Immigrant rights groups are asking President Obama to clarify whether the White House is intentionally leaking information to the press in an attempt to terrorize immigrant communities with the threat of deportation raids.
It's apparently happened twice in the past six months, and people want answers.
The first time was when the Washington Post last December published a story based on leaked information that launched a wave of fear among Latinos across the country. The story, published right before families gathered for Christmas, detailed how immigration officials were preparing “for a series of raids that would target for deportation hundreds of families.”
Those raids ended up detaining 121 people, mostly women and children, over the course of two days in January. But the looming fear of a wider immigration roundup affected untold millions across the country, as raid rumors created a frenzy on social media.
Then it happened again.
On May 12, Reuters published a story warning of another impending raid—also based on unnamed sources and an "internal documents" seen exclusively by that news agency. And again the rumor mill spread fear through immigrant communities.
Activists think it's fear-mongering and want it to stop.
More than 100 immigrant rights groups on Thursday sent a letter to President Barack Obama to demand the White House launch an independent inquiry into the source of the leaks.
“The most recent ‘exclusive’ report has led some to believe it was the intentional
purpose of the administration to terrorize immigrant communities in the U.S. in order to dissuade would-be refugees from fleeing violence in their home countries,” reads the letter signed by 107 of the nation’s oldest and most well respected immigrant civil rights groups.
In other words, the immigrant groups suspect the leaks were done by design to plant stories in selected media outlets to sow widespread fear.
“Information has been leaked to the press—apparently from either the Department of Homeland Security or the White House itself,” reads the letter signed by groups like the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, National Day Laborer Organizing Network and Central American Resource Center.
The White House has not yet responded to the group's letter.
The letter from the immigrant activists comes a day after 26 Democratic senators called on Obama to end the raids, precisely because of the chaos they can create. “Immigration raids create fear and insecurity among immigrant communities in the United States. They will deter students from attending school and parents from seeking medical care, but they will not deter terrified mothers and children from fleeing life-threatening violence in their homelands," read the letter, spearheaded by Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy.
The Obama administration has deported a record number of immigrants, almost more than every other president combined. So the fear of immigration raids is not unfounded.
But the immigration raids that the Washington Post and Reuters warned about were named a very specific and vulnerable target: “hundreds of families who have flocked to the United States since the start of last year,” according to the Washington Post article from December 2015.
Reuters meanwhile warned of “a month-long series of raids in May and June to deport hundreds of Central American mothers and children.”
“When the U.S. government is using morally repugnant and legally questionable tactics to to instill fear in those fleeing violence, we must demand answers,” Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Labor Organizing Network, said in a statement. “We hope that a thorough investigation into these leaks will help clarify, and ultimately rectify, President Obama’s failed response to the humanitarian crisis in Central America. It’s time for relief, not raids.”