There have been no ICE immigration raids in Los Angeles recently, but the fear of possible actions of this kind already reported in other parts of the country has the immigrant community here in an uproar.
On Tuesday, Feb. 2, in conjunction with similar actions in Washington, D.C., advocates in Los Angeles delivered 110,000 signatures to immigration authorities at the Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles opposing the raids conducted by immigration authorities since the beginning of the year.
Immigrant rights, social justice and faith groups — along with directly impacted families — also held a press conference in front of the White House on Tuesday to deliver a petition with more than 130,000 signatures calling on President Obama to end deportation raids against refugee families from Central America and provide them with Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
The activists report that so far at least 121 people were detained in raids that began during the holiday season, following an announcement by the Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that it would begin going after Central American families recently arrived in the country.
“It’s immoral. They’re going after people who are trying to make a living in the United States and they’re shattering dreams and families,” said Antonio Bernabe, an organizer with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), whose representatives joined those from COFEM, KIWA and other groups to deliver the 110,000 signatures.
“As folks are being picked up and they’re not given due process, they are being deported to their country of origins to face certain death, in some cases. We’ve seen families, children impacted by these raids,” added Apolonio Morales, political director for CHIRLA.
“We are asking them to stop the raids. They’re creating panic in the community. These people (immigrants) escaped the violence in their countries and we want them to have their day in court and a way to remain in the United States, under TPS or some other program,” Morales continued.
According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees the ICE, there has been a significant increase in families and unaccompanied minors entering the U.S. from Central America.
Raids In The South
Since Jan. 2, ICE agents have swept through Georgia, Texas and North Carolina looking for women and children who arrived in the country illegally since the summer of 2014, when the country faced an unprecedented surge in these apprehensions.
The tidal wave of immigrants put pressure on the government to accommodate them. Some were released to family members while their cases were assessed.
In December of 2015, DHS announced it would begin arresting and deporting these individuals who did not qualify for any immigration program or benefit that would allow them to stay in the country.
“As I have said repeatedly, our borders are not open to illegal migration; if you come here illegally, we will send you back consistent with our laws and values,” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a press release published in early January.
“In the spring and summer of 2014 we faced a significant spike in families and unaccompanied children from Central America attempting to cross our southern border illegally. In response, we took a number of actions in collaboration with the governments of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, and the numbers declined dramatically. In Fiscal Year 2015, the number of apprehensions by U.S. Border Patrol of those attempting to cross our southern border illegally — an indicator of total attempts to cross the border illegally — decreased to 331,333,” Johnson said.
“In November 2014, I issued new priorities for immigration enforcement as part of the President’s immigration accountability executive actions ….These new enforcement priorities also focus on border security, namely the removal of those apprehended at the border or who came here illegally after January 1, 2014.”
Putting Pressure on Obama
Also in January, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and 146 members of the House of Representatives called on the Obama administration to stop the deportation campaign and expand TPS for Central American families.
“Our letter to President Obama, with over 100 signatures from Members of Congress, simply asks the president to suspend removal operations of Central American refugee women and children and to grant them Temporary Protected Status until the Administration has a comprehensive refugee strategy in place that provides adequate screening, meaningful legal counsel and due process, and a comprehensive regional approach that will ensure these refugee women and children have a fair chance to live in safety,” wrote Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles, head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (IRLC) also released a report, titled “Relief, Not Raids,” stating that more than 750,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras would likely receive Temporary Status Protection, which may provide immigrants with employment authorization and brief deferred action from deportation if they cannot safely arrive to their home countries.