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“Happy 2016 From The Deporter-in-Chief”: ICE Raids of Central American Families Blasted In Op-Eds, Editorials

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The Obama Administration’s decision to raid homes and deport Central American refugees fleeing violence and death has resulted in condemnation from immigrant rights advocates, community leaders, and legal experts from around the nation.

According to the most recent reports, officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have detained at least 11 Central American families for deportation — totaling 121 people — from North Carolina, Texas, and Georgia.

Several op-eds and editorials have joined in the denunciation since the news of the raids leaked over the holiday break (yesterday, we also shared an editorial from La Opinion, as well as a CNN piece from attorney David Leopold).

In “How America’s anti-immigrant hysteria just hit an unprecedented new low,” David Dayen of Salon writes:

The strategy of home raids to break up hundreds of migrant families was leaked just before Christmas, and now the initial operations have begun. Donald Trump may be taking credit for the idea, but he didn’t authorize the confiscation of people from their homes and families; Barack Obama did. It’s a small-scale operation, in the hundreds, seemingly designed to scare would-be immigrants from seeing America as a safe refuge. But it upends the Administration’s stated deportation goals.

The Department of Homeland Security, which confirmed the raids, defended them as consistent with November 2014 guidelines that focused priorities for deportation on “individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.” Migrants who have received a final order of removal from an immigration judge fit that profile, DHS said on Sunday.

Prosecutorial discretion was supposed to be the basis of the Obama Administration’s executive action on immigration, to deport “felons not families” and relieve those paying taxes and abiding by other laws from the fear of deportation. However, successive court rulings against the executive actions have prevented them from taking effect.

So now they are lumping in migrants escaping violence in Central America with “criminals” who threaten national security. Delve into this and you’ll hear a lot of bluster about how our immigration laws make no sense without enforcement of final deportation orders. And failing to deport those marked for removal could damage the Supreme Court case on immigration executive actions, the theory goes. But the question is not really whether to honor deportation orders but whether these particular migrants should have received them at all. After all, the United Nations has called this a refugee crisis, with women in particular facing some of the highest murder rates in the world. Should people fleeing violence be sent back to face it?

What is needed is blanket recognition of official persecution in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, a culture of violence that this country actually nurtured with gang activity that flowed south. We have no problem meddling in Central America’s internal affairs historically. Now, when our policies cause an inhospitable environment for tens of thousands of refugees, our response shouldn’t be to ignore those conditions and deliver those families back to high-risk communities out of concern for our “rule of law.” It’s bad enough that we have not welcomed enough migrant victims of instability created in part by our wars in the Middle East. We shouldn’t compound the failure by raiding the homes of those escaping the same desperation in our own hemisphere.

In “Immigrants who fled poverty, violence in Central America face threat of mass deportation in 2016,” Albor Ruiz of the New York Daily News writes:

“Happy 2016 from the Deporter-in-Chief,” is the perverse New Year message being delivered by the Obama administration to hundreds of Central American mothers and children who came across the border last year in a desperate run for their lives.

Precisely on Christmas Eve — Nochebuena for Latinos — The Washington Post reported that 2016 will probably begin with the dreaded U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducting massive raids across the country. Their purpose is to expel the adults and kids that, against all odds, fled El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, countries ravaged by drug cartels and murderous gangs that will force the women and children to join them or be raped, tortured or killed.

Let’s not forget that it is the United States’ insatiable appetite for illegal drugs that fuels most of the brutality in those countries that causes its people to embark on their do-or-die journey to the North.

The operation would send thousands of terrified Central American families back into the black holes of poverty and violence they barely escaped. It is bound to be cruel and unsparing: Adults and children would be detained wherever they can be found and immediately deported.

Certainly not an auspicious start for 2016.

In “Happy New Year. You’re Deported,” Julianne Hing of The Nation writes:

The plan is ostensibly designed to send a message to Central American families not to try their luck in the United States. In recent months Johnson has warned that Central American families who weren’t granted asylum would face deportation. Despite a range of approaches Washington has tried, including a PR effort in Central America to discourage families from attempting to enter the country, and increased political pressure on Mexico into stepping up its own immigration enforcement, children keep coming. When faced with the prospect of harsh treatment by US immigration agencies and the all-but-certain devastation of violence in their home countries, people have been choosing to risk the former. In the end, the raids may have a stronger impact on the election and the climate of fear immigrants endure in the United States than they do on migration flows of children fleeing for their lives in Central America.

Readers of the LA Times send in their own scathing disapproval via the paper’s “Readers React” feature:

To the editor: Even though violence, crime and intimidation in Central America motivate families to flee in fear for their lives, the U.S. plans to find and deport those who have made it to the U.S. but have been ordered by a judge to leave. (“Immigration officials plan stepped-up deportations for new year,” Dec. 24)

The current immigration system is unable to provide adequate due process and legal representation to those unable to navigate the system effectively. Detaining and deporting are unjust solutions to a broken system that disrupts family life and threatens deportees with violence in their homeland.

Your Christmas editorial cites Pope Francis in the “Nice” column for “reminding Americans of the importance of welcoming displaced people.” This is surely more just and humanitarian than deportation.

Lenore Navarro Dowling, Los Angeles

To the editor: I am greatly disturbed by plans from the Department of Homeland Security to deport immigrant families from Central America in a series of raids beginning early next year.

President Obama has long said that his administration’s priorities are to deport criminals from this country, many of whom represent threats to national security. In a time of limited resources, it does not make sense that this administration is going after families who are merely fleeing poverty, crime and political instability.

The current political climate might not make it possible to justify keeping all families in the U.S., but now is exactly the time when we need a president to stand up for the American values of hope and opportunity.

Obama has once again failed on immigration policy, and I hope our next president will not disappoint on this very important issue.

Christian Arana, Van Nuys