The Obama administration on Thursday came under fire from Democratic presidential candidates and human rights groups for plans to intensify deportations of Central American migrants by rounding up undocumented families.
Amid a surge in the arrival of unaccompanied children and families from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, U.S. government sources confirmed preparations to detain and deport, starting next month, families that already have been ordered to leave.
The Washington Post first reported on Wednesday that the Department of Homeland Security was considering launching the crackdown in January.
Government sources, who asked not to be identified, said on Thursday the campaign by DHS's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) marks an expansion from mostly targeting individuals to pursuing families with undocumented members.
Senator Bernie Sanders, chief rival to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, said in a statement, "Our nation has always been a beacon of hope, a refuge for the oppressed ... we need to take steps to protect children and families seeking refuge here, not cast them out."
White House spokesmen with President Barack Obama in Hawaii did not comment.