A growing chorus of voices, including many from within the president's own party, is expressing outrage over President Barack Obama's recent crackdown on immigrants and refugees, with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders urging the administration "to immediately cease these raids and not deport families back to countries where a death sentence awaits."
In separate letters sent Thursday and Friday, presidential candidate Sanders and the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), called the raids—which have already swept up at least 121 people including women and children—"inhumane."
"Countless reports have documented how many of these women and children are fleeing extreme violence and poverty in their home countries," wrote Grijalva and Ellison. "It is inhumane for Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials to disregard these threats and cause fear and anguish for immigrant families."
The lawmakers—who join a handful of their colleagues and a host of community organizations—all expressed concern that families are not getting the legal assistance they deserve.
"Families represented by counsel successfully obtain asylum...most of the time," Sanders wrote (pdf), "but the majority of detained families lack access to legal advice and assistance, often because of financial, logistical, or governmental obstacles."
He continued: "Without adequate legal counsel, many do not understand the court proceedings and struggle to get their cases heard adequately and fairly. Already, courts have temporarily halted the deportation of dozens of individuals rounded up in this weekend's raids because of ineffective legal counsel they received."
Indeed, speaking on Democracy Now! on Friday, CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project managing attorney Katie Shepherd confirmed that of the nine stays the firm has submitted thus far on behalf of detained women and children in the South Texas Family Residential Center, "100 percent that we've received decisions on have been granted so far."
"I feel that this is a clear indication that something is very wrong here," Shepherd told DN! host Amy Goodman.
In an editorial published Friday, the New York Times, too, called for the White House to stop what it described as a "shameful round-up of refugees:"
The administration needs to recognize that this problem cannot be solved in backward fashion. The answer lies not in sitting idly until refugees arrive and greeting them with family prisons and prosecution. It requires addressing the root causes of the bloody violence in the region, and fixing the chaotic, underfunded legal system at the border, where migrants with no money or lawyers — or with bad lawyers — confront the infernal complexities of immigration and asylum law, and lose.
Longtime immigration lawyer Barbara Hines, who has many clients detained in the notorious Karnes and Dilley detention centers, agreed that U.S. asylum laws "really haven’t been modernized to the realities of Central America with the tremendous gang and gender-based violence."
On Democracy Now!, she said:
The way we’ve addressed situations in the past is through Temporary Protected Status, which is in the immigration laws and allows the executive branch and the Department of Homeland Security to decree certain countries and to say it's too dangerous for those people to return to their home countries. We’ve done this since 1990, and we’ve included countries in Africa, in Syria. We recently declared Nepal because of the earthquake. And I think that we seriously need to begin to think about temporary protected status, in addition to asylum, because many, many of the women do have bona fide refugee claims, as a solution to the situation.
Sanders echoed that call in his letter on Thursday, saying Obama should use his executive authority "to protect—not deport—these families by extending [Temporary Protected Status] for those fleeing unsafe countries in Central America."
Watch Shepherd and Hines on DN! below: