U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are reportedly planning to launch another wave of deportation raids in May and June targeting hundreds of undocumented Central American immigrants, according to Reuters.
The alleged operation would follow a similar series of raids in January, which netted 121 undocumented adults and children in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina. The raids are intended to crackdown on the thousands of Central American immigrants that began pouring across the U.S. border in 2014, mostly fleeing gang violence and poverty in their native countries. According to U.S. Customs and Border Security figures, apprehensions of unaccompanied children at the southwest border increased from 15,616 in 2015 to 27,754 as of March 31, 2016.
According to an internal document reviewed by Reuters, ICE has instructed “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.”
Reuters reports “the planned new raids are in response to a renewed surge of illegal entries by Central American women traveling with their children.”
ICE would not comment on the authenticity of the alleged document.
“As a matter of policy, ICE does not confirm or deny the existence of ongoing or future law enforcement operations,” the Department of Homeland Security told Fusion in a statement. “As Secretary Johnson has said repeatedly, we must enforce the law in accordance with our enforcement priorities, which include those convicted of serious crimes and those apprehended at the border on or after January 1, 2014.”
The agency added, “If someone was apprehended at the border, has been ordered deported by an immigration court, has no pending appeal, and does not qualify for asylum or other relief from removal under our law, he or she must be sent home.”
News of the impending raids is already sparking outcry from pro-immigration activists.
“It is unfortunate that there continues to be a resort to these tactics that divide communities and families,” Andre Segura, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, told Fusion.
“The Obama administration has made history by deporting the most people in this country,” said Cristina Jiménez, director of pro-immigration NGO United We Dream. “Since January the administration has been terrorizing our communities through raids and other operations.”
Jiménez believes the U.S. government needs to change its approach towards undocumented immigrants.
“They need to see this for what it is: a refugee crisis,” she said. “They need to think more in terms of working with Central American nations to address the current refugee crisis in the region. Unfortunately, the administration continues treating the situation as a crackdown on families that are leaving their native countries fearing for their lives.”