The Obama administration has arrested 336 more people since late January as part of a nationwide crackdown against the surge of Central American immigrants illegally crossing the southwest U.S. border.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced the arrests in a statement released this week, saying they are part of “Operation Border Guardian.” The focus, he said, is on people who came here illegally as unaccompanied children after Jan. 1 of 2014, who are now older than 18, and who have been ordered removed by immigration judges.
Federal immigration authorities could not immediately provide a state-by-state breakdown of where the 336 people were taken into custody. Their arrests follow immigration raids that resulted in the arrest of 121 adults and children in Georgia and elsewhere in January. Of that number, 77 have been deported, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs.
“As I have said repeatedly,” Johnson said in a prepared statement, “our borders are not open to illegal migration. If someone was apprehended at the border, has been ordered removed by an immigration court, has no pending appeal, and does not qualify for asylum or other relief from removal under our laws, he or she must be sent home. We must and we will enforce the law in accordance with our enforcement priorities.”
During a stop in Atlanta last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske said the yearend spike in Central American children and families illegally crossing the southwest border may be part of a “new normal.” Fleeing punishing poverty and brutal gangs, tens of thousands of people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras started surging across the border in 2014.
Their numbers fell toward the end of that year and stayed lower in early 2015 before rising sharply again. Between October of 2015 and January of this year, apprehensions on the southwest border were more than double the number from the same period the year before. Most of those who were caught are from Central America. Some are from Mexico. Their numbers started falling in January and have leveled off since.
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