White House: Deportation raids won't stop

White House: Deportation raids won't stop
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The Obama administration won’t halt a series of deportation raids that have triggered backlash on the left, the White House said Friday.

“We’re of course aware of these concerns. But the enforcement strategy and priorities that the administration has articulated are not going to change,” Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. 

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The raids have rankled Democrats and immigrant rights groups, who have accused the administration of ripping families apart and terrorizing immigrant communities across the country. 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) arrested 121 people living in the country illegally last weekend after their petitions for asylum or other forms of relief were denied by immigration judges. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said this week that more raids could be coming soon.

The raids are focused on deporting migrants from Central America who came across the border in 2014, part of a large wave of people fleeing violence in their home countries. The Obama administration has cast the raids as a means of deterring similar waves in the future.

Earnest defended the operation, saying the DHS is following agency guidelines that prioritize criminals and recent border crossers for removal. 

The raids are “consistent with the need to follow due process,” the spokesman said. 

Administration officials have defended the operations, saying they were conducted in a humane manner. Johnson said in a statement Monday "female agents and medical personnel" took part in apprending the immigrants and agents "exercised prosecutorial discretion in a number of cases for health or other personal reasons."

But Democrats have argued the asylum process is broken and the government should find a way to give people fleeing poor conditions in Central America safe haven in the U.S. 

More than a dozen House Democrats met Thursday with DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz.

"The mothers and children — and it's overwhelmingly who we're talking about here — they are the subjects of these proceedings. They are desperately trying to escape violence in their home countries," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters. 

In processing the asylum claims,  the Department of Homeland Security "must ensure that no person is wrongfully deported," Pelosi said. 

Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidBill O'Reilly: Politics helped kill Kate Steinle, Zarate just pulled the trigger Tax reform is nightmare Déjà vu for Puerto Rico Ex-Obama and Reid staffers: McConnell would pretend to be busy to avoid meeting with Obama MORE (D-Nev.) said the administration should “back off” the raids.

"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," he said during a press conference in Las Vegas on Thursday. 

Reid described the immigrants as "political refugees" who are "entitled to stay here."