The Obama administration has confirmed deportations raids on adults and children who were apprehended in the U.S.

In a statement released on Monday, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson said he has repeatedly said "our borders are not open to illegal migration; if you come here illegally, we will send you back consistent with our laws and values." And while immigrant apprehensions have dropped during the 2015 fiscal year, Johnson revealed the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency within the DHS, conducted nationwide enforcement operations to detain or return "at a greater rate" adults who entered the U.S. illegally with children.

"This should come as no surprise," said Johnson. "I have said publicly for months that individuals who constitute enforcement priorities, including families and unaccompanied children, will be removed."

Johnson said New Years weekend saw operations that, in addition to adults, focused on children who:

1. Were apprehended after May 1, 2014 crossing the southern border illegally,

2. Have been issued final orders of removal by an immigration court,

3. Have exhausted appropriate legal remedies, and have no outstanding appeal or claim for asylum or other humanitarian relief under our laws.

The Homeland Security secretary disclosed 121 individuals were taken into custody and are in the process to be deported. Most of detainees were residing in Georgia, North Carolina and Texas.

Families have been impacted. Johnson said most families in custody are first sent to one of ICE's family residential centers -- or a detention facility -- for temporary processing before receiving travel documents to board a flight to their native country. Among these families are children, and Johnson said precautions were taken in such cases, which included deployment of "a number" of female ICE agents and medical personnel.

Johnson said it is his discretion to continue additional deportation raids, and last weekend's action was overseen by ICE Director Sarah Saldaña.

Although immigrant apprehension has declined, Johnson said the rate of unaccompanied immigrant children crossing the southern border has increased in recent months. As a result, DHS has continued cooperation with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide care and sponsors for the minors; per law, DHS transfers minors to the custody of HHS.

As the deportation raids were occurring, immigrant rights groups continued to voice their opposition to the Obama's administration decision to continue the campaign.

Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), called on ​Obama to stop the raids.

"What message is sent by a president whose first action in the new year is to destroy families - to rip children from their homes and communities? ​In recent years, too many lives have been ruined by heartless and racist deportation policies. Home raids are inherently destructive and terrorize immigrant communities. Now is not a time for mass deportations, but for increased humanity," Alvarado said.

Alvarado said Obama's latest deportation campaign is "far more harmful" than Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric.

"While Trumps's dangerous rhetoric stigmatizes our loved ones, President Obama actually deports them," added Alvarado. "​ICE is distrusted by our communities and rightly so. Reports indicate that ICE has been using racist lies to trick people into letting ICE into their homes. Immigrant communities must be warned to not open their doors to ICE unless they have a warrant. "We need an immigration policy that recognizes the human dignity of migrants and does not use them as political pawns. Anything less is unconscionable."

The Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) also called on Obama, Johnson and Saldaña to immediately end the raids.

"If these families are deported -- and most of them would be women and children, they would be returned to places they fled to escape being killed, raped or tortured," said FIRM spokesperson Kica Matos. "These families came to the United States seeking refuge and better lives, like countless millions of other immigrants. That is what has made America the great country that it is. Rounding up these families to deport them back to a region marked by extreme violence is inhumane."

While more deportation raids may occur, Johnson said the U.S. Department of State has been working on establishing an improved refugee screening process for Central Americans and an announcement is expected soon.

"I know there are many who loudly condemn our enforcement efforts as far too harsh, while there will be others who say these actions don't go far enough. I also recognize the reality of the pain that deportations do in fact cause. But, we must enforce the law consistent with our priorities," said Johnson. "At all times, we endeavor to do this consistent with American values, and basic principles of decency, fairness, and humanity."


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