Demonstrators protest Obama’s deportation plan

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Immigration officials reportedly preparing to carry out nationwide deportations as soon as January

WASHINGTON — More than 100 demonstrators marched on the White House on Wednesday to protest a reported plan to deport undocumented migrants from the U.S.

A series of raids to deport families who illegally entered the U.S. since the beginning of 2014 was first reported last week by the Washington Post.

The newspaper said immigration officials have been preparing to carry out the proposed program nationwide as soon as January. It would be the first large-scale deportation program to be carried out since a mass exodus of Central Americans fled their home countries beginning at the start of last year for fear of violence.

More than 100,000 families fled the region since that time, according to the Post.

Organizers of Wednesday’s rally urged President Barack Obama to refrain from carrying out the plan, emphasizing that those who would be deported should be classified as refugees.

“We as a nation, our values, is to welcome the refugee community,” said Gustavo Torres, the executive director of Casa of Maryland, the nonprofit that organized the rally. “Regardless of your immigration status, you have rights in this country.”

But many of those who are likely to be targeted in any prospective raid have been found by a U.S. court to lack qualifications for asylum, or failed to follow court orders, the Post said.

Still, Raquel, who declined to give her last name but said she was born in Los Angles to undocumented parents, said that she fears for their safety should the plan go into effect.

“It’s scary thinking that I could come home and they’re not there,” she said.

For those found ineligible for asylum status, she added, “they have certain good reasons for being here. Some are scared to go back to their country, because there is just bad problems – there is too much violence”.

Central America is in the midst of a a sharp spike in violent crime, with El Salvador in particular reportedly experiencing some of the worst violent crime since it emerged from civil war in 1992.

And neighboring Honduras continues to have one of the highest murder rates in the world.

The State Department in October  issued a warning to Americans planning to visit the country that “the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains critically high”.

An undocumented woman introduced only by her first name, Sarah, told Wednesday’s rally that her countrymen continue to flee Honduras for fear of ongoing violence.

“The people that are at risk of deportation are fleeing that violence, and now they are at risk of returning to it,” she said in remarks translated from Spanish. 

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