The United States has plans to initiate a vast operation to deport families of illegal Central American immigrants who haven’t abided by court orders to leave the country, reports said on Thursday.
President Barack Obama’s administration came under fire from Democratic presidential hopefuls and human rights groups after government sources, who asked not to be identified, told US media that the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will start raiding and deporting hundreds of families as of January 2016.
Asked why the agency was targeting families, an ICE spokesperson said family or not those who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security will be rounded up and sent home, Reuters reported.
DHS did not deny the reports, but Gillian Christensen, an ICE spokeswoman told AFP that US borders are not open to illegal immigration.
"If individuals come here illegally, do not qualify for asylum or other relief, and have final orders of removal, they will be sent back consistent with our laws and our values," Christensen said.
The number of families and unaccompanied children crossing into the US this year had dropped by a third to the second lowest level since 1972, but it began to increase again towards October, alarming the DHS.
Refugee rights activists say the families are fleeing corruption, gang violence and drought in their countries - mainly from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico - and should be considered as refugees.
Donald Trump, the Republican presidential frontrunner, drew major criticism last June, after accusing Mexico of sending rapists and other criminals into the United States, claiming they spread "tremendous infectious disease."
Following the reports Trump claimed credit for the decision saying it was the result of pressure put on by him in a tweet.
Wow, because of the pressure put on by me, ICE TO LAUNCH LARGE SCALE DEPORTATION RAIDS. It's about time!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 24, 2015