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Deportation Raids Against Central American Refugees: Four Political Questions

Surfing the net late Wednesday, I learned that a new series of immigration raids have been announced. It caught me, like most reform advocates, off guard.

My first reaction was related to timing.

Why was this policy made public one day prior to Christmas Eve?

Not exactly the type of stocking stuffer present immigration activists were expecting.

Immigration Officials To Launch Large-Scale Deportation Raids
Huffington Post (Reuters), December 23, 2015

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has begun preparing for a series of raids that would target for deportation hundreds of families who have flocked to the United States since the start of last year, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

Citing people familiar with the operation, the Post said the nationwide campaign to deport the illegal immigrants by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could start as soon as early January.

It would be the first large-scale effort to deport families who have fled violence in Central America.

More than 100,000 families with both adults and children have made the journey across the southwest border since last year, the Post reported.

The operation would target only adults and children who have already been ordered removed from the United States by an immigration judge, the newspaper said.

But my concerns, as a deportation defense lawyer, goes beyond timing.

The announcement also raised a series of political questions.

Missed Immigration Court Hearings

Although the action was framed as a measure to ensure those who failed show up for court do not disappear into the shadows of society, various studies over the past year have shown this fear is misplaced.

Moreover, this approach overlooks that some of those who did, in fact, miss their hearings may have compelling reasons for their absence. For instance, in Escondido housing issues have arisen for Central American children, due to protests by local residents.

Hence, enforcing strict deportation actions against this group of immigrants appears to be another veiled attempt to deny due process rights.

Retailiation Against The Judicial System

Next, I pondered if this action is based on retaliation? Was this fueled by recent court orders to release immigrants from detention? This would be a heavy-handed response, even if motivated by political calculations.

To the extent this is the basis for the raids further undermines the rule of law, in an area of law already questioned for its overtly political nature.

Refugee Deterrence

Is this policy a response to the news of a new spike in Central American refugees? That’s the word coming from some political corners. This view presumes the deportations would act as a deterrent to refugees who are potential participants in the new wave.

Given the impulse for the Central American exodus – which most experts claim are gang-related violence, social chaos, and economic poverty – a deterrence-oriented policy is unlikely to succeed.

Electoral Grandstanding

Many pundits suggest the raids are politically dangerous for the Democratic Party, at present the favorite among pro-immigration voters. Their logic centers on the president’s party affiliation.

Yet, absent Hilary Clinton’s indefinite immigration reform posture, I think the policy opens the door for the Democratic candidates to put more distance between themselves and Republican . . . so long as they adopt a strong stance opposing the raids

In the end, the real rationale may be a combination of the above. Perhaps the administration really wants to slow down Central American migration, eliminate the long court delays caused by the refugee exodus, and imply their actions do not violate due process concerns – while giving Democratic Party candidates an issue to separate themselves further from the GOP flag bearers.

Somehow, I feel a nagging suspicion that I’m missing something.

What’s your view?

Whatever the real reasons, the political theatre of the Central American refugee situation is sure to last well into the Spring primary elections . . . and beyond.

Immigration News Curation By Carlos Batara