WASHINGTON, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is preparing to deport hundreds of Central American families who entered the United States illegally and have ignored orders to leave.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of DHS, may begin deportations in January and is expected to focus on families who have fled Central America. More than 100,000 families -- both children and adults -- have traveled to the United States since last year, although focus has largely been on the surge of unaccompanied minors.
The ICE operation, first reported by the Washington Post, will only focus on adults and children who have been ordered out of the country by an immigration judge.
The operation has not been given final approval. An ICE spokesman said the agency "focuses on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security."
The Obama administration has been discussing the proposed deportations for months with DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson pushing for the move. Experts say the mass immigration has been spurred by a rise in violence in Central America and an ongoing drought.
"As Secretary Johnson has consistently said, our border isn't open to illegal immigration, and if individuals come here illegally, don't qualify for asylum or other relief, they will be sent back consistent with our laws and our values," the agency spokesman said.