Advocates, Religious Leaders Denounce Immigration Raids

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - 6:18pm

Immigrant advocates and religious leaders are criticizing the Obama administration’s recent raids that rounded up 121 immigrants for deportation, including Central American women and children. Some religious leaders are calling for a revival of the Sanctuary Movement in response.

The Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the operation over the weekend focused on families that received final deportation orders and have exhausted the appeals process, but Marielena Hincapie of the National Immigration Law Center said this moment will be remembered as one of the darkest of the Obama administration.

“Despite the claims to the contrary, these women and children are fleeing violence and have not, in fact, had their full and fair day in court,” Hincapie said on Wednesday in a call with reporters.

Hincapie said there are reasons to believe many of these women and children did not have a lawyer, or received inappropriate legal advice.

In fact, a group of pro bono immigration lawyers announced on Wednesday they were able to stay the deportations of four families by arguing they had valid asylum claims, but received inappropriate legal advice. These lawyers also have said there are other detained families they haven’t been able to access.

“We are concerned the administration is rushing to try to deport people as soon as possible without allowing them to have access to legal counsel,” Hincapie said.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement that it “does not deny any detainee in custody access to counsel.”

Immigrant rights advocates also say they are concerned these raids are violating people’s rights.

Adelina Nicholls of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights shared with reporters the account of one Georgia woman whose home was raided by ICE over the weekend. According to Nicholls, the woman alleges four ICE agents lied about the purpose of their visit to get her to open the door and then refused to show her a warrant. The agents wound up detaining the woman’s sister and 9-year-old nephew.

In a response to a query about these allegations, ICE provided the following statement: “As a matter of policy, ICE does not discuss specifics, tactics or investigative techniques officers are authorized to employ in order to perform their official duties.”

Meanwhile, the pastor of Tucson’s Southside Presbyterian Church, Rev. Alison Harrington, is part of an effort to encourage churches to shield these immigrants from deportation.

“At this moment as people are running for their lives away from horrific violence; the gift that we, as religious leaders and faith communities, have to offer is the gift of sanctuary,” Harrington said.

Harrington’s church helped start the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s, when churches and synogogues sheltered thousands of Central American asylum seekers while the government was trying to deport them.