ICE Plans Raids To Deport Central American Families

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Thursday, December 24, 2015 - 3:16pm
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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is planning raids to round up migrant families that have been ordered deported but have not yet left the country, according to reporting by the Washington Post.

In 2014, the number of Central American migrant families and unaccompanied children arriving at the Southwestern border surged, creating a crisis of how to process and house them.

Many of the arriving migrants were fleeing violence in their home countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, and turned themselves over to border agents to apply for asylum. Others said smugglers had convinced them they would be allowed to stay in the United States if they made the trip.

More than 68,400 families with children, and roughly the same number of unaccompanied children, arrived at the border between Oct. 1, 2013 and Sept. 30, 2014.  Those numbers fell the following year to about 39,800 families and nearly 40,000 unaccompanied children. Beefed up efforts by Mexico to turn back these migrants is often cited as one reason for the decrease.

Now it appears that downward trend is reversing, and the number of Central American families and unaccompanied children arriving at the border is rising again. Reports from Central America indicate growing violence there.

In October and November of this year, 12,505 family units either turned themselves in at the border or were apprehended by border agents. That is a 173 percent increase from the same two-month period year before, according to statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In the same period, 10,588 unaccompanied child migrants came to the border, which is double the number from the year before.

The majority of these families and children came to the Texas border, but about 17 percent of all the unaccompanied child migrants and about 12.5 percent of the migrant families came to the Arizona border.

U.S. Border Patrol’s Yuma sector saw a 10-fold increase in both groups from last year, while Tucson sector saw a 58 percent increase in child migrants and a 97 percent increase in family units.

“The increase that we are seeing is something that definitely brings concerns for our agency, and we want to make sure we are prepared for, for processing these individuals,” said Border Patrol Tucson Sector spokesman, Agent Vicente Paco.

The federal government has already added temporary bed space for unaccompanied child migrants.

Paco said his agency wants to be sure people in Central America are not mislead into thinking there is some kind of amnesty program for them.

“Removal is still, you know, a procedure everyone goes through, unless there are credible claims,” Paco said.

Those are claims that would allow migrants to stay and apply for asylum or other immigration benefits.

The Obama administration responded to the spike of arriving Central American families in 2014 by building family detention centers where families would be detained while awaiting the outcome of deportation proceedings.

Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson made clear at the time these families needed to be dissuaded from making the trip to the United States.

Critics denounced the detention conditions and challenged the legality of detaining families in a federal lawsuit. As a result of that legal challenge, a federal judge has ordered the administration to begin releasing families housed in those detention centers.

According to reporting by the Washington Post, that court order was one factor prompting the administration to conduct deportation raids.