Nearly five months after ICE conducted a series of holiday raids on immigrant homes in Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina that resulted in the detainment of 121 women and children, the Obama administration is planning to revive his targeted enforcement actions yet again with another set of raids come this spring, Reuters reports.
The month long raids, which are set to take place in May and June 2016, aim to round up and deport immigrants who have evaded deportation orders or have not shown up for court hearings, and will focus on “individuals who had entered illegally after Jan. 1, 2014. This includes single adults, as well as adults who bring their children with them,” as noted in a statement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
In many ways, these actions are a direct response to the renewed uptick in border crossings by Central American migrants since 2014 and were designed, as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Jeh Johnson says, to send a message that “if you come here illegally, we will send you back.”
Criticism of these newly announced raids has been swift, especially because many of the raids from earlier this year were deemed “unlawful” as defined under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
“These actions are not the way to respond to a bona fide refugee situation like the one we are experiencing with children and families fleeing violence and poverty in Central America,” said Philip E. Wolgin, managing director for immigration policy at the Center for American Progress.
Pili Tobar, communications director for Latino Victory Project, also calls the new plans “outrageous.”
“These families are seeking refuge and safety, and instead of being a beacon of light and an example for the world, we are terrorizing them,” she said.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) further condemned the raids, noting that immigration officials were contributing to the trauma experienced by families fleeing Central American violence.
“The targeting of refugee mothers and children is outrageous and diametrically opposed to our values as a nation. To deport these individuals and tear apart families is inhumane.”
“Rounding up and detaining refugees will undoubtedly lead to the re-victimization of refugee families fleeing gang warfare and drug violence. These raids were wrong in January and they are wrong today. Refugees with credible fear have a legal right to be in this country. They deserve due process and a fair day in court with access to appropriate language services as needed,” Chu says.
As of right now, the exact dates of the raids are still unknown. But various organizations such as Alerta Migratoria NC, which had formed in response to Operation Border Guardian after the detainment and deportation of several undocumented youth in North Carolina, are one of many scrambling to warn undocumented communities of their rights should “immigration come to their door.” The organization is distributing tip-filled flyers advising immigrants what to do if asked by immigration officials for their identification, among other helpful resources.
Members at America’s Voice are also hoping to veer off a “path that is fundamentally flawed.”
“There is a refugee crisis in Central America and to deal with it effectively we need to treat it like a refugee crisis. Central American kids and young families are fleeing horrific violence. El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are among the most murderous countries in the world. Incredibly, however, the U.S. government is using deterrence, detention and deportation as its main tools,” insists Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice.
“For a nation that claims to be a world leader in refugee protection, in our own hemisphere we need to start acting like one.”