Immigration raids in North Carolina
Zuniga’s clients were not the only family to be targeted earlier this month — ICE conducted a series of immigrant raids primarily in North Carolina, Georgia and Texas. According to a press release from Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, 121 individuals were arrested over the course of New Year’s weekend as a part of these raids.
“At my direction, additional enforcement operations such as these will continue to occur as appropriate,” Johnson said.
The raids are part of a new set of priorities for immigration enforcement issued by Johnson in November of 2014. The new priorities, which include removing undocumented immigrants apprehended at the border or those who crossed the border after Jan. 1, 2014, were a response to a spike in illegal immigration in the summer of 2014. In fiscal year 2015, the ICE conducted 235,413 removals.
Zuniga said the prevalence and threat presented by gangs and drug cartels in Central America is one of the factors responsible for the recent surge in the number of immigrants crossing the border, particularly the large number of families and children.
According to a 2012 report by the Pew Research Center, undocumented immigrants make up 3.6 percent of North Carolina’s population and 5.2 percent of its labor force, with the majority coming from Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras.
“A lot of individuals were left with the option of ‘I’m going to take an order of removal or stay in this country and hope they never catch me,’ and that’s what most people did,” he said. “They didn’t really have the option of going back to a country where they either don’t have family members or are going to be in danger.”
According to research gathered by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, 4,174 deportation orders were issued in North Carolina in the 2015 fiscal year, and 1,028 have been ordered in fiscal year 2016.
National advocacy group Student Action with Farmworkers joined forces with the Southeast Immigrant Rights Network to deliver a petition to Washington, D.C. asking for an end to the raids on Wednesday.
Ron Woodard, director of the anti-amnesty group N.C. Listen, said raids serve as a warning to others attempting to cross the border illegally.
“We’re glad ICE did the raids,” Woodard said. “Raids are basically done to encourage people to obey the law.”
He said the media often oversimplify the issue of illegal immigration and ignore the negative consequences it poses for citizens, like greater competition for lower-skilled jobs.
“We can take people into America — and I’m glad that we do — but people need to understand that there needs to be rule of law, understand what America can and what America can’t do and accept that we might be able to better help people where they’re at,” he said.
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