U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) were among 22 of Senate Democrats who sent a letter to President Obama urging an immediate end to the Department of Homeland Security’s recently announced immigration raids program.
Announced on Christmas Eve of last year, the nationwide operations have already targeted the homes of over one hundred Central American families who arrived to the United States last year fleeing the region’s violence.
Civil rights activists and other groups are making similar calls for an end to the brutal tactics aimed at immigrants who seem harmless despite having expired visas.
Federal agents launched a series of raids around the country this past weekend that continue to target undocumented immigrants, including children, including many who have no history of violence or crime.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said federal authorities apprehended 121 adults and children in raids conducted over the New Year’s weekend,
After the Board of Immigration Appeals granted temporary reprieve from deportation to numerous individuals swept up in raids who had not exhausted their legal options, the senators express concern over the decision to fast track the removal of children and women who may not have been afforded meaningful due process or lacked appropriate legal representation as they sought international refugee protection in the United States.
“We are troubled by the priorities reflected in these enforcement actions,” wrote the senators. “Given the particular risks faced by these mothers and children, the tactic of using widely publicized, aggressive removal operations – often in the wee hours of the morning – is shocking and misguided. These raids have created widespread fear in immigrant communities around the country, and damaged trust in local law enforcement… We ask that you stop these aggressive raids against children and their families and rely on more appropriate approaches to fulfilling court orders.”
The senators are critical of the Administrations enforcement actions stating, “Targeting families contradicts the administration’s repeated commitment to focus its enforcement resources on removing felons not families.” Additionally, the senators recommend designating Guatemala and re-designating El Salvador and Honduras for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and also urge this humanitarian situation be addressed “in a manner consistent with our values of protection and due process.”
Senators that signed letter in addition to were Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.); Richard Durbin (D-Ill.); Patty Murray (D-Wash.); Cory Booker (D-N.J.); Mazie Hirono (D-HI); Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.); Al Franken (D-Minn.); Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.); Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.); Sherrod Brown (D-OH); Ed Markey (D-Mass.); Brian Schatz (D-HI); Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.); Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.); Ben Cardin (D-Md.); Tim Kaine (D-Va.); Gary Peters (D-Mich.); Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.); Michael Bennet (D-Colo.); Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ).
A copy of the letter can be found here.
Three dozen of the nation’s leading LGBT organizations sent a letter to Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, calling for an immediate end to the recent wave of immigration raids that have targeted women and their children. The letter sent to the secretary on Thursday included signatures from the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal and National LGBTQ Task Force.
“These are the worst raids ever,” said Rita Dentino, director of Casa Freehold, a Monmouth county based immigrant advocacy group. “The target is woman and children.”
Dentino said organizers received calls early saying two U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement officers broke down the door of a Freehold home in an early morning raid where two adults were taken into custody without arrest warrants.
Carlos Rojas, an immigration organizer with Faith In New Jersey, said they received calls from family of a college-aged student with a work permit to remain in the country who was falsely taken during an early morning raid in New Brunswick Tuesday.
Alvin Phillips, the New Jersey spokesperson for ICE, said those stories were false.
“There have been no raids in New Jersey, no doors have been kicked down,” Phillips said. “In Freehold people were stopped and let go.”
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