Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Immigration raids ... US agents round up Central Americans slated for deportation

Published:Tuesday | January 5, 2016 | 1:00 AM

SAN ANTONIO (AP):

Immigration agents over the weekend conducted the first raids targeting the deportation of families who flocked across the United States' southern border over the past two years, a senior government official said yesterday.

Jeh Johnson, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement that the 121 people rounded up during raids in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina were primarily members of Central American families that crossed into the US via Mexico since May 2014. Most were placed in family detention centres in Texas to await deportation.

In the statement, Johnson said the raids "should come as no surprise," adding that he had said publicly for months "that individuals who constitute enforcement priorities, including families and unaccompanied children, will be removed".

Those targeted in the raids had been issued final orders of removal by immigration courts and had exhausted other legal remedies, including claims for asylum.

The latest actions affect only a fraction of the more than 100,000 Central American family members, mostly mothers with children, who crossed into the US during an immigration surge that began in the spring of 2014. The surge has been linked to a rise in gang-related violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, while many migrants from these countries have also claimed asylum due to domestic violence, or are seeking to reunite with family members already in the United States.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) did not say if further raids were planned for the coming days and weeks. However, ICE's official position since November 2014 is that it would continue to conduct enforcement actions daily.

In a news conference yesterday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that "politics did not factor" into the decision by Homeland Security officials to conduct raids, despite increased debate about immigration enforcement and policy by Republicans on the presidential campaign trail.