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Immigration Emerging As Top Issue In 2016

The Obama administration's move to deport Central American families who have not complied with removal orders has immigration advocates seething — and has placed 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in an awkward position.

A spokeswoman for Clinton said the former secretary of state "has real concerns about these reports." As immigration advocate Frank Sharry, president of America's Voice, told The Washington Post: "She'll have to choose between protecting refugees from Central America — a demand of the Latino community — or standing with the law-and-order position of Obama and Republicans."

The proposed deportations, first reported in the Post last week, are to take place as the number of Central Americans crossing the border into the United States has spiked. Part of the administration's response to the arrival of some 100,000 Central Americansin 2014 was to build family detention centers, where migrant children who had arrived with a parent were held, in some cases for more than a year.

A judge ruled this past summer that the administration's approach violated standards for holding underage migrants. Earlier this month, the administration filed a motion with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to expedite its appeal of that ruling. As things stand now, the appeal will not be heard until 2017.

Meanwhile, two of President Obama's moves benefiting migrants who lack long-term legal residency could be imperiled. Republican presidential candidates — including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who historically has been supportive of immigration overhaul — have said they would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, if they win the White House next year. DACA allows certain immigrants who entered the country illegally before age 16 a chance to apply for temporary legal status.

On Nov. 20, 2014, the president announced the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Legal Permanent Residents, or DAPA, which would give similar benefits to parents in the U.S. illegally. A district court judge in Texas issued a hold on the executive action; in May, the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit rejected the administration's appeal of that ruling. It is unclear whether the Supreme Court will hear the administration's appeal in time for a ruling by the summer of 2016.

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Alexandra Starr