U.S. Senate Democrats are criticizing the Obama administration's deportation raids targeting Central American immigrants.

In a letter addressed to President Barack Obama, 22 senators agreed that they have "serious reservations" about the immigration raids, which were carried out shortly after New Years Day through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

"We are deeply concerned that in its eagerness to deter additional arrivals from this region, the [DHS] is returning vulnerable individuals with valid protection claims to life-threatening violence," read the letter signed by Democratic senators including Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bob Menendez of New Jersey. "This is not hyperbole. There have been multiple reports of individuals, including children, being killed within days or weeks of their deportation."

The senators believe they disagree with the notion that deporting these individuals would deter families or children back in Central America from fleeing the area.

Senators, including Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Richard Durbin of Illinois and Al Franken of Minnesota, said it's important to evaluate the situation as a humanitarian and refugee crisis. The letter noted the deportation raids have caused widespread fear in immigrant communities, damaged trust with local law enforcement and stirred trauma on children.

"We ask that you stop these aggressive raids against children and their families and rely on more appropriate approaches to fulfilling court orders," the 22 senators wrote, adding they are aware of multiple reports concerning lack of due process or access to legal counsel.

According to the senators, the lack of competent counsel or due process undermines the legitimacy of the U.S. immigration court system, thus, they called for the DHS to slow down the expedited immigration process in order for families to obtain full and fair hearings.

Further, the senators urged Obama to designate El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras for temporary protected status.

The Senate letter comes as 146 House lawmakers also called for the end of the deportation raids.

As Latin Post reported, Johnson defended the deportation campaign and said further raids may occur under his discretion. Johnson said the latest deportation campaign focused on families or individuals apprehended for illegally crossing the southern U.S. border after May, 1, 2014, issued final orders of removal by an immigration court, exhausted appropriate legal remedies and have no outstanding appeal or claim for asylum or other humanitarian relief under current U.S. laws.

"This should come as no surprise," said Johnson in early January. "I have said publicly for months that individuals who constitute enforcement priorities, including families and unaccompanied children, will be removed."

To read the full Senate letter and signatures, click here.


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