SAN SALVADOR — The government of El Salvador on Sunday offered advice to allay the worries of its citizens living illegally in the United States, where immigration authorities have vowed to crack down on undocumented residents.
“Immigration agents have to present you with an order that has been signed by a judge in order to enter your home,” read the information provided by the foreign ministry.
“If you are detained by an immigration agent, remain calm,” the statement from the Salvadoran government continued.
“If you have immigration papers, present them. If not, ask immediately to contact your attorney or the nearest consulate of El Salvador.”
The advice from authorities in San Salvador was issued amid news reports last week that President Barack Obama’s administration was planning a vast operation to round up and expel from the United States undocumented migrants — including families who last year fled drought and violence in Central America.
News reports said the crackdown could begin as early as Monday. Any such U.S. action would be hugely controversial, with immigration one of the hottest topics in the 2016 presidential campaign, and rights groups expressed grave concern at the deportations.
The flow of Central American families and unaccompanied children crossing into the United States from Mexico slowed this year, but the numbers surged upwards again in October and November.
A Salvadoran foreign ministry source told AFP that a state of emergency has been declared at the nation’s consulates in the United States, which are bracing for a crush of petitions for assistance from its citizens residing in the United States.
According to the reports, hundreds of families living in the United States whose asylum requests have been denied will be rounded up and sent home.
Refugee rights activists argue the families are fleeing corruption, gang violence and drought in their homelands and should be treated as refugees.
But DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Gillian Christensen told AFP that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson “has consistently said our border is not open to illegal immigration.
“If individuals come here illegally, do not qualify for asylum or other relief, and have final orders of removal, they will be sent back consistent with our laws and our values.”