President Barack Obama is preparing to do something that nobody was expecting: mass deportation raids.
The Washington Post reports:
The nationwide campaign, to be carried out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents as soon as early January, would be the first large-scale effort to deport families who have fled violence in Central America, those familiar with the plan said. More than 100,000 families with both adults and children have made the journey across the southwest border since last year, though this migration has largely been overshadowed by a related surge of unaccompanied minors.
The ICE operation would target only adults and children who have already been ordered removed from the United States by an immigration judge, according to officials familiar with the undertaking, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because planning is ongoing and the operation has not been given final approval by DHS. The adults and children would be detained wherever they can be found and immediately deported. The number targeted is expected to be in the hundreds and possibly greater.
According to the Post, there is a clear divide inside the Obama administration about the policy, which has not been approved yet.
"The administration has long signaled that families crossing over illegally who do not qualify for asylum will be deported," writes Post blogger Greg Sargent. "But advocates have been urging the administration to treat these migrants as refugees, because experts believe that violence in Central America is a key reason for their efforts to cross the southern border."
The reason for why the incipient raids is a court order that mandates the Department of Homeland Security to release migrants from detention centers that had been set up by the agency to handle the recent surge at the border.
Those who believe in having lax immigration laws are not happy with this latest development.
"It would be an outrage if the administration subjected Central American families to even more aggressive enforcement tactics," Gregory Chen, director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told the Post. "This administration has never acknowledged the truth: that these families are refugees seeking asylum who should be given humanitarian protection rather than being detained or rounded up. When other countries are welcoming far more refugees, the U.S. should be ashamed for using jails and even contemplating large-scale deportation tactics."
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told The Washington Examiner he was "disturbed" by the administration's actions.
"As we spend time with our families this holiday season, we who are parents should ask ourselves what we would do if our children faced the danger and violence these children do? How far would we go to protect them?" Sanders said. "Our nation has always been a beacon of hope, a refuge for the oppressed. We cannot turn our backs on that essential element of who we are as a nation. We need to take steps to protect children and families seeking refuge here, not cast them out."
Frank Sharry of America's Voice told Sargent that if DHS goes through with the deportation raids, it "will be a political nightmare for the Democrats."
"The specter of raids picking up families and sending them back to violent countries is going to put Hillary Clinton in a difficult position. She’ll have to choose between protecting refugees from Central America, a demand of the Latino community, or standing with the law-and-order position of Obama and Republicans," Sharry said.
Sargent also pointed out that Donald Trump would likely take credit for the mass deportations, which would help boost his numbers even higher.
Immigration hardliners are skeptical that the deportations will actually happen, given the Obama administration's reluctance to enforce immigration laws and its tendency to cook the books on the number of deportations that have occurred under his presidency.
"I’ll believe it when I see it," Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, told the Post. "What share is this going to be?. . . It’s a drop in the bucket compared to the number they’ve admitted into the country. If you have photogenic raids on a few dozen illegal families and that’s the end of it, it’s just for show. It’s just a [public relations] thing, enforcement theater."
"The ICE operation would target only adults and children who have already been ordered removed from the United States by an immigration judge ..."
Regardless, such a move from DHS would affect the immigration debate as the 2016 election battle rages on. Parting thought from CNN contributor Conservative Review columnist Amanda Carpenter:
You want to twist every GOP into being a deportation fanatic. Truth is EVERY President does it. Just a matter of how much.— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) December 24, 2015