By Esther Yu-Hsi Lee
January 12, 2016
Lawmakers across the country are pushing back against the nationwide immigration raids recently authorized by the Obama administration, which are spreading fear and anxiety among Central American families who are desperate to avoid being deported to dangerous or violent environments in their countries of origin.
Since the beginning of the new year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have taken 121 immigrants into custody as preparation for deporting them. The White House, which is justifying its operations due to fears about the increasing number of immigrants showing up on the southern U.S. border, says it has no plans of halting the raids. ICE will carry out additional enforcement operations against immigrants “as appropriate,” according to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson.
The Obama administration insists that the immigrants being targeted all have final orders of removal. But many advocates and lawyers have raised concerns that immigrants aren’t being given sufficient due process and that the U.S. government is failing to provide accurate or sufficient notice regarding their upcoming court proceedings. At least 20 people taken in the immigration operation have already been granted a temporary reprieve from deportation, allowing them enough time to appear before immigration court.
In response, many Democratic lawmakers are condemning the Obama administration’s actions. Here’s a rundown of the politicians calling to protect Central American families, many of whom are seeking to permanently stay in the country through the asylum process:
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton
“Our immigration enforcement efforts should be humane and conducted in accordance with due process, and that is why I believe we must stop the raids happening in immigrant communities,” Clinton said in a press statement released Monday. “We have laws and we must be guided by those laws, but we shouldn’t have armed federal officers showing up at peoples’ homes, taking women and children out of their beds in the middle of the night. The raids have sown fear and division in immigrant communities across the country. People are afraid to go to work. They are afraid to send their kids to school. They are afraid to go to the hospital, or even the grocery store.”
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders
“I urge you to immediately end these raids and not deport families back to countries where a death sentence awaits,” Sanders wrote in a letter to the president last week. “We cannot continue to employ inhumane tactics involving rounding up and deporting tens of thousands of immigrant families to address a crisis that requires compassion.”
Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley
“I am writing to respectfully request that D.H.S. reconsider this approach and instead look for ways to humanely treat people seeking refuge and to greatly improve the legal due process necessary for asylum,” O’Malley wrote in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
“This is a very serious challenge,” Pelosi said during a press conference last week. “In the processing of asylum claims of these women and children and others fleeing really horrific violence in Central America, the Department of Homeland Security must ensure that no person is wrongfully deported to face certain persecution or mortal danger — and that’s what’s happening there.”
House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD)
“We can’t simply turn away individuals and families fleeing violence. El Salvador is now the murder capital of the world,” Hoyer said at a press conference. “There are also serious questions about how these raids are conducted, and whether they are following, as I said, due process. We’ve heard of raids in which not one individual was targeted, but entire families. The President said we were going to focus on felons, not families. Everybody understands focusing on felons. But focusing on families is not reflective of our values.”
Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL)
“The raids by the Obama administration on families from Central America must stop,” Gutiérrez wrote in a statement last week. “They are a cruel reminder of a discredited policy. Along with other Members of Congress, I am seeking answers from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson as to why this policy is needed, why it was launched to instill fear in immigrant households over the Christmas, New Year’s and Three Kings holidays, and why family detention centers I have been trying to close are now filling up with new families awaiting deportation.”
Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA)
“Like so many others surprised by ICE’s insensible holiday announcement, I was outraged by the news of the recent immigrant raids,” Chu wrote in a statement. “The targeting of women and children is both wrong and contrary to our values as a nation. What’s worse is that many of those being targeted are refugees with legitimate asylum claims – not criminals who pose a threat to our country.”
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
“I am deeply disappointed in the harsh enforcement tactics the Department of Homeland Security is using to apprehend vulnerable migrant women and children,” Royball-Allard wrote in a statement. “At a time when DHS is attempting to rebuild a relationship with Latino communities, the invasion of people’s homes and neighborhoods sows fear and distrust, and subjects migrant women and children to further trauma.
Congressional Hispanic Caucus
“Invading homes is inhumane and adds to the trauma of these families fleeing violence and oppression,” Rep. Linda Sanchez, the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said in a statement. “Many recent immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are escaping one of the most dangerous regions in the world. In the past, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has spoken in defense of the unaccompanied minors fleeing the Central American countries. These minors could be our sons, daughters, nieces and nephews.”
“You and your administration have upheld time-honored American values by offering refuge to those fleeing violence and disorder in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. We commend you for that,” a letter co-signed by more than 146 Democrats states. “However, these same fundamental American values have not been applied in your administration’s policies towards Central American refugee mothers and children.”
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