Sources: US plans new wave of immigrant deportation raids

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US plans new deportation raids: RTRS

WASHINGTON, May 12 (Reuters) - U.S. immigration officials are planning a month-long series of raids in May and June to deport hundreds of Central American mothers and children found to have entered the country illegally, according to sources and an internal document seen by Reuters.

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The operation would likely be the largest deportation sweep targeting immigrant families by the administration of President Barack Obama this year after a similar drive over two days in January that focused on Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina.

Those raids, which resulted in the detention of 121 people, mostly women and children, sparked an outcry from immigration advocates and criticism from some Democrats, including the party's presidential election frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

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Sources: US plans new wave of immigrant deportation raids
Immigration activists rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court as justices hear arguments in a challenge by 26 states over the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's executive action to defer deportation of certain immigrant children and parents who are in the country illegally in Washington April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Immigration activists rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court as justices hear arguments in a challenge by 26 states over the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's executive action to defer deportation of certain immigrant children and parents who are in the country illegally in Washington April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Immigration activists rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court as justices hear arguments in a challenge by 26 states over the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's executive action to defer deportation of certain immigrant children and parents who are in the country illegally in Washington April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Immigration activists holding an American flag rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court as justices hear arguments in a challenge by 26 states over the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's executive action to defer deportation of certain immigrant children and parents who are in the country illegally in Washington April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Immigration activists holding an American flag and a large Michigan sign rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court as justices hear arguments in a challenge by 26 states over the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's executive action to defer deportation of certain immigrant children and parents who are in the country illegally in Washington April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Immigration activists rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court as justices hear arguments in a challenge by 26 states over the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's executive action to defer deportation of certain immigrant children and parents who are in the country illegally in Washington April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Immigration activists rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court as justices hear arguments in a challenge by 26 states over the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's executive action to defer deportation of certain immigrant children and parents who are in the country illegally in Washington April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Immigration activists rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court as justices hear arguments in a challenge by 26 states over the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's executive action to defer deportation of certain immigrant children and parents who are in the country illegally in Washington April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Immigration activists rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court as justices hear arguments in a challenge by 26 states over the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's executive action to defer deportation of certain immigrant children and parents who are in the country illegally in Washington April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Immigrants and community leaders rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to mark the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration in Washington, November 20, 2015. The Obama administration on Friday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to revive President Barack Obama's executive action to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation, saying Republican-led states had no legal basis to challenge it. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has now told field offices nationwide to launch a 30-day "surge" of arrests focused on mothers and children who have already been told to leave the United States, the document seen by Reuters said. The operation would also cover minors who have entered the country without a guardian and since turned 18 years of age, the document said. Two sources confirmed the details of the plan.

The exact dates of the latest series of raids were not known and the details of the operation could change.

The operation in January marked a departure for ICE, part of the Department of Homeland Security, from one-off deportations to high-profile raids meant to deter migrants from coming to the United States.

An ICE spokeswoman said the agency does not "confirm or deny the existence of specific ongoing or future law enforcement actions." The spokeswoman said immigrants who arrived illegally after Jan. 1, 2014 are priorities for removal.

Federal resources were strained in 2014 under a wave of illegal migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, especially women and children fleeing violence in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

The planned new raids are in response to a renewed surge of illegal entries by Central American women traveling with their children.

From October 2015 through March 2016, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended more than 32,000 family "units," defined as mothers and children traveling together, for crossing illegally into the United States. Over the same period in 2014-2015, there were about 14,000 such apprehensions; in 2013-2014, about 19,800.

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Sources: US plans new wave of immigrant deportation raids
MCALLEN, TX. --TUESDAY, JULY 15, 2014 -- Immigrants who have been detained while crossing the border are held inside the McAllen Border Patrol Station in McAllen, Texas, Tuesday July 15, 2014. More than 350 detainees were being held on Tuesday, July 15, 2014, at the station. A solution for the growing crisis of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children showing up at the U.S.-Mexico border is looking increasingly elusive with three weeks left before Congress leaves Washington for an annual August recess. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Rick Loomis, Pool)
Christian Gonzalez, 9, of Lynn, Mass., displays a placard during a rally, Tuesday, July 22, 2014, on the steps of City Hall, in Lynn, held to protest what organizers describe as the scapegoating of immigrants for problems in the city. The mayor of Lynn and education officials complain their schools are being overwhelmed by young Guatemalans who speak neither English or Spanish as their first language. Gonzalez, a U.S. citizen, was born in Boston. (AP Photo)
Lucy Francis, of Lynn, Mass., center, displays a placard and chants slogans during a rally, Tuesday, July 22, 2014, on the steps of City Hall, in Lynn, Mass., held to protest what organizers describe as the scapegoating of immigrants for problems in the city. The mayor of Lynn and education officials complain their schools are being overwhelmed by young Guatemalans who speak neither English or Spanish as their first language. (AP Photo)
A group of youngsters holds hands as they start a week-long fast in support of immigrant children and their families fleeing violence and poverty in Central America, inside a tent near Olvera Street in Los Angeles Monday, July 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Edgar Gonzalez, 22, kisses his 2-moth-old daughter, Vivian, and his wife, Melina, 25, as he joins a group of youngsters on a week-long fast in support of immigrant children and their families fleeing violence and poverty in Central America, near Olvera Street in Los Angeles Monday, July 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
A group of dreamers hold hands after announcing their week-long fast in support of immigrant children and their families fleeing violence and poverty in Central America, near Olvera Street in Los Angeles Monday, July 21, 2014. Dreamers are beneficiaries of President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that stops deportation and offers work permits to certains immigrant youth. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Immigrants who have been caught crossing the border illegally are housed inside the McAllen Border Patrol Station in McAllen, Texas where they are processed on Tuesday, July 15, 2014. More than 57,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended at the southwestern border since October, more than twice the total this time last year, many through the Rio Grande Valley. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Rick Loomis, Pool)
Immigrants who have been caught crossing the border illegally are housed inside the McAllen Border Patrol Station in McAllen, Texas where they are processed on Tuesday, July 15, 2014. More than 57,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended at the southwestern border since October, more than twice the total this time last year, many through the Rio Grande Valley. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Rick Loomis, Pool)
Immigrants who have been caught crossing the border illegally are housed inside the McAllen Border Patrol Station in McAllen, Texas where they are processed on Tuesday, July 15, 2014. More than 57,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended at the southwestern border since October, more than twice the total this time last year, many through the Rio Grande Valley. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Rick Loomis, Pool)
An Immigrant who was detained at the border is held inside the McAllen Border Patrol Station in McAllen, Texas , Tuesday July 15, 2014, in an area for juveniles 14 and under. A solution for the growing crisis of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children showing up at the U.S.-Mexico border is looking increasingly elusive with three weeks left before Congress leaves Washington for an annual August recess. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Rick Loomis, Pool)
In this July 12, 2014, photo, Central American migrants ride a freight train during their journey toward the U.S.-Mexico border in Ixtepec, Mexico. The number of family units and unaccompanied children arrested by Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley has doubled in the first nine months of this fiscal year compared to the same period last year. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
In this June 25, 2014 photo, a group of immigrants from Honduras and El Salvador who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally are stopped in Granjeno, Texas. Just since October, the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector has made more than 194,000 arrests, nearly triple that of any other sector. Most are from Central America, and many are children. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
FILE - This June 18, 2014, file photo, detainees sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection, processing facility in Brownsville,Texas. Immigration courts backlogged by years of staffing shortages and tougher enforcement face an even more daunting challenge since tens of thousands of Central Americans began arriving on the U.S. border fleeing violence back home. For years, children from Central America traveling alone and immigrants who prove they have a credible fear of returning home have been entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, Pool, File)
FILE - In this July 7, 2014 file photo, immigrant families and children's advocates rally in response to President Barack Obama's statement on the crisis of unaccompanied children and families illegally entering the United States, outside the Los Angeles Federal building. Tackling what he has called a humanitarian crisis, Obama on Tuesday, July 8, 2014 asked Congress for $3.7 billion to cope with a tide of minors from Central America who are illegally crossing the U.S. border, straining immigration resources and causing a political firestorm in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)
FILE - In this June 25, 2014 file photo, a group of immigrants from Honduras and El Salvador who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally are stopped in Granjeno, Texas. Tackling what he has called a humanitarian crisis, President Barack Obama on Tuesday, July 8, 2014 asked Congress for $3.7 billion to cope with a tide of minors from Central America who are illegally crossing the U.S. border, straining immigration resources and causing a political firestorm in Washington. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
In this June 25, 2014 photo, a group of immigrants from Honduras and El Salvador who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally are stopped in Granjeno, Texas. Just since October, the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector has made more than 194,000 arrests, nearly triple that of any other sector. Most are from Central America, and many are children. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
In this June 25, 2014 photo, a group of immigrants from Honduras and El Salvador who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally are stopped in Granjeno, Texas. Just since October, the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector has made more than 194,000 arrests, nearly triple that of any other sector. Most are from Central America, and many are children. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
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Many of those apprehended for unlawful entry are put into deportation proceedings in court but do not show up for their scheduled appearance before a judge or ignore court orders to leave the country.

The surge in illegal border crossings has put Obama in a tough spot in a presidential election year in which he wants to see a fellow Democrat elected as his successor.

Obama has said criminal immigrants and those who have recently entered the country are priorities for deportation. He is regularly hammered by Republicans over the presence of more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.

But Hispanic-Americans tend to vote for Democrats, who are more sympathetic to the plight of the undocumented.

Clinton raised concerns about the January raids at the time, saying they had "sown fear and division in immigrant communities."

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has pledged to build a wall along the Mexican border to prevent illegal immigration.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told a U.S. Senate panel in March that the January raids had helped to deter Central Americans from migrating illegally. Border Patrol reported fewer illegal entries between January and March 2016 compared to October and December 2015, but there were more apprehended than over the same time period in early 2015.

A separate document seen by Reuters said Johnson was concerned about the most recent uptick in border crossings.

Immigration advocates say they have asked Johnson to abandon plans for future raids.

"Raids are not the answer," said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, a legal aide and advocacy group for migrants.

"This is a humanitarian challenge," she said.

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