Federal immigration agents are stepping up enforcement in Shelby County and facing a backlash from activists.
The push by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is part of an effort to target individuals who have been issued final orders of removal. However, a statement released by ICE notes that no one who enters the country illegally is immune from immigration enforcement.
Thomas Byrd, an ICE spokesman in New Orleans, issued the following statement:
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is currently conducting a surge operation focused on the identification and arrest of family units, adults who entered the U.S. as unaccompanied alien children (UAC), and UACs who are at least 16 years old and have criminal histories and/or suspected gang ties.
All of the targeted individuals have been issued a final order of removal by a federal immigration judge, and have no appeals or motions to re-open their case before the nation’s immigration courts.
Attempting to unlawfully enter the United States as a family unit or UAC does not protect individuals from being subject to the immigration laws of this country.
As DHS Secretary Kelly and Acting ICE Director Homan have stated repeatedly, ICE prioritizes the arrest and removal of national security and public safety threats; however, no class or category of alien in the United States is exempt from arrest or removal.
Latino Memphis, an immigration activist group, objects to the enhanced enforcement.
“They are breaking up families,” executive director Mauricio Calvo told WREG News Channel 3. “I don’t think this makes our country better or safer.”
While activists often accuse U.S. officials of breaking up families, it has long been a practice among families themselves to voluntarily separate as some members legally or illegally immigrate to the U.S., while others in the family stay behind in their home country.
Until relatively recently, people who entered the country illegally were not seen as having a right to be united with their families in the U.S. if they did not have permission to be in the U.S. in the first place. However, emotionally-charged immigration advocacy in recent years has asserted a right on the basis of being human and being part of a family, regardless of immigration laws.