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.