Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley is urging the Obama administration not to carry out raids on hundreds of illegal immigrants next year.
“If these reports are true, they raise serious questions about due process for people seeking asylum, and these raids promise to needlessly rip apart more families and communities,” O'Malley told Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson in a letter, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
“I am writing that DHS reconsider this approach and instead look for ways to humanely treat people seeking refuge and to greatly improve the legal due process for asylum,” the former Maryland governor added, calling deportation a "last resort."
Reports emerged last week that the department plans to target illegal immigrant families who crossed the southern border since 2014 with a focus on adults and children who have already been ordered out of the U.S. by an immigration judge, according to anonymous officials. U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents are reportedly leading the large-scale operations.
The raids would mark the first major deportation effort since a spike in illegal migration from Central America last year.
O’Malley said his state offers a model for dealing with the humanitarian crisis.
“When, in 2014, tens of thousands of children made the journey to escape death gangs in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, we called on Marylanders to step up and help accommodate them,” he said. “Maryland took action to safeguard more refugee kids on a per-capita basis than any other state in the nation.
“Thousands of families opened their homes as foster families. We recruited pro-bono legal help for case preparation. And we did all of this at minimal cost to the taxpayer," he added.
The DHS has reportedly yet to give final approval for the raids.
The proposed deportations are the subject of fierce debate among Obama administration officials and sparked harsh criticism from 2016 Democratic contenders.