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NBC News: Central Americans Picked Up in Raids Get Deportation Pause

Jan 6, 2016
In The News

A handful of families picked up in New Year's weekend immigration arrests and who were being readied for removal from the country now have their deportations on hold.

George Tzamaras, a spokesman for American Immigration Lawyers Association,said Wednesday the families' attorneys put forward a defense that the immigrants had not received all their due process, that mistakes were made in their legal proceedings and that they had ineffective counsel.

Patricia Zapor, a spokeswoman for Catholic Legal Immigration Network, said four families were in line for deportation and had been taken to Dilley, Texas, detention center to be deported. Flights to return migrants to their countries were scheduled for today but it was not immediately clear whether those families were to be on them.

The arrests have drawn opposition from Latinos and immigration groups.

"Raiding people's homes to forcibly break families apart is not what our country stands for," Rep. Linda Sanchez, chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said in a statement. "Our federal government should not be separating parents from their children."

The California Democrat said Congress must ensure the families are advised of their rights and provided counsel and that comprehensive immigration reform is the only way to solve the problem of increased illegal immigration.

The request for a stay of the families' deportation was made through the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, which include CLINIC, AILA, American Immigration Council and Refugee and the Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

The Department of Homeland Security targeted migrant families, many of them women and children who had arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014 when the U.S. saw a spike in migrants from Central America and Mexico. Many were detained after their arrival but the federal government was forced by a court to release them, an order that the Obama administration is appealing.

There has been a recent increase again in arrivals from Central America and Mexico.

The agency said they targeted families who had orders of removal and had exhausted all their legal appeals to remain in the country. But groups such as CLINIC, which provide pro bono legal services for families, said many of the families had not had lawyers or knew of legal relief available to them.

The arrests have become a political issue as immigration has taken center stage in presidential campaigns and Democrats have sought to separate themselves from Republicans on immigration.