The United States is getting prepared for a large-scale operation to deport hundreds of thousands of refugees, who have fled violence in Central America since last year.
Citing people familiar with the plan, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the operation would target more than 100,000 families with both adults and children who have made the journey across the southwest border since 2015.
The raid would be carried out by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents as soon as early January, when the immigrants and refugees would be detained wherever they can be found and immediately deported, according to the Post.
The operation, however, has not been given the final approval by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Immigration advocates denounced the plan on Wednesday, saying many of these families have been fleeing violence or persecution in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
According to experts, the violence that forced people to flee Central America last year has surged again.
“It would be an outrage if the administration subjected Central American families to even more aggressive enforcement tactics,” Gregory Chen, director of Advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told the Post.
“This administration has never acknowledged the truth: that these families are refugees seeking asylum who should be given humanitarian protection rather than being detained or rounded up. When other countries are welcoming far more refugees, the US should be ashamed for using jails and even contemplating large-scale deportation tactics,” he added.
The pressure of deporting refugees has mounted due to a recent court decision that ordered the DHS to begin releasing families being held in detention centers.
Detention centers, two in Texas and one in Pennsylvania, house more than 1,700 refugees, DHS officials said Wednesday.
Although department officials have long vowed that the immigrants will be treated humanely, their advocates have said conditions are crowded and inhumane in the centers, which often house women with children.