An independent and bipartisan federal agency, led by a Latino appointed by President Barack Obama, has called for the Obama administration to cease its deportation raids.

The United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) published a letter to Obama and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson to halt the latest deportation raids that were carried out by DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials shortly after New Years Day.

In a statement from the USCCR, a majority of its commissioners agreed to request the Obama administration put an immediate end of the raids targeting Central American refugees. 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."

The USCCR, led by Chairman Martin R. Castro, has called on the DHS to stop the deportations and allow each immigrant scheduled for deportation, yet seeking asylum, to have their respective cases reviewed in case there were violations in the legal due process rights. The USCCR also called on the DHS to allow the immigrants have pro bono counsel.

"As the nation's civil rights watchdog, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission cannot stand by silent while our federal government deports refugee women and children whose due process rights may have been deprived in the first instance, to potentially life-threatening situations in their home countries," said Castro in a statement. "To continue these deportations to proceed is counter to our values as Americans."

Latin Post interviewed Castro last September following the commission's report, "Statutory Enforcement Report: The State of Civil Rights at Immigration Detention Facilities," which examined the conditions, due process and rights of detained immigrant families. The report revealed that some detention facilities are not fully complying with detention standards, specifically legal access, medical care and other basic needs. The report, which was sent to Congress and Obama, recommended the DHS to release all family detainees, reduce detention usage, allow legal access and improved due process protections, ensure humane treatment toward detainees and increase the usage of alternatives to detention.

"We have to understand that these folks are coming here to seek asylum," Castro told Latin Post last September. "They're coming to be protected from a situation that in their homeland is untenable. They're not going to want to disappear, they want to have want their rights enforced, they want to find their asylum case confirmed. These are the people least risky involved, and they should be released quickly."


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