ICE raids targeting Central American adults with children trigger community panic

(Photo credit: Joe Brusky via Flickr / Creative Commons)

Just after the new year, immigration agents began conducting deportation raids in at least three states, enforcing removal orders against Central Americans. FSRN’s Shannon Young has more.

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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) says it is targeting adults with children who arrived since mid-2014 and have exhausted their legal options for remaining in the country. The raids – which were announced just before Christmas – have already occurred in Texas, Georgia and North Carolina.

“We are definitely seeing some panic in the community as far as they raids go; they’re not sure what rights they still have or if they have any rights,” says Bianca Santorini, staff attorney with Houston’s America for All. The law office offers general consultations and low cost court representation for asylum seekers. She estimates that cases involving Central American women and children have increased since 2014 to make up around 80 percent of the firm’s caseload.

Santorini says fear of the raids has expanded to other members of the Central American community in Houston who may be helping or housing recent arrivals, including unaccompanied minors, after their release from immigration detention: “We’re having issues where, if there’s a recent arrival who’s staying with a family member or a friend in the community, now everyone in the house is scared. Not even just the person who came in, but now they’re scared that ‘Hey, such and such is living here and if they come, am I in trouble?’’ So, it’s a trickle down, there’s a reluctance that there’s going to be as many people willing to even help family members or people coming and immigrating to the U.S.”

The so-called surge in Central American women and children entering the U.S. comes as El Salvador’s murder rate  hit a level unseen since the height of the country’s civil war. Regional neighbor Honduras has had one of the world’s highest murder rates for several consecutive years. Many of the Central American women and children cite this violence as their motive for fleeing their home countries.

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