Homeland Security said Thursday night that it has already deported 77 of the 121 illegal immigrants it rounded up over the weekend as it tries to enforce the laws against Central Americans who jumped the border in 2014 and are flouting judges’ orders that they be kicked out.
The raids in North Carolina, Georgia and Texas have enraged immigrant-rights advocates, who say the government is being too harsh on women and children who face violence and desperate conditions back home.
But U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that handles deportations, said all of the immigrants deported so far had gone through the immigration courts, had exhausted their appeals and did not qualify for asylum.
The 77 have been deported to Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, ICE said.
Lawyers for immigrant-rights groups are fighting the deportations, arguing that the families often times didn’t understand the proceedings and didn’t know they had a chance to appeal, or otherwise had their proceedings cut short.
As of Thursday morning, they said they’d won stays of deportation for five families, with several other appeals still pending.
Some advocacy groups scheduled a press conference outside the White House for Friday morning to take their case directly to the president’s doorstep.
“We will not stand by and allow this to happen to families who came to the U.S. to escape extreme violence and poverty,” said Kica Matos, spokesperson for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement. “If these families are deported — and most of them would be women and children, they would be returned to places they fled to escape being killed, raped or tortured.”