Hundreds of adults and children who illegally entered the southern border of the U.S. over the last two years are at risk of being deported, in a series of raids that could start in just a few weeks, The Washington Post reported.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will carry out the raids, which have not yet received final approval. The agents will target people from Central America who illegally entered the U.S. over the last two years, and who have already been ordered to leave by an immigration judge.
The number of undocumented immigrants fleeing to the U.S. to escape gang and drug violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras has spiked again in recent months. Nearly 5,000 unaccompanied minors were caught attempting to cross the border in October, and 3,000 more were caught during the first two weeks of November, according to The Washington Post.
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A total of more than 337,000 people were arrested attempting to cross the border illegally between October 2015 and September 2015, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesperson wrote in a statement to CBS News. Around 235,000 people were deported during the same period.
DHS opened three family detention centers to respond to the high number of illegal border crossings.
These three centers — two in Texas and one in Pennsylvania — now hold more than 1,700 people, The Washington Post reported, citing a DHS official. In August, a federal court gave DHS an October deadline to release the children from the detention centers.
Advocates for undocumented Central American immigrants argue that many of these people should have the right to apply for asylum in the United States. According to Human Rights Watch, less than 2 percent of Central Americans who entered illegally make it through the first round of screening, which identifies an immigrant’s fear of returning to their homeland.
For other countries — excluding Mexico — 21 percent of undocumented immigrants make it through this identification process.
“The U.S. government’s fast-track screening of migrants is ignoring the very real fears of the people arriving at the border,” said Clara Long — U.S. immigration researcher at Human Rights Watch — in a statement. “In its frenzy to stem the tide of migrants from Central America, the U.S. is sending asylum seekers back to the threat of murder, rape, and other violence,” she continued.
At least 83 people from Central America who were deported between January 1, 2014, and October 1, 2015 from the U.S. were murdered after they returned home, according to Elizabeth Kennedy, a social scientist at San Diego State University.
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Forty-five of these deportees were murdered in El Salvador, three in Guatemala, and 35 in Honduras. At the same time, more than 90 people that Mexico deported were murdered. The U.S. has an obligation to follow up with children after they have been deported, but so far authorities have not done that, Kennedy added.
The murder rates in El Salvador and Honduras are higher than any other country in the world that is not at war.
From January through August, 4,246 people were murdered in El Salvador, according to The Guardian. The chaos was caused by the break down of a 2012 truce last year between the country’s two main gangs, the paper reported.
Some advocates have broached the idea that the U.S. could intervene in Central America in a similar manner to its intervention in Colombia — by covertly supporting the country’s military as it battled rebel forces.
DHS did not respond to request for comment.