NEWARK, NJ – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) issued the following statement in reaction to press reports indicating plans for a month-long series of nationwide immigration raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Reports indicate that the raids will target mothers and their children and young people who have turned 18 years old, who are mostly from Central America and who entered the United States after January 1, 2014. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) conducted similar controversial immigration raids in January which resulted in the apprehension of 121 immigrants, mostly women and children from Central America who arrived to the United States fleeing the region’s violence.
"At a time when we should be standing up for the values and ideals we hold as Americans and against the xenophobic rhetoric being propagated by Donald Trump's party, it is truly disheartening to read reports of a possible new round of deportation raids further targeting Central American mothers and children in the U.S. who recently fled their homelands to avoid a certain death.
"As I've said before, trying to send a message of deterrence by forcefully removing desperate individuals who may very well have a valid protection claim is not only ill-advised, it is disturbing and un-American. The Northern Triangle nations of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have the highest murder rates in the world, and we must recognize that this is a humanitarian crisis being caused by those who believe it is better to run for their lives and risk dying, than stay and die for sure.
"Instead of eagerly deporting vulnerable populations, we should be addressing the root causes of this urgent hemispheric crisis by providing alternative safe havens in the region, expanding refugee resettlement programs, and forging new partnerships that will create security, peace and safety for families in their native countries. Now is simply not the time to turn a blind eye to the desperate reality facing these mothers and children, and the Administration's cruel insistence on addressing this crisis strictly through the lens of border security and immigration enforcement will continue to fail and contradicts their commitment to remove felons and not families.
"I will continue to fight to protect our nation's long tradition of standing up for refugees around the world. We must prioritize fair and meaningful due process for these Central American children and families who are seeking asylum.”
On January 21, 2016, Senator Menendez and twenty one Senate Democrats and 146 House Democrats sent letters to President Obama denouncing the first round of immigration raids.