Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), along with more than 140 House Democrats, are urging President Obama to stop Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in the homes of illegal immigrants.
Hoyer said the Obama administration’s policy was designed to send a message to the world not to come to the U.S. illegally since the nation has rules and laws that should be followed. However, Hoyer said, the raids against illegal immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are creating fear among illegal immigrants and their family members who have escaped violence to seek refuge in the U.S.
“The administration needs to go in a different direction and, yes, send a message, but do not send a message by putting literally hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people in fear – mothers, children, seniors and fathers seeing their families separated,” he said in a press conference announcing a letter the members sent to Obama advocating for the end of the raids. “I am very pleased to join in the signing of this letter.”
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-N.Y.) said the raids are preventing illegal immigrants from going to meetings regarding domestic violence or visiting clinics to get their healthcare.
“There are literally millions of people across this country who fled violence in their home countries who face potential death in their home countries now,” she said.
Lofgren said she spoke with a lawyer whose client is afraid to go to court to fight a civil lawsuit because of his immigration status.
“So that’s something we need to take responsibility for,” she said. “The administration needs to own that result and retool this enforcement effort.”
Gutiérrez said the White House has told him and other lawmakers that the raids are happening as a result of an increased number of illegal immigrants from Central America crossing the border.
“When his administration sows the seeds of terror throughout the immigrant community of the United States and millions of people are affected, that’s what I am going to concern myself with,” he said.
Despite the Democrats’ criticism of the raids, Gutiérrez remains supportive of Obama’s overall immigration record.
“We went from 410,000 deportations a year to 230,000 – are some of those still unacceptable? Absolutely. But still, it’s 180,000 fewer deportations this year than a few years ago,” he said. “Listen, I am not a spokesperson for the White House or their apologists but I am one that looks at that – what is the end going to be? The president is going to determine that.”
The letter says failure of the administration to offer a “comprehensive solution” that “provides a practical and humane response to the mothers and children from Central America fleeing for their lives and seeking safety and protection” will “continue to lead to disorder at our border and will further a sense of unease across the United States.”
“A final administrative removal order does not necessarily mean that these mothers and children do not have legitimate claims for refugee protection. We are gravely concerned that DHS may have already removed mothers and children from the United States and returned them to violent and dangerous situations in their home countries.”