented or not – have rights. And these raids are being conducted in a way that violates those rights!  These are some of the most vulnerable members of society – and we are treating them like criminals.  

“I have heard from my district.  Immigrants and their families feel terrorized that men wielding guns are going to break down their doors or snatch their children from schools.   We are here to send a clear message to the Administration and the President.  

“We say with one collective voice – Mr. President, this must stop. It must stop today!  We are a greater nation than this!”

Representative Ruben Gallego: “Many who recently arrived in the United States from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras were fleeing violence and oppression. These families have already faced severe trauma in their home countries. Invading their homes in the middle of the night only adds to this distress.

“We shouldn’t be rushing to send these people back to what we already know to be extremely dangerous and life-threatening situations, especially when they present no threat to national security.

“I continue to urge my colleagues to act to fix our nation’s broken immigration laws. Comprehensive reform is the only way we can fully address the many shortcomings of our current immigration system.”

How the Legal Community Is Responding to the Obama Administration’s Deportation Raids

David Leopold, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, condemned the immigration raids as “shocking, outrageous and just plain wrong” in a recent CNN op-ed, and argued that “an overwhelming percentage of the mothers and children detained at family detention centers in the United States are able to show a reasonable fear of persecution in their home countries”:

This is something we would expect from a President Trump, not President Obama.

If the raids take place, the President would appear to be reacting — actually overreacting — to a recent spike in the migration of Central American families and unaccompanied children to the United States. He apparently also wants to deter others from making the arduous, life-threatening trip north to the United States and to show that his administration is adhering to its November 14, 2014, immigration enforcement priorities that, in addition to criminals and national security threats, target noncitizens who have entered the U.S. or been ordered deported after January 1, 2014. But It’s morally repugnant to send Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents into local communities to arrest and detain vulnerable families, including women and children, and deport them to places where their lives will be threatened by unspeakable violence; countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where gang and drug violence force innocent families to flee north to the United States in search of a haven.

Reports such as one in the Guardian recount that undocumented immigrants deported to Central America have faced unspeakable violence, even murder, just days after their return.

“Faced with the fear that they or a relative might be deported, undocumented immigrants may think twice about reporting serious crimes like domestic violence to local law enforcement,” Leopold also noted.“Immigration raids targeting families, including women and children, should be assigned to the dustbin of history.”

How 2016 Presidential Candidates have Responded to the Obamas Administration’s Deportation Raids

As noted by both immigration activists and Leopold, news of the raids have created a deep sense of panic within the undocumented immigrant community, and have demanded that Democratic Presidential candidates condemn the Obama Administration’s actions.

Meanwhile, leading Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump took full credit for the Obama Admin plan.