Dems slam new wave of Obama deportations

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House Democrats are up in arms over the Obama administration’s plan for a new wave of deportations targeting asylum seekers denied refugee status.
The Democrats, who had hammered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in January following similar operations, thought they’d convinced the agency that such raids were both inhumane and politically harmful.
{mosads}But Reuters on Thursday reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is poised to launch a new set of raids, much broader than the first, largely targeting Central American women and children who have been denied refugee status.
The news prompted an immediate outcry from liberal Democrats and other human rights advocates, who are concerned the immigrants have not only been denied basic legal protections but also face a perilous future if they’re forced to return to the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, which rank among the most violent in the world.
“These are not illegal immigrants. These are children, these are people fleeing violence,” Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said Friday. “They are asylum seekers.”
The Democratic critics are also questioning the timing of the operations, wondering why the administration would intensify the controversial raids — and risk the alienation of Hispanics — in a high-stakes election year when Hispanic voters could prove pivotal in vital battleground states like Virginia, Florida, Colorado and Nevada. 
The Democrats see themselves benefiting politically from the hardline immigration positions of Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, and worry that additional ICE raids would undermine that advantage. 
“This is ill-advised, ill-timed and counterproductive on anything we’re talking about in terms of galvanizing our community for the upcoming elections,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.). 
“When we’re trying to distinguish ourselves as being more humane … and trying to distinguish ourselves from … the rhetoric and what Trump is saying about this issue … here we are carrying out and proposing to carry out these raids, which I think are a huge mistake.” 
Fueling the Dems’ criticisms, administration officials provided no warning surrounding their enforcement tactics, Grijalva said. That’s only fed the long-held concerns that the White House is too quick to ignore its strongest allies on Capitol Hill. 
“There’s a tin-ear quality that’s going on that I can’t explain,” Grijalva said. 
The criticism arrives four months after the DHS rounded up 121 undocumented immigrants deemed ineligible for asylum status, most of them women and children who arrived from Central America as part of the 2014 migrant surge at the southern border.
Behind DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, the administration has defended the operations, saying they follow 2014 guidelines for prioritizing criminals and new arrivals for deportation — a message the agency amplified on Friday. 
“Current operations are a continuation of operations Secretary Johnson announced in January and March,” spokeswoman Marsha Catron said in an email. 
“We stress that these operations are limited to those who were apprehended at the border after January 1, 2014, have been ordered removed by an immigration court, and have no pending appeal or pending claim for asylum or other humanitarian relief under our laws.”
But such arguments haven’t sat well with most Democrats, including top congressional leaders. Indeed, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Friday called for the administration to “reconsider” the future raids, while also pushing his proposal that requires legal counsel for everyone seeking asylum from the Northern Triangle countries.
“These children and their families are fleeing extreme violence in Central America and they should have a chance to seek relief,” Reid said in a statement. 
The issue has also reached the presidential trail, where both Democratic contenders — Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — quickly condemned any plan for future raids.
“I oppose the painful and inhumane business of locking up and deporting families who have fled horrendous violence in Central America and other countries,” Sanders said in a statement.
Front-runner Clinton agreed, saying that “large scale raids are not productive and do not reflect who we are as a country.”
Human rights groups joined the fray as well. Maureen Meyer, the senior associate for Mexico at the Washington Office for Latin America, said the idea that raids would deter would-be migrants from seeking refuge in the United States is “short-sighted and inhumane.”
“Refugees and migrants will continue to leave the Northern Triangle countries in record numbers as long as the conditions of violence and insecurity that cause many to flee their homes persist,” said Meyer.
The administration has faced harsh criticism from both sides of the immigration debate since Obama’s first term in office. The president has overseen many tough immigration enforcement actions, initially designed to prove to Republicans that existing laws were being dutifully executed, in hopes of slowing an enforcement-first GOP argument against comprehensive immigration reform.
The actions did not yield legislative gains, instead earning the president the moniker “deporter-in-chief,” originally coined by Janet Murguía, president of the National Council of La Raza. 
In June 2014, Cecilia Muñoz, the top White House official for immigration policy, attributed that year’s surge to confusion in the Northern Triangle related to Congress’s back-and-forth on immigration legislation.
In December, Congress approved $750 million designed to stem the forced migrations by helping to stabilize the Northern Triangle. But many Democrats are concerned that the money is not only too little, it’s not reaching the countries it’s intended to help.
Gutiérrez said Friday that Guatemala has received only $25 million.  
“This is all, like, smoke and mirrors,” he said. 
Increasingly, the Democratic critics of Obama’s deportation policies are urging a more hemispheric approach that targets the violence in the Northern Triangle and calls on regional allies to help absorb the refugees. 
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday penned a letter to President Obama expressing “concerns about the need for a more robust regional policy.”
“The current approach either results in migrants being returned to the violent conditions they escaped from in the first place, or risks them falling victim to human trafficking and other criminal abuses on their dangerous journey to the United States,” she wrote.
Tags Bernie Sanders Deportation DHS Donald Trump Harry Reid Hillary Clinton ICE Immigration

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