By Jonathan Swan - 12/24/15 10:00 AM EST
Hundreds of illegal immigrants from Central America are expected to be deported from the United States as soon as early January, The Washington Post reports.
The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly planning a series of raids in the first large-scale deportation attempt since tens of thousands fled violence in Central America. The raids will reportedly target families who crossed the southern border since the beginning of last year.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents will reportedly be leading the raids, which come as the presidential race focuses on the intersection between border security and national security.
Leading Republican presidential contenders Donald TrumpDonald TrumpOhio GOP chairman will vote Trump: report Report: Trump made ‘Apprentice’ staff work through Superstorm Sandy aftermath Obama in Nevada: 'Heck no' to Trump, Joe Heck MORE and Sen. Ted CruzTed Cruz56 memorable moments from a wild presidential race Is Georgia turning blue? Five takeaways from money race MORE (R-Texas) have promised to build a giant wall along the southern border, deport illegal immigrants (all 11 million, in Trump's case) and block the acceptance of Syrian refugees into the U.S. (blocking all Muslim entries, in Trump's case).
Meantime, President Obama's attempts to use executive actions to shield as many as 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation have been held up in the courts.
The deportations, reportedly pushed by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, are said to have been hotly debated within the Obama administration.
Immigration rights activists will oppose the moves vigorously, given they would affect adults and children who fled from dangerous circumstances in Central America.
The DHS has reportedly yet to give final approval to the raids.
The Hill has contacted the DHS for comment.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democratic presidential candidate, blasted the administration’s plans.
“Holiday plans for raids to round up/deport Central American refugees fleeing death are wrong. We are a better nation than this,” he tweeted.