Statement on Obama Administration Plans to Conduct Raids on Refugee Central American Families Living in the United States
Chevy Chase, MD— Like many around the nation, I heard with interest President Obama’s Christmas greeting urging Americans to follow Jesus Christ’s example of charity and compassion.
“Today, like millions of Americans and Christians around the world, our family celebrates the birth of Jesus and the values He lived in his own life,” Obama said. “Treating one another with love and compassion. Caring for those on society’s margins: the sick and the hungry, the poor and the persecuted, the stranger in need of shelter — or simply an act of kindness.”
On the same day and in sharp contrast, I was appalled and outraged to learn of plans by his own Administration to conduct raids on Central American refugee children and their families. According to leaked plans from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/ Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), raids are planned starting in January 2016 in our Washington Metro Area, MD/DC/VA, as well as California, Texas, Massachusetts, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Tennessee and numerous cities across the United States
President Obama’s holiday message appears to have earned him a brand new title –“Hypocrite-in-Chief”. Speaking out of both ends of his mouth, he chooses to ignore the plight of hundreds of refugee children and families who will soon be persecuted by DHS/ICE right here in his own backyard.
I believe President Obama is seriously mistaken in his response to this humanitarian crisis if he believes the solution is to round up refugee children and their families at their schools, their churches and homes, in an effort to appear tough on immigration.
Since the summer of 2014, I have worked with a Coalition of local and national activists to advocate for the humane and fair treatment of refugee children and their parents who are fleeing extreme violence in El Salvador and in Central America.
The work of our Coalition has been directly in response to the Obama Administration’s illegal practice of jailing children and denying due process to them in detention centers. Rather than following a recent court order to stop its inhumane detention policies, DHS continues to push these children and their families into deportation proceedings without access to proper counseling and legal resources.
According to Raices, a immigrant-serving legal and advocacy organization:
“The lack of legal resources in cities around the country to assist Central American refugees with their pending immigration cases once they are released from the administration’s illegal family detention centers is a humanitarian crisis our country must address. This crisis of legal resources is the reason why 78% of families released from detention between July 18, 2014 – September 29, 2015, who have had court dates, have been given deportation orders. Of this number, 63% of families have been ordered deported in absentia, without attending a court hearing.”
“The Obama Administration is setting up these families for deportation by releasing them with little to no information about their continuing legal responsibilities and creating insurmountable barriers to accessing counsel.”
The facts do matter. It is a well-established fact that the majority of families who are represented by legal counsel are successful in winning their cases. There is no doubt that the families that the Obama Administration plans to raid and deport are those who are legitimate asylum seekers who have not had the legal means to present their cases, and will surely be deported to the very violence that they are desperately trying to escape.
The Obama Administration should stand by its oath to protect refugees by cancelling any plans for raiding Central American refugee families, and ending its illegal practice of jailing children fleeing violence.
Instead it should ensure due process and obey current laws that protect children and families seeking shelter and refuge in the United States. This is the compassion I believe our American and Christian values call for all of us to live by.