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Congresswoman Norma Torres

Representing the 35th District of California

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Congressional Hispanic Caucus Unite Against ICE Deportation Raids

January 8, 2016
In The News

Latinos lawmakers stood united against the Obama administration’s latest deportation raids. As Latin Post reported, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), detained and deported several dozen immigrants who illegally entered the U.S.

In a statement released on Monday, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson confirmed the deportation raids and said he has repeatedly said "our borders are not open to illegal migration; if you come here illegally, we will send you back consistent with our laws and values."

Since news of the deportations raids, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) have called on Johnson to halt further ICE campaigns, but Johnson has said it is his discretion to continue additional deportation raids.

A United CHC

"As an immigrant myself, I know that we can't turn our back on those during their greatest time of need," said Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif., on Friday morning. "Many of the families coming from Central America are refugees and could qualify for asylum status -- they are fleeing forced gang recruitment, domestic violence, and extortion and fear for their lives."

The CHC members, standing with House Democratic White Steny Hoyer, D-Md., questioned the methods of the ICE raids and whether the immigrants have received their proper due process.

"We have heard of ICE using deception and misinformation to gain access to residences. Immigrants -- documented or not -- have rights," said Rep. Nydia Velasquez, D-N.Y. "And these raids are being conducted in a way that violates those rights. These are some of the most vulnerable members of society -- and we are treating them like criminals."

CHC Chairwoman Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., said the U.S. asylum system requires fixing, and the immigrants, referred to as refugees, should receive Temporary Protective Status.

As Hoyer noted in his remarks, many of the immigrant families are fleeing violence in Central America, including El Salvador, which was named the murder capital of the world.

"The Obama Administration must provide a fair hearing to anyone, especially children, who come to this country seeking refuge or asylum," said Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., in a statement. "We should not return or turn away people who fear for their lives and demonstrate that their fear is real. Congress has known for a long time that our immigration system is broken. Ultimately, to end the suffering of our families, Congress must act to fix it and make it work."

White House Protest

Prior to the press conference, fellow CHC member Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., gathered with several immigration rights groups and families impacted from the deportation raids outside the White House.

"We will not stand by and allow this to happen to families who came to the U.S. to escape extreme violence and poverty," said Sulma Arias, spokesperson of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), one of the several organizations that were present outside the White House. "If these families are deported -- and most of them would be women and children-they would be returned to places they fled to escape being killed, raped or tortured."

Gutierrez and FIRM gathered with representatives from the National Immigration Law Center, Service Employees International Union, United We Dream and the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

Despite the calls and protest, Johnson appears to support future raids. On Monday's confirmation statement, he also said, "I know there are many who loudly condemn our enforcement efforts as far too harsh, while there will be others who say these actions don't go far enough. I also recognize the reality of the pain that deportations do in fact cause. But, we must enforce the law consistent with our priorities. At all times, we endeavor to do this consistent with American values, and basic principles of decency, fairness, and humanity."