Obama Plans Round up Central American Families for Deportation
Washington D.C. – Late last night, The Washington Post broke the news that the Obama Administration is considering plans to begin fugitive-operation round-ups of Central American families who remain in the U.S. after an immigration judge has ordered them removed.
For the past few years, refugee families and children have fled escalating violence and persecution in Central America and sought protection in the United States. Yet, our government has responded with harsh enforcement measures that often fail to provide each family a fair opportunity to seek asylum.
Far too often, refugee families are either detained in private prisons or apprehended and then released from immigration custody without adequate information about how to pursue their asylum cases and when and where to go for their court hearings. Most have no legal representation—the single most important factor in ensuring their appearance in court and succeeding in their cases.
Following is a statement from Ben Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council:
“News that the Obama Administration is considering a plan to round up Central American families and deport them proves, once again, that this Administration fails to understand these individuals are refugees seeking asylum and should be given humanitarian protection rather than punishment. We must stop treating these families as though they are criminals. It is not a crime to arrive at our borders and request protection, and the overwhelming evidence indicates that these families have legitimate claims under U.S. law.
“Many of the families who have been ordered removed received in absentia orders, meaning that they did not appear for their hearings and thus have not had an opportunity to present their claims for protection. Sadly, most have been set up to fail: we know that they are provided little to no meaningful information about their rights and responsibilities to present their claims for asylum and other forms of relief. The government’s failure to set up a workable and fair system for processing migrants fleeing persecution has been well-documented. Rather than help these individuals, the Obama Administration seems prepared to round up and deport them instead.
“Given the President’s commitment to extending refugee protections to Syrians, it is inexplicable that he is ignoring the humanitarian crisis in his own backyard.”
RAICES’ Statement on DHS Plans to Conduct Raids on Refugee Families Living in the United States
Raids are planned in Dallas, Houston, El Paso, Atlanta, Boston, Baltimore, Charlotte, Memphis, Orlando, Miami, New Orleans, NYC, Chicago, Arlington, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and numerous other cities across the United States
Statement from Jonathan Ryan, Executive Director, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.
San Antonio, TX— As a legal services organization located in South Texas, and as the coordinator of the Karnes Pro Bono Project (providing pro-bono representation to children and mothers detained at the Karnes Family Detention Center) we are outraged to hear of plans by the Obama Administration to conduct raids on refugee families living around the United States. Since the summer of 2014 we have provided pro-bono legal services to over 2,500 refugee families; children and their parents who are fleeing unthinkable violence in Central America.
The work of our Project has been in response to the Obama Administration’s illegal practice of jailing children, and to ensure that the daily due process violations committed against them, in detention, do not hinder their attempts at seeking protection here in the United States. The lack of legal resources in cities around the country to assist Central American refugees with their pending immigration cases once they are released from the administration’s illegal family detention centers is a humanitarian crisis our country must address.
This crisis of legal resources is the reason why 78% of families released from detention between July 18, 2014 – September 29, 2015, who have had court dates, have been given deportation orders. Of this number, 63% of families have been ordered deported in absentia, without attending a court hearing. The Obama Administration is setting up these families for deportation by releasing them with little to no information about their continuing legal responsibilities and creating insurmountable barriers to accessing counsel.
We know the vast majority of families who are represented by counsel are successful in their cases. Let us be clear, the families that the Administration plans to raid and deport are those that are legitimate asylum seekers who have not had the legal means to proceed with their cases, and will surely be deported to the very violence that they escaped.
The Obama Administration is seriously misguided in its approach to this humanitarian crisis if it believes the solution is to round up refugee families at their schools, their churches and homes, in an effort appear tough on immigration. The Obama Administration should stand by its oath to protect refugees by first ending its illegal practice of jailing babies and then supporting legal resources for families seeking refuge in the United States.
CARECEN Statement on Central American Children & Families
Recently, US immigration officials have attributed an increase in Central American children and families apprehended at the border to their “inability to detain” families as a result of pending civil rights litigation. Yesterday, DHS announced that it will begin a series of targeted raids throughout the country in early 2016, including in DC, Arlington, and Baltimore, to deport Central American families with outstanding removal orders.
These are women and children seeking asylum who overwhelmingly show a credible fear of persecution in their home countries – families who were released from DHS custody with ankle shackles with no information or guidance for finding legal counsel to fight for their right to stay in this country. Women and children fleeing many forms of unspeakable violence in their home countries.
These developments are disturbing and disheartening. We have released a bilingual statement on our website (also attached here) which may be useful to you when advocating for more holistic local and state-level support for these refugee families. Please share widely!
In light of the most recent information that raids will be conducted in our region, we encourage you to continue educating the community about their rights. We recommend this Spanish-language resource by the ACLU.
Let’s continue to inform each other of any raids as they come up so we can mobilize quickly, alert the press, and hold these national actors accountable.