U.S. presidential candidates are reacting to published reports that the United States could begin deporting families who are in the country illegally by early January.
Democratic front-runner and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton said she has "real concerns" about the reports that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security could begin its first large-scale effort to eject illegal immigrants. Clinton's campaign said Thursday that she "believes it is critical that everyone has a full and fair hearing, and that our country provides refuge to those that need it."
Clinton's primary Democratic rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, said Thursday that he is "very disturbed" by the reports. In a statement, the senator said, "Our nation has always been a beacon of hope, a refuge for the oppressed. . . . We need to take steps to protect children and families seeking refuge here, not cast them out."
The Republican front-runner, real estate mogul and reality television star Donald Trump, took credit for the news in a Tweeted reaction, saying the deportation plan is being considered because he pressured the government to do it. "It's about time!" he said.
The Washington Post reported late Wednesday that the U.S. is preparing a series of raids that would target families who have come to the United States illegally since the start of last year.
The paper, citing unnamed sources, says the nationwide campaign by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could start as early as January 2016.
The report says it would be the first large-scale effort to deport the more than 100,000 families who have entered the country through the southern border since last year. Many of those families were fleeing violence in Central America.
The report says the homicide rate in El Salvador has reached its highest level in a generation, and a regional drought is also contributing to the number of people migrating north. Last year, an unprecedented number of migrants were unaccompanied children.
But the Post says the operation is expected to target only adults and children who have already been ordered by an immigration judge to leave the country, and the operation has not been given final approval by the Department of Homeland Security.
The agency has not yet responded to requests for comment.
Pressure for deportations is mounting because of a federal ruling in August that children and families housed in U.S. detention centers be allowed to contest their incarceration. That ruling was followed in October and November by another spike in families migrating into the United States illegally.