WASHINGTON — The recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids targeting Central American undocumented immigrants will go down as one of the “darkest moments” in President Barack Obama’s administration, the head of the National Immigration Law Center said Wednesday.
Executive Director Mariaelena Hincapie and a number of religious leaders said undocumented immigrants are facing a critical situation. The religious leaders offered sanctuary for families and individuals who run the risk of being deported.
Church World Service grassroots coordinator the Rev. Noel Anderson said the situation faced by Central American migrants is similar to that in the 1980s, when the national sanctuary movement was born to aid migrants from countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras escape their nations’ civil wars and find refuge in the United States.
“If asylum seekers are deported, they could very likely be met with the violence they are fleeing, costing them their lives,” he said.
Last weekend ICE agents detained 121 adults and children, mainly in Texas, Georgia and South Carolina, who fled Central America and are in the processing of deporting them.
ICE has been conducting such quick-hit raids that afford the undocumented immigrants little opportunity to get legal help for years, said Tania Unzueta, a leader of Not1More, a national immigrant rights’ group.
Unzueta said Not1More activists have been monitoring the raids not only because they’re concerned about the lack of access to immigration counseling but because the raids are creating panic among other undocumented immigrants who fear they may be targeted next.
“It is very clear that the tactic of raids is something that is meant to cause fear and panic and it is not an effective way of carrying out enforcement,” she said.
Other immigrants’ rights activist groups across the nation have criticized the raids
“Such raids often undermine the rights of U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident family members, as well as innocent bystanders, National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguia said in a statement Tuesday. “And as importantly, these types of raids undercut trust between law enforcement and the community, deterring people from reporting crimes or other threats to public safety. They ultimately make all of us less, not more, secure.”