SAN ANTONIO – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced this week that it had apprehended 121 mostly Central Americans in raids last weekend and said those being deported had no legal options remaining.
“Yet by Tuesday, we hear from the Department of Justice that oversees immigration laws, that in fact they do,” said Jonathan Ryan, executive director of RAICES, a legal advocacy group.
Ryan said that since then, more than 10 stays of removal were granted for about 30 people, mostly women and children.
Among them, a Honduran mother who had been awaiting deportation with and her 9-year-old twin boys. On Friday KSAT received word they too were granted a stay of removal.
The woman, identified as Maritza, 26, said she and sons were part of the 2014 mass exodus that ended in South Texas.
“I came because more than anything, I want something better for them,” she said in a phone interview from Dilley.
She said that instead, ICE agents came to her apartment Saturday morning as she was getting ready for work and her sons were sleeping. She said the agents claimed that they were looking for someone else.
The woman, a house painter living in Georgia said the agents later told her that her claims for asylum had been denied and her family had been given final orders of removal.
She said she tried to tell them that attorneys were pleading her case and that she’d met all the requirements during the process.
Yet a spokeswoman for ICE said in a statement that the agency was not targeting those with cases before the Board of Immigration Appeals or anyone with time remaining to file an appeal.
As a result of recent enforcement actions, ICE thus far has removed a total of 77 individuals to Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. These enforcement actions targeted adults and their children who were subject to final orders of removal, who had an opportunity to present their claims to an immigration judge. ICE did not target individuals who had pending appeals before the Board of Immigration Appeals, or individuals for whom the time period to file such an appeal had not expired.
She said so far, 77 people have been sent back to Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.
Maritza said she and other mothers at the detention center dread the thought of returning to their home countries.
Ryan said they have good reason to be afraid.
He said he’s hearing from some who have already been deported.
“They’re in hiding. They have seen family members killed since they’ve returned home,” Ryan said.
He said Central American countries are almost as dangerous as Syria and Iraq.
Ryan said the raids have gotten a lot of pushback on Capitol Hill and by some senior officials at the White House who first leaked word of the raids.
They were also the subject of a New York Times editorial on Friday.
Ryan said he would be very surprised if the raids continue.
“If they do, we’ll be ready,” he said.