Deportations and the blood on Obama’s hands

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Angel Diaz. José Marvin Martínez. Juan Francisco Díaz. These three men were deported by U.S. authorities in 2014, and like scores of other Hondurans deported since then, were killed shortly after being returned to their country. Expanding on its failed and now deadly policies, on Jan. 2, the Obama administration began to round up and deport even more Hondurans, El Salvadorans and Guatemalans. This, despite no effective resolution to the murders, rapes and kidnappings which forced these people to flee in the first place.

{mosads}Angel, Jose and Juan all came to the U.S. in search of safety, refuge and a better life. Instead, Immigration and Customs Enforcement rounded up and deported all three men. Jose and Juan were killed just four months after their return. Angel was in Honduras for only four days before he was shot to death while riding the bus.

Here’s some perspective. El Salvador and Honduras were the two most violent countries in the world in 2015, with Honduras recording almost twice as many homicides per capita as Iraq — a country where violence has led in part to Europe’s massive refugee crisis.

The three men killed were victims of the Obama administration’s practice of carrying out expedited deportations of immigrants fleeing violence from Central America. They were not the only victims. The Guardian cites a soon-to-be published report stating that 83 immigrants have been killed since January 2014 after they were returned to Central America.

These sobering statistics should be reason enough for the Obama administration to stop and examine a practice that has led to so much bloodshed. Instead, the administration is doing the exact opposite, moving forward aggressively to implement its plan to ramp up deportations. Their targets? The estimated 100,000 immigrants who have fled here since January 2014 to avoid being killed, raped or tortured.

News of the raids broke on Christmas Eve, a time when families spend time with their loved ones. Instead of enjoying holiday festivities, immigrants all around the country began preparing for the worst, identifying guardians for children, laying out plans for how to protect kids if parents are snatched up during the school day, and even drafting wills. Churches around the U.S. quickly moved to create sanctuaries — places for families to go where federal agents will be wary to tread. There were confirmed reports of women and children in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina being detained. Additional reports have come in of raids in California, Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey.

The collateral consequences of these raids are already wreaking havoc on immigrant communities all around the country. Parents are now afraid to send their kids to school, local businesses are reporting a drop in foot traffic and sales and immigrants are fleeing in terror whenever they see anyone in uniform who appears to be law enforcement.

For years now, human rights and immigrant activists have called on the Obama administration to slow down and find solutions to this crisis that do not involve sending people back to their death. Instead of doing this, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials have failed to even successfully implement their own strategy to allow people to apply for refugee status in their own countries. They justify these deportations via court cases in which people often don’t receive notices to appear in court and are not even provided lawyers.

In a statement issued Jan. 4, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson attempted to justify terrorizing families fleeing terrible conditions in their native countries. But it appears that the Obama administration is caving to the politics of the moment, where immigrants are scapegoats and easy targets to gain votes.

This is not the first time U.S. officials have hidden behind misguided policy when violence and death have been the obvious result of federal policies. In May 1939, the U.S. government refused to accept over 900 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany aboard the ship SS St. Louis. The Constitution’s fugitive slave clause returned black people fleeing the South to whippings, public lynchings, re-enslavement and death prior to the Civil War.

Just like with their predecessors, history will not look favorably upon the curators of this current machinery of death: Johnson and Immigration and Customs and Enforcement Director Sarah Saldaña.

As it stands, President Obama already has the dubious distinction of having deported more immigrants than any other president in U.S. history. His administration is now going even further, carrying out raids across the country to return those who escaped violence — men, women, children, families — back to the same deadly places they fled.

If recent history is any guide, many of them will be killed shortly after their return.

Matos is the director of immigrant rights and racial justice at the Center for Community Change and spokesperson for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM).

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