In a letter addressed to the President, Sen. Bernie Sanders urged the Obama administration on Thursday to immediately halt the “inhumane” deportation raids recently deployed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). With many Central American families fleeing the corruption and violence from their countries, as many as 83 immigrants recently denied asylum in the U.S. were murdered within months of their return home.
“Our nation has always been a beacon of hope and a refuge for the oppressed. As a country, we have a fundamental responsibility to keep families together and welcome those seeking refuge from extreme violence and persecution,” Sanders wrote. “I am therefore extremely disappointed that this weekend the Department of Homeland Security began large-scale raids in our communities to deport families who made the perilous journey to flee extreme violence. These raids contravene President Obama’s directive to ‘more humanely’ enforce our nation’s immigration laws.”
Addressed to President Obama, DHS Director Jeh Johnson, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Sarah Saldaña, the presidential candidate’s letter states that 80 percent of the migrant women detained following the wave of immigration in the summer of 2014 were found to have a credible threat to their safety if they were returned home. Although these women fled from gang violence against their husbands, recruitment targeting their sons, and sexual violence toward their daughters, 80 percent of these cases ended with DHS ordering these same families deported back to the dangerous conditions they fled.
Since 2014, at least 83 U.S. deportees were murdered after returning to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Last month, DHS Director Johnson began preparing the department for a massive series of deportation raids against the approximately 100,000 families who have entered the country since 2014. Due to the ineffective legal counsel many asylum seekers receive, courts have temporarily halted the deportation of dozens of individuals taken into custody during this weekend’s raids.
“Raids are not the answer,” Sanders continued. “We cannot continue to employ inhumane tactics involving rounding up and deporting tens of thousands of immigrant families to address a crisis that requires compassion. It is critical to acknowledge that most of these families are refugees seeking asylum and entitled to humanitarian protection and legal counsel.”
Although many Americans believe the U.S. bears no responsibility for helping these asylum seekers, the CIA’s bloodstained history throughout Central America has directly led to the current destabilization of these countries. In 1954, then-CIA Director Allen Dulles orchestrated the overthrow of democratically elected Guatemalan president, Jacobo Arbenz. During the 1980s, the CIA funneled money and guns into El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua while secretly training their armies and brutal death squads. Many of the worst members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) formed the ruthless gang in Los Angeles after escaping El Salvador’s civil war that was in part funded by the U.S. and left 75,000 people dead between 1979 and 1992.
“Consistent with our welcoming immigrant tradition to harbor those fleeing violence and persecution, let us have compassion for unaccompanied minors and victims of domestic violence and criminal gang activity,” Sanders wrote. “I urge you to immediately cease these raids and not deport families back to countries where a death sentence awaits.”