Miami-based immigrant rights activists have denounced plans by federal immigration authorities to detain and deport unauthorized foreign nationals, including those who have received final removal orders in the last two years.
“I beg President Obama to put his hand over his heart and not do this, for the sake of the children,” said Mayra Alejandra Ruiz Lara, a Honduran who crossed the border illegally in November with her husband, Dennis, and their young daughters — Delmi Alejandra, 4, and Genesis, 2.
Ruiz, 29, spoke at a Little Havana restaurant Wednesday during a news conference organized by local immigrant rights activists, who expressed alarm about the reports of impeding deportations.
“We are very concerned and upset about this,” said Francisco Portillo, president of the Francisco Morazán Honduran Organization, one of the groups at the news conference called by the Coalition of United Latin Organizations for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
Statements of condemnation by immigrant rights activists and community leaders were the first by local groups since reports of the impending immigration dragnet surfaced in The Washington Post on Dec. 23.
Similar protest events took place in other parts of the country, including a march in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. In the U.S. capital, the march started near the Democratic National Committee headquarters and ended at Lafayette Park, across from the White House.
The Washington Post report quoted people familiar with the plan as saying that the nationwide operation would start in early January under U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a unit of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Neither ICE nor DHS denied the report.
ICE issued a statement saying that deportations of people who have been ordered removed by immigration judges, and certain other foreign nationals, including recent border crossers, should not come as a surprise.
ICE’s three-paragraph statement provided clues about what immigration authorities might do and explained the rationale for doing it, all stemming from directives issued by DHS chief Jeh Johnson two years ago.
The statement, provided to el Nuevo Herald by ICE spokesman Bryan D. Cox, also indicated that the coming detentions and deportations were merely a continuation of strategies ICE and DHS have pursued all along under President Barack Obama.
“As part of the civil immigration enforcement priorities announced by Secretary Johnson in November 2014, ICE focuses on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security,” the statement said. “These include individuals, whether alone or with family members who have been apprehended while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States, recent border crossers, and individuals who have received a final order of removal on or after Jan. 1, 2014.”
The rest of the statement said: “Indeed, as reported in the end of fiscal year statistics released on [Dec. 22], ICE removed or returned 235,413 individuals, 98 percent of which fell into one or more of ICE’s enforcement priorities. As Secretary Johnson has consistently said, our border is not open to illegal immigration, and 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.”
Alfonso Chardy: 305-376-3435, @AlfonsoChardy