Merry Christmas From the Obama Administration: New Raids of Central American Families to Begin in New Year?

In case you missed what The Washington Post reported last night online, the outlet tweeted out the following news item that has already gotten the attention of many in the immigration rights community:

According to the article, the Department of Homeland Security is planning to get more aggressive in rounding up and deporting Central American families who fled the violence in their respective countries:

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 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.

The article also said that the Obama administration has been talking about this plan internally for “several months.” It reported that DHS secretary Jeh Johnson “has been pushing for the moves,” because there has been a new surge in Central American migrants coming into thew country. News of this DHS plan came at the same time that Johnson disclosed on Tuesday new deportation and removal statistics. Here is what part of DHS’ official December 23 press release stated:

Department is better targeting its enforcement efforts to prioritize convicted criminals and threats to public safety, border security, and national security

WASHINGTON — Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released its end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 statistics which reflect the Department’s immigration enforcement efforts that prioritize convicted criminals and threats to public safety, border security, and national security.

Overall, the Department apprehended 406,595 individuals nationwide and conducted a total of 462,463 removals and returns. The U.S. Border Patrol reported 337,117 apprehensions nationwide, compared to 486,651 in FY 2014. At the same time, ICE removed or returned 235,413 individuals in FY 2015, with 86 percent of these individuals considered a “top priority” (Priority One) – those considered border security or public safety threats.

The number of convicted criminals removed from the interior continued to increase, as 91 percent of ICE’s FY 2015 interior removals and returns were individuals who were previously convicted of a crime, compared to 86 percent in FY 2014, and just 67 percent in FY 2011.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson made the following statement concerning these numbers:

“Last year’s removal and return statistics are characterized primarily by three things: first, last year’s removal numbers reflect this Department’s increased focus on prioritizing convicted criminals and threats to public safety, border security and national security. Second, the removal numbers were driven by the dramatic decrease in those apprehended at the border in FY 2015 — 337,117 — the second lowest apprehension number since 1972, reflecting a lower level of attempted illegal migration at our borders. Third, to improve the transparency of our efforts, for the second year in a row, we are releasing the immigration statistics of CBP and ICE together, rather than piecemeal, to provide a single, clear snapshot of our overall immigration enforcement picture.

FY 2015 was a year of transition, during which our new policies focusing on public safety were being implemented. In FY 2016 and beyond, I want to focus even more interior enforcement resources on removing convicted criminals. To that end, we are renewing and rebuilding ICE’s ties with state and local law enforcement. A year ago, we ended the controversial Secure Communities Program, and replaced it with the Priority Enforcement Program. Of the 25 largest jurisdictions that had placed restrictions on their own cooperation with ICE, 16 are now working with us again for the good of public safety.

In FY 2016, we will be challenged again by a variety of factors driving illegal migration to the U.S., mostly from Central America, and we are redoubling our border security efforts now to meet that challenge.”