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Immigration crackdown begins with scores arrested

Immigration crackdown begins with scores arrested
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Some 121 people in the U.S. illegally were arrested this past weekend and are currently in the process of being deported to their home countries, the Department of Homeland Security announced Monday.

The arrests mark the first major offensive since a wave of families and unaccompanied children flooded the nation’s southern border in 2014, prompting debate about U.S. immigration laws and leading to accusations from conservatives that the Obama administration hasn't been adequately protecting the border.

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This weekend’s efforts “should come as no surprise,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement announcing the crackdown. 

“I have said publicly for months that individuals who constitute enforcement priorities, including families and unaccompanied children, will be removed," he said.

The raids targeted adults and children caught attempting to cross the border after May 1, 2014, who have been told to leave the country by an immigration court and who would not be eligible to stay in the U.S. by seeking asylum or through other means.

The immigrants were primarily arrested in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina, Johnson said.

Details about the DHS’s crackdown were first reported in December.

The actions could have ripples throughout the presidential race.

Following aggressive promises from GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump to deport millions, Republicans have been eager to blast President Obama for what they say is a misguided complacency with immigrants in the country illegally. Democrats, meanwhile, have been more critical of new enforcement efforts, which they describe as unnecessary and contrary to the country’s history of welcoming foreigners.

On Monday, the Obama administration framed the new deportations as part of a tough approach to protecting the border that nonetheless makes allowances for humanitarian values.

“I know there are many who loudly condemn our enforcement efforts as far too harsh, while there will be others who say these actions don’t go far enough,” Johnson said. “I also recognize the reality of the pain that deportations do in fact cause.

“But, we must enforce the law consistent with our priorities.”

In addition to the latest arrests, Johnson claimed that the number of Border Patrol apprehensions of people trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally in 2015 had declined to one of the lowest figures in decades.

In 2014, thousands of children and unaccompanied minors coming from Central America flooded the southern border, straining the government’s resources. Since then, immigration officials have been increasing deportations, the DHS claimed, averaging about 14 per week.