As officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched a new wave of deportations of Central American migrants who entered the US illegally over the past two years, protests against the government action were carried out across the country. Dozensoccupied the intersection outside the Immigration Court on Varick Street in Lower Manhattan on Jan. 8, with seven arrested. An action was also held outside the West County Detention facility in Richmond, Calif., days earlier. At the close of the Jan. 2-3 weekend, 121 adults and children had been taken into custody in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina, according to Jeh Johnson, head of the Homeland Security Department, who warned of thousands more to be deported within the next weeks because they have exhausted their legal appeals. Johnson added that the number of people trying to cross the border illegally has begun to climb again in recent months—despite just over than 330,000 migrants having been apprehended in 2015, the second-lowest number in more than four decades.
Some Democratic leaders have expressed concern about the raids, and Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) and other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are calling on President Obama to offer affected families temporary legal protection. "We have a refugee crisis, not an immigration problem," Gutierrez said at a rally outside the White House Jan. 8. Alluding to the epidemic of drugs and gang violence tha is fueling the exodus from Central America, Gutierrez said, "We, too, are responsible." (Gothamist, NCR, WP, Jan. 8; UPI, Jan. 4)