At the end of last year, the United States government announced its plan to deport Central American families that have recently come to the U.S. but have ignored removal orders from immigration judges. The raids have already started and hundreds of families have been taken into custody.
The Department of Homeland Security announced in December that it would begin staging raids aimed at deporting hundreds of people who have come to the United States since the beginning of 2014. As The Washington Post first reported, the campaign is being carried out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. More than 100,000 families — including adults and children — have come to the United States illegally since 2014 and are currently at risk of deportation.
NPR reports that ICE Press Secretary Gillian Christensen said the agency is prioritizing deportations of individuals who “pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.” Although ICE and the Department of Homeland Security have cited public safety as the impetus for the move, the raids are extremely controversial.
Immigration activists have called President Obama the “deporter-in-chief” and Congressional Democrats are up in arms. Democratic leaders have called for a halt to the raids. Reuters reports that “members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said they want ‘temporary protective status’ for undocumented migrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.” Citing gang violence and high murder rates as migrants’ motivation for seeking refuge in the U.S., members of Congress are calling for new protections for people who, in some cases, are children who escaped to the U.S. without their parents.
Immigration advocates worry that returning migrants to their home countries will put them in grave danger. “Deporting these refugees essentially means that we’re sending them back to their home countries to face possible death,” said Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.).
“We are of course aware of these concerns, but the enforcement strategy and priorities that the administration has articulated are not going to change,” said White House spokesman Joshua Earnest.
In Richmond, California, 50 members of faith-based organizations assembled outside the West County Detention Facility on January 2 to protest the raids. By the close of the weekend of January 2–3, Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, stated that 121 adults and children had been rounded up in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina, and taken into custody, according to the National Catholic Reporter.
The Rev. Deborah Lee, who serves as the immigration program director of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity in Los Angeles, said that her organization encourages the president “to open his heart and shelve the deeply controversial plan.” She states that the “rocket docket,” that allows cases to be moved swiftly through the immigration system without legal counsel prevents migrants from defending themselves.
Meanwhile, the GOP blames President Obama for not doing more. The administration’s timing is a bit suspect here at the start of the election year, and it’s certainly been a much-debated topic. This move could be construed as an effort to discredit GOP hopefuls who are critical of the president on immigration.
Current GOP candidates have called for stricter border controls, citing immigration as a central issue faced by our nation. As The Washington Post points out, GOP front-runner Donald Trump has promised deportation of all undocumented migrants and a ban on all Muslim refugees from entering the U.S. Predictably, Democratic candidates have denounced Trump’s proposed solutions to illegal immigration, but Obama’s move to deport certain Central Americans suggests that Democrats are willing to do something about immigration.
The bigger issue is the impact that this decision will have on families. Much has been said about “anchor children,” kids born in the United States and who are therefore United States citizens, despite having immigrant parents.
Ironically, some of our most revered cultural personalities are, in fact, children of immigrants (as are all Americans if you go back enough generations). Joan Rivers is the daughter of Russian parents; Renee Zellweger’s father is Swiss, and her mother is Norwegian; Larry King’s mother was Russian, and his father was Austro-Hungarian; Republican favorite Colin Powell was born to Jamaican parents; and Alex Rodriguez’s parents are Dominican. The list is long.
Perhaps immigration opponents should view Central American migrants as refugees who, much like Syrian refugees, are fleeing a place where their lives are threatened on a daily basis. There’s got to be a middle ground between raids and no regulation at all. We would love to see a compromise on this matter, and quickly.
What do you think of the large-scale deportation of Central Americans?
Megan Winkler is an author, historian, Neurosculpting® meditation coach, certified nutritional consultant and DIY diva. When she’s not writing or teaching a class, Megan can be found in the water, on a yoga mat, learning a new instrument or singing karaoke. Her passion for a healthy mind-body-spirit relationship motivates her to explore all the natural world has to offer.