The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has begun preparing for a series of raids that would target for deportation hundreds of families who have flocked to the United States since the start of last year, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
Citing people familiar with the operation, the Post said the nationwide campaign to deport the illegal immigrants by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could start as soon as early January.
It would be the first large-scale effort to deport families who have fled violence in Central America, the newspaper said.
More than 100,000 families with both adults and children have made the journey across the southwest border since last year, the Post reported.
The operation would target only adults and children who have already been ordered removed from the United States by an immigration judge, the newspaper said.
The Post said the operation has not been given final approval by DHS. The number of people targeted is expected to be in the hundreds and possibly greater, the newspaper said.
DHS did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for comment.
Experts say that the violence that was a key factor in driving people to flee Central America last year has surged again, The Post reported.
The pressure for deportations has mounted because of a recent court decision that ordered DHS to begin releasing families housed in detention centers, according to the Post.
Immigration advocates expressed concern about the plan.
"It would be an outrage if the administration subjected Central American families to even more aggressive enforcement tactics," Gregory Chen, director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told the Post.
(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Leslie Adler)