The Obama administration is planning more raids to deport hundreds of Central American mothers and children in May and June, Reuters reported on Thursday.
It is poised to be the largest sweep this year, following a two-day operation in Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina in January. The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) said the announcement means the administration "is turning a blind eye to the many serious due process violations" that occurred during previous raids.
"These military-style raids against mothers and children fleeing violence are reprehensible," said NILC executive director Marielena Hincapié. "We are outraged that the Obama administration has once again decided to engage in a PR stunt that only serves to create fear and paralyze everyday life and civic participation in immigrant communities, in our schools, and in workplaces."
"The federal government's failure to address the violent conditions that are causing women and children to flee in the first place means that these raids are a complete and utter policy failure," Hincapié said.
According to Reuters, which saw an internal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) document, field offices nationwide have been instructed to conduct month-long "surges" to round up mothers and children who have already been instructed to leave the country, as well as those who entered the country as unaccompanied minors but have since turned 18.
Migrants who arrived after January 1, 2014 are the priority targets, an ICE spokesperson told Reuters.
Frank Sharry, executive director of the immigration rights organization America's Voice, also criticized the raid plans and the Obama administration for disregarding how violence in Central America is fueling the displacement of individuals and families.
"We are outraged that the Obama administration has once again decided to engage in a PR stunt that only serves to create fear and paralyze everyday life."
National Immigration Law Center
"There is a refugee crisis in Central America and to deal with it effectively we need to treat it like a refugee crisis," Sharry said. "Central American kids and young families are fleeing horrific violence. El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are among the most murderous countries in the world. Incredibly, however, the U.S. government is using deterrence, detention and deportation as its main tools."
The government's enforcement-based approach "misdiagnoses" the reasons people are fleeing their home countries, Sharry said. "Those fleeing horrific violence in Central America need to be protected, not deported."
The news come as the U.S. Supreme Court considers the fate of two of President Barack Obama's own executive programs on immigration, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Just this week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called for the deportation of a woman and her 12-year-old daughter from the US to El Salvador to be halted, saying "their lives and personal integrity would be at risk."
Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders voiced their opposition to the raids, which Sanders described as "the painful and inhumane business of locking up and deporting families who have fled horrendous violence in Central America and other countries."
"I urge President Obama to use his executive authority to protect families by extending Temporary Protective Status for those who fled from Central America," Sanders said.