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Can Democrats Rally Latino Vote Amid Immigration Arrests?

The administration plans more arrests in coming weeks as Democrats march toward wrapping up their presidential nomination race.
Children join immigration rights protesters during a May Day rally to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Los Angeles, California on May 1, 2016 / AFP PHOTO / Mark RalstonMARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty ImagesMARK RALSTON / AFP - Getty Images

The same day immigration activists protested Donald Trump on Capitol Hill, news broke that the Democratic administration plans deportations of Central Americans with final deportation orders.

The arrests and deportations are planned for this month and next, Reuters reported Thursday.

That news came a few hours after activists had held boisterous protests outside meetings between Trump and Republican members of the House and Senate and party leader Reince Priebus.

Activists also spent part of the day delivering taco salads to GOP members of the House and Senate to mock Trump.

Related: Immigration Activists Protest Trump, Deliver Taco Bowls To GOP

The immigration arrests planned by the administration will occur as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are wrapping up their Democratic nomination contest with the primary in California. Clinton leads the race.

Against that backdrop, the Democratic nominee will have to rally Latino voters. Although many immigrants are not yet citizens, there are pushes on for them to get citizenship and many have family and friends who are citizens. The anti-immigrant views and proposed policies of Trump have turned many Latinos against him, including some who vote as Republicans.

Kika Matos, director of immigrant rights and racial justice at the Center for Community Change, said the arrests and deportations will create fear and terror in “our communities” and “will disgust many immigrants and Latinos in a way that makes it more difficult for us to work on (get out the vote) and voter engagement.”

“I’ve always said Latinos and immigrants need to have something to vote for instead of against and today’s news makes it more difficult to say the alternatives to Trump are willing to stand up for our community,” Matos said.

Federal officials have been anticipating another spike in the arrivals of Central American families and children without an adult accompanying them this summer.

In 2014, tens of thousands arrived at the border, turning themselves in to Border Patrol and requesting asylum. The administration has said it deports only those who have exhausted their legal appeals to remain in the country or those who don't make a case for pursuing asylum. The enforcement is considered a way to send a message to people in Central America considering making the trip to the U.S.

In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security said it must enforce immigration law consistent with its enforcement priorities. At the top of those priorities are people who are a threat or would cause harm to the public and people who have crossed the border illegally since Jan. 1, 2014, including children.

But advocates say many of the migrants do not know what legal relief they are entitled to and do not have lawyers to assist them. In some cases, very young children go before judges on their own.

Michelle Mendez, a staff attorney at Catholic Legal Immigration Network, said the network plans to make available on the web legal documents for advocates to help them reopen cases of people who are arrested and still have legal options. She added that CLINIC is advising people not to panic because only people with final deportation orders are targeted.

In the last round of arrests people were staying in their homes, keeping children out of school and not answering doors in fear of the arrests.

"We are concerned about the effects on the community," Mendez said. "This is by and large a traumatized community ... and they feel the ominous feeling of danger that someone is coming for you when this is put on the news and radio.

There were mixed opinions on whether the effect of the arrests on the Latino community.

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said the Democratic nominee “is going to have a tough case to make.

“The Latino community has come to believe after much skepticism that the Obama administration was going to prioritize deportations and this flies in the face of the message,” Noorani said.

The deportations have been an issue in the Democratic nomination race and both candidates jumped on the news of the latest arrest plans.

Sanders said in as statement he opposes the “painful and inhumane” detention and deportation of families from Central America.

"Sending these people back into harm's way is wrong," he said.

Erika Andiola, Sanders’ spokeswoman, said the raids will be more of an issue for Clinton. She pointed out that Sanders has called for the families to have protected status and to make sure they have legal counsel.

Clinton issued a statement reiterating her position on arrests involving Central American children and mothers saying she's against "large scale raids that tear families apart and sow fear in communities."

"Families fleeing violence in Central America must be given a full opportunity to seek relief, she said.

But Cristobal Alex, president and CEO of Latino Victory Fund, said the issue doesn’t complicate rallying Latinos for Clinton because she’s already denounced a previous round of arrests the administration conducted in January and made clear she’s against them.

“I think Hillary’s position on the raids in the past and on immigration make it clear that she stands with the Latino community,” Alex said. “I think it complicates things for the Obama administration. I wish they wouldn’t be doing it. It’s left us scratching our heads.”

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