New York Times
By Julia Preston
May 13, 2016
(Deported mothers of “Dreamers,” American born children of undocumented immigrants, and their families at the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Tijuana this month. John Moore/Getty Images)
Brushing aside protests from immigrant advocates and both Democratic presidential candidates, the Obama administration is moving ahead with a surge of deportations in the coming weeks, aimed mainly at mothers and children from Central America, immigration officials said Friday.
The Department of Homeland Security is stepping up the pace of deportations to send a tough enforcement message to Central America and to try to head off a seasonal swell of illegal crossings of the southwest border, the officials said. Those crossings generally rise during the summer, and administration officials are especially concerned because there was an unexpected increase in the numbers of migrants last fall.
The new plans do not include intensive raids like those over one weekend in January, when about 120 women and children were detained for deportation in Georgia, North Carolina and Texas, the officials said. Instead, immigration agents will speed up the arrests of individual families, which they have been making nationwide since the January raids.
Marsha Catron, a spokeswoman for the department, said those operations focus on migrants who were caught at the border after Jan. 1, 2014, denied asylum by immigration courts, and ordered deported by judges. Agents also will arrest migrants who came when they were minors but turned 18 while fighting deportation in the courts, making them ineligible for protections as children.
“We must enforce the law consistent with our priorities,” Ms. Catron said.
The deportation plan, first reported on Thursday by Reuters, drew immediate outrage from advocates and from Democrats in Congress and in the presidential campaign.
“I’m against large-scale raids that tear families apart and sow fear in communities,” Hillary Clinton said in a statement. She said families from Central America “should be given a full opportunity to seek relief.”
Her rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, said, “I oppose the painful and inhumane business of locking up and deporting families who have fled horrendous violence in Central America and other countries.”
Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, in a statement joined by other House Democrats, said, “To conduct these enforcement actions against women and children who have fled violence, and who will face violence if they are returned, is not just hypocritical, it is plain cruel.”
Despite the wrath of their allies, administration officials are worried they could face another uncontrolled summer influx, like the one in 2014. That could further tarnish President Obama’s mixed legacy on immigration and inflame the volatile presidential campaign, where the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump, has called for construction of a wall along the border with Mexico and the deportation of 11 million immigrants here illegally.
Illegal border crossings dropped during the first two months of the year but have risen recently. According to Border Patrol statistics, the apprehension of families at the southwest border from October 2015 to March increased 131 percent over the same six-month period a year earlier — to 32,117 migrants — while the detention of unaccompanied children increased 78 percent, to 27,754.
Many women and children said they were running from murderous violence by gangs, especially in El Salvador and Honduras, where criminal organizations control city barrios and have expanded their reach into rural villages. The families applied for asylum, but the vast majority — 86 percent, according to a report by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a group that studies federal data — went to court without lawyers. Court records show that asylum seekers have a very low chance of success without lawyers.
In some cases, advocates succeeded in stopping deportations at the last minute by providing legal counsel to the families.
But the Homeland Security secretary, Jeh Johnson, has made it clear he wants people in Central America to know there is no open border.
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