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Predictions of mass deportations fall short

Local group still worried after 121 Central Americans are set for removal

SAN ANTONIO – Initial predictions before the holidays of mass deportations fell short over the weekend. 

In a statement, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in part:

As I have said repeatedly, our borders are not open to illegal migration; if you come here illegally, we will send you back consistent with our laws and values.

In November 2014, I issued new priorities for immigration enforcement as part of the President’s immigration accountability executive actions. These new Department-wide priorities focus our enforcement resources on convicted criminals and threats to public safety. These new enforcement priorities also focus on border security, namely the removal of those apprehended at the border or who came here illegally after January 1, 2014.

Only 121 Central American women and children primarily in Texas, Georgia and North Carolina are now in federal custody set for removal.

No word if any of those immigrants were in San Antonio.

However, Rev. Kelly Allen, who heads the Interfaith Welcome Coalition, said she predicts those families are only the first of many yet to be deported.  

“I’m worried. This is the beginning of something big,” said the pastor of University Presbyterian Church.

Johnson said, “At my direction, additional enforcement operations such as these will continue to occur as appropriate.”

He said his agency’s new priorities as of November 2014 are convicted criminals and those who are threats to public safety. However, he added the women and children had been issued removal orders by an immigration judge or exhausted their legal options.

“It seems like a huge contradiction to me on the part of the administration,” Allen said.

She said most did not have pro bono immigration attorneys to plead for asylum.

“There is some that go to the detention facilities but not enough for all these families,” Allen said.

Johnson’s lengthy statement included updates on U.S. funding for Central American countries, a media campaign and other efforts to keep these families from leaving. He ended the statement saying, “There are many who loudly condemn our enforcement efforts as too harsh, while there will be others who say these actions don’t go far enough.”

Johnson also said, “I recognize the reality of the pain that deportations do in fact cause. But we must enforce the law consistent with our priorities.”

But Allen said Johnson’s statement was an expression of pity. She said, “Feelings only go so far if your actions don’t correspond.”