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DHS Deportation Campaign Denounced by Presidential Candidates, Immigration Advocates

First Posted: Dec 24, 2015 05:53 PM EST
US Capitol immigration deportation

US Capitol immigration deportation(Photo : SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Following reports of imminent immigrant deportations, Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley and bipartisan immigrant-rights groups have criticized the Obama administration for its policies.

As Latin Post reported on Thursday morning, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will conduct deportation raids that may affect hundreds of immigrant families.

News about ICE's plan was revealed on Christmas Eve, which further fueled outrage from immigrant-rights advocates.

"DHS' Christmas Eve announcement that they are planning to launch mass holiday raids and deport families who risked their lives to flee violence in Central America is completely at odds with our character as a nation," said O'Malley. "We must put an end to these mindless deportations.

ICE's deportation campaign will focus on specific orders from an immigration court judge and target immigrant adults and children, many fled Central America -- escaping violence and drug trafficking -- and entered the U.S. since early 2014.

"Last summer, in the true spirit of our nation, Marylanders opened up their homes to house more than 5,000 refugee children. I call on other Presidential candidates to do as I did then: speak out against sending refugees back into harm's way and ensure that our country offers them refuge," O'Malley added. "The world is watching, and it is up to us to decide whether we want to live up to our values, or whether we are ready to shrug them off and turn our backs on those most in need."

Fellow Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said he was "very disturbed" with reports of ICE's deportation raids.

Sanders said, "As we spend time with our families this holiday season, we who are parents should ask ourselves what we would do if our children faced the danger and violence these children do? How far would we go to protect them? Our nation has always been a beacon of hope, a refuge for the oppressed. We cannot turn our backs on that essential element of who we are as a nation. We need to take steps to protect children and families seeking refuge here, not cast them out."

The Dream Action Coalition, an immigrant-rights group, also acknowledged that children are at risk of being sent back to horrifying conditions.

"This Christmas, many families will be gathering together to appreciate their bonds during a time of the year where family comes first. Others, however, will be busy breaking those bonds while they think nobody is looking, deporting refugees back to desperate situations as immigration enforcement raids on border children intensifies," said Dream Action Coalition Co-Director Carlos Vargas.

He added, "These are children who have seen some of the worst conditions in the world, at high risk of being trafficked and killed. When Jesus, an immigrant, said 'suffer the children to come unto me,' he didn't say 'except the Latino kids, let the gangs eat them.'"

National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference President Rev. Samuel Rodriguez also made reference that Jesus had a status: a refugee. Rodriguez noted that Joseph and Mary were fleeing dangerous situations, just as many families in Central America have witnessed.

"At this season, we remember that our Savior was a refugee, born in a manger after Joseph and Mary were turned away at the inn. ... We are called to welcome the stranger as we would welcome Christ himself. There is no welcome in deportation raids that target families," said Rodriguez in a statement through the National Immigration Forum.

Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said the Obama administration's decision to punish immigrant families, mostly women and children escaping violence, represents the lack of a functional U.S. refugee program and it would be a "moral tragedy" to remove these Central American families.

"We need better asylum laws that address these circumstances. In the meantime, deterrence through deportation is a failed strategy, especially when the families in question have had to choose between violence and even temporary safety. To forcefully condemn them to the violent circumstances they fled would be unconscionable," said Noorani.

On the Republican field, front-runner Donald Trump utilized Twitter to respond to ICE's campaign.

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For the latest updates, follow Latin Post's Politics Editor Michael Oleaga on Twitter: @EditorMikeO or contact via email: m.oleaga@latinpost.com.

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