By Jordain Carney
January 7, 2016
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is asking the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to "just back off" a recent string of immigration raids that have sparked anger from congressional Democrats.
"A number of us are extremely concerned. We’ve made contact with the Department of Homeland Security to have them just back off till we can find out a better way to do this," the Senate Democratic leader said during a press conference in Las Vegas on Thursday.
Reid described the immigrants as "political refugees" and said that "they are entitled to stay here."
The administration's announced earlier this week that it had arrested immigrants deemed ineligible for asylum status. The immigrants are expected to be deported, largely back to Central America.
Reid and other congressional Democrats have argued that the immigrants face serious threats to their safety and should not be sent back.
"The violence in Central America has gotten so bad, that poverty has become so extreme, and a lot of the poverty is caused by the violence. And so we’ve had these people in danger, in health and safety traveling thousands of miles to get to the United States," he added at Thursday's press conference.
Reid's comments mark the latest in growing pushback from Democrats on Capitol Hill over the administration's strategy.
The administration also dispatched top officials to the Hill on Thursday to meet with House Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
The immigration scuffle between Obama and Democrats in Congress has also spilled over into the 2016 presidential field, where Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley — who are both running for the Democratic presidential nomination — have called on Obama to give temporary protected status to the immigrants. The move would allow them to avoid deportation.
The administration, however, has said that the raids are being conducted under guidelines that prioritize deporting immigrants who entered the country illegally after Jan. 1, 2014.
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