FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 13, 2016
LATINO LEADERS TO OBAMA: NO MORE INHUMANE DEPORTATION RAIDS
NHLA Writes President Obama to Condemn Another Reported Round of Raids Targeting Women and Children from Central America
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a coalition of 40 of the nation’s preeminent Latino organizations, today wrote a letter to President Obama condemning reports that ICE will soon commence another so-called "surge" of raids with the goal of deporting hundreds of women and children who came to the United States from Central America.
“We are deeply disappointed that the President and his Administration continue to conduct inhumane and unwarranted raids on women and children from Central America. The 'surge' planned by ICE will target families who have come to America to escape violence and extreme poverty. Our letter urges the President to abandon this destructive strategy and instead offer shelter to Central American refugees,” said Hector E. Sanchez, NHLA Chair and Executive Director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.
“These announced raids are another deplorable example of the Obama Administration’s Jekyll-and-Hyde immigration enforcement policies,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, NHLA Vice Chair and MALDEF President and General Counsel. “Our nation demands better – sensible and humane enforcement policies free of bias and consistent with our national values and principles; the raids on refugee mothers and children should cease immediately.”
“Hispanic Federation calls on the Obama Administration to immediately end these raids on Central American women and children,” Jose Calderón, NHLA Immigration Committee Co-Chair and President of the Hispanic Federation. “It is a shameful action on the part of this Administration that betrays the very values it publicly espouses. The raids tear at the fabric of our community - increasing fear and instability in Latino families across the country. They must end now!”
“Facts alone tell us that staggering levels of violence and persecution are forcing people to flee their homes and their countries, causing them to embark on a hellish journey. When children and mothers are rounded up from their homes overnight, trauma, separation and anxiety are inevitable results. Not only do these refugee families face more unjust and deplorable treatment than the very same conditions they sought to escape, but the U.S. government is setting a dangerous precedent for the future handling of refugees and other vulnerable individuals around the world. It is deplorable to send women, children, LGBTQ individuals and other refugees back to conditions of endemic violence and abuse and, oftentimes, to face certain death. The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) knows that ICE raids are felt in a visceral way by people and communities, adding stress and instilling fear that forces Latino/a families and especially immigrant women further into the shadows. We condemn the actions proposed by the Administration today and demand that refugees and asylum seekers be treated as such, not as criminals,” said Ann Marie Benitez, member of the NHLA Latina Task Force and Senior Director of Government Relations of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.
The full text of the letter is below.
May 13, 2016
The Honorable Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Re: Dangerous and Inhumane ICE Enforcement Actions Targeting Central American Refugee Families
Dear President Obama:
We write on behalf of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a coalition of 40 leading national Latino civil rights and advocacy organizations, to condemn and call for an immediate cessation of raids on Central American refugee families being conducted and planned nationwide by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Beginning in January 2016, your Administration has engaged in aggressive and harmful enforcement actions against mothers and children. Recent news reports indicate that ICE will not only continue efforts to deport families, but will extend operations to those who arrived as unaccompanied minors.
Despite the fact that these families are fleeing violent conditions in their home countries and should be recognized as refugees, your Administration has chosen to criminalize and target these vulnerable individuals. By failing to address this issue as the serious humanitarian crisis that it is, your Administration is instead dangerously stoking fear in communities across the country. These operations have a deep and disturbing chilling effect in the day-to-day lives of immigrant families, making them vulnerable to crimes and exploitation. Furthermore, these inhumane enforcement activities do nothing to deter those fleeing for their lives from making the perilous trip north to seek safe haven.
NHLA is outraged by reported plans to continue the deportation of mothers and children to some of the most dangerous nations in the world. It is particularly troubling given the reports that immigrants have been deported to their deaths as a result of the violence that they sought to flee. It is clear that those from Mexico and Central America continue to experience a widespread bias in our immigration system, and your Administration is deepening the disadvantages placed before them by repeatedly erecting barriers to fair and humane treatment and legal representation.
From the use of “rocket dockets” to quickly remove minors crossing the border in 2014, to the detention of refugee mothers and children—including infants—in prison-like conditions, the policies of the U.S. government have been to treat asylum seekers from our southern border as criminals. Moreover, ICE has prevented these families from accessing adequate legal representation, which is often the determinative factor in whether an immigrant is able to successfully assert his or her valid claim for relief.
When an immigration judge goes on record stating that a 3-year-old child is capable of learning immigration law for the purposes of self-representation, the public must ask whether your Administration is providing due process and fair application of the law. The fact that legal services providers have been able to halt the deportations of some of those apprehended in these ICE enforcement surges shows that the enforcement actions lack any legitimate basis in fair adjudication.
NHLA opposes in the strongest possible terms any raids on immigrant families who pose no threat to national security or public safety. Your Administration has acknowledged that the overwhelming majority of Central Americans who have entered our borders, primarily women and children, face a credible fear of persecution or violence, yet you now resort to large-scale raids prioritizing the deportation of these refugees. This is an unnecessarily harsh, ineffective, and misguided approach. It also demonstrates this Administration’s unequal treatment of refugees from Central America, in dramatic and troubling contrast to your appropriate and welcome championing of refugees from the Middle East.
On November 20, 2014, Secretary Johnson announced a policy to designate those individuals with a removal order issued after January 1, 2014 as a priority for deportation. This directive unfairly targets Latinos, who comprise a large percentage of those seeking to enter the U.S. along the southern border, particularly given the increased number of refugees who are arriving to the U.S. seeking protection from violence in Central America. The emphasis of the recent raids has been largely focused on Central Americans, and this unequal treatment of Latino refugees only capitalizes on the systemic barriers this particular population has faced in accessing legal counsel. You and Secretary Johnson have the authority to modify these priorities, and there is no statutory basis—or congressional mandate—to prioritize the removal of families fleeing persecution and violence. Your Administration’s efforts to increase in-country processing for Central American refugees in the region does little to mitigate the lasting and devastating damage that these ICE raids are causing.
We call on the Administration to stop these raids on families, to halt the deportation of Central American refugees, and to ensure that all asylum seekers receive access to legal counsel and are well informed of their legal rights, including the right to appeal an adverse decision. The enforcement actions are creating shockwaves of fear and distrust during a political season that has been fraught with racist and xenophobic rhetoric. To continue these aggressive tactics is to stain your Administration’s legacy with the dark mark of mass deportations and human rights violations, rather than highlighting the advances that you and others have worked so hard to achieve for immigrant families.
Instead of using your executive authority to deport refugee families, your Administration should grant migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras Temporary Protected Status based on pervasive gang violence and the deteriorating conditions they face. The ever-increasing violence that is driving individuals to flee the Northern Triangle represents “extraordinary and temporary conditions” that prevent the safe return of immigrants to these countries.
LCLAA, Executive Director
Thomas A. Saenz
MALDEF, President and General Counsel
NHLA Vice Chair & Immigration Committee Co-Chair
Hispanic Federation, President
NHLA Immigration Committee Co-Chair
Valerie Jarret, Senior Advisor to the President
Cecilia Munoz, Assistant to the President and Director of Domestic Policy Council
Felicia Escobar, Senior Policy Advisor Julie Rodriguez, Deputy Director of Public Engagement
Jeh C. Johnson, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security
Alejandro Mayorkas, Deputy Secretary, Department of Homeland Security
Sarah Saldaña, Director, Immigration and Customs Enforcement