While most households across the country celebrated the beginning of a new year, the nightmare of hundreds of families became a reality. The raids conducted by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) took place on the weekend of New Year’s Day. In Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided numerous households and took into custody over one hundred people, many of which were women and children. Most of these families were Central Americans who had recently come into the United States seeking asylum from the treacherous conditions of their home countries.
There have been concerns of inadequate hearings for these immigrants because of how quickly they have been deported.
According to a statement released by DHS, these families had exhausted all of their legal options. However, several immigration attorneys were able to secure emergency stays of deportation from the Board of Immigration Appeals for some of these people. There have been concerns of inadequate hearings for these immigrants because of how quickly they have been deported. Out of the 121 people who were arrested, seventy-seven were deported within a week.
Since then, twelve people have been released, but thirty-two of them are still in custody. Of those thirty-two still in custody, twelve are mothers who are detained in the Dilley Detention Center, located in Texas. A pro bono legal group helping these women, along with local protesters, raised concerns that the conditions in the detention center are very poor. One of the mothers reportedly had an increasing amount of seizures since being put there. Unfortunately, DHS agents refuse to release her so that she can pursue proper medical attention.
These raids and the Obama Administration’s defense of the raids have led many to see President Obama as a hypocrite.
These raids have caused a giant uproar among most Democrats and immigrant rights activists. These activists feel betrayed by the Obama administration. This feeling of betrayal has caused protests all over the country. Many call the raids needlessly aggressive and some, potentially unconstitutional. Vice-President Biden and House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, deny that these raids ever occurred. This has led many Democratic Congressmen and women to denounce President Obama.
Twenty-two Senate Democrats, including Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, signed a letter urging President Obama to stop the raids and deportations. In these letters, they ask Obama to provide these Central American families Temporary Protective Status (“TPS”). These raids and the Obama Administration’s defense of the raids have led many to see President Obama as a hypocrite. While he staunchly defends the Syrian refugees and their acceptance into the country, President Obama has refused to help those families coming from Central America.
Contrary to popular GOP rhetoric, the number of immigrants entering the U.S. without inspection is the lowest it has been in over a decade. Since 2008, the number of immigrants coming into the United States has been on a steady decline. This includes the spike of unaccompanied Central American children that the country experienced during the summer of 2014 and the current surge of Central American immigrants. Specifically, these immigrants are coming from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Honduras is well known for being the murder capital of the world since 2010. However, in 2015, El Salvador reclaimed the title.
Most believe that the most recent cause is the breakdown of the truce the Salvadoran government had with its gangs in 2012.
Some believe the huge surge in violence in El Salvador is just a continuation of the civil war the country experienced from 1980 until 1992. Most believe that the most recent cause is the breakdown of the truce the Salvadoran government had with its gangs in 2012. After the truce was made between the Salvadoran government and its two most notorious gangs, Mara Salvatrucha 13 (“MS 13”) and Calle 18, the murder rate has dropped by half. In 2014, the new Salvadoran President chose to take a harsher stance on gangs in the country. Since the unravelling of the pact in 2014, the murder rate has soared and surpassed what it used to be.
In order to intimidate police officers, the Salvadoran gangs do not just attack the police officers themselves, but their families as well. The threats range from mere threat letters to torture and murder of their family members. This has led to an increase in police resignation. In 2015, El Salvador lost a record number of police officers who refuse to continue to risk their lives in this increasingly bloody conflict. Due to the increasing violence and police resignations, the Salvadoran Government has been forced to rely on its military and it has begun to use it as a police replacement.
The most common victim in this kind of deadly conflict is the millions of civilians who get trapped in the middle of it. Unfortunately, El Salvador is no different. In 2015, the murder rate in El Salvador was 104 per 100,000, compared to one per 100,000 in the UK and ninety per 100,000 in Venezuela, the second most murderous country in 2015. Last year’s death toll was the highest recorded since 1983, which was at the height of the civil war. Unfortunately, this rate does not seem like it will be slowing down anytime in the near future. In the first three days of 2016, seventy-two murders were reported in El Salvador.
Unlike the surge of Central American immigrants in 2014, the most recent surge includes not only unaccompanied children, but thousands of women as well. Women have become more frequently targeted during this violent period because they are seen as “easy” targets. Countries in Central America have some of the highest female homicide rates in the world. El Salvador is ranked first, Guatemala is third, and Honduras is seventh. Many women now live barricaded in their own homes because they are too afraid to leave them.
With no one to help protect them, their only hope of survival is to flee their homes.
Spouses of police officers live in even more fear, since they oftentimes do not receive the protection they need. Many of these spouses have been kidnapped, raped, tortured, and murdered. Female business owners who do not pay the gang taxes, “cuotas,” often meet the same fate. An increasing amount of women and survivors of these attacks no longer feel safe in their native countries. With no one to help protect them, their only hope of survival is to flee their homes.
The U.S. Department of State renewed its travel warning to El Salvador this year due to its rampant violence. In conjunction with this travel warning, the U.S. also suspended its Peace Corps program in El Salvador. This led many to criticize the U.S. Government because it considers El Salvador too dangerous for its own citizens, but not for the Salvadoran families that are fleeing that environment. White House spokesman, Peter Boogaard, stated, “[W]e recognize the serious underlying conditions that cause some people to flee their home countries.” On the contrary, Josh Earnest, White House Press Secretary, stated at a briefing, “[A]t this point our policy will remain the same.”
Shortly after the New Year’s raids were completed, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, released a statement discussing them. In his statement, Jeh Johnson noted that the primary objective of the raids was to deter prospective immigrants from attempting to come into the U.S. without inspection. Instead of pretending that deporting a few will deter thousands of refugees, Jeh Johnson and the Obama administration should instead focus on how to realistically help these fellow human beings.
The U.S Government needs to do more than just acknowledge the violence that is causing these people to flee their homes. These families are abandoning everything they have because they have been forced to live through and witness a type of violence that the majority of U.S. Citizens will never even come close to experiencing. The vast majority of the people coming here are not criminals. Instead of telling these families to go to the back of a non-existing line, the U.S. needs to come together and figure out a way to help these people that are being forced to live through such traumatic experiences.