Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders stepped up his opposition to the Obama administration’s deportation raids Thursday, sending a letter to the president urging him to “immediately end” the raids on undocumented immigrants. Sanders and other Democrats have been criticizing President Barack Obama since news of the planned raids was reported over Christmas.

The raids are part of an operation by the Obama administration to deport hundreds of families who have entered the United States illegally since the start of last year. The plan is the first attempt to deport families who have fled violence in Central America, the Washington Post reported.

This most recent letter from Sanders calls for the administration to stop deporting the families and instead extend them temporary protected status, which would allow them to obtain employment and travel authorization, and would prevent them from being detained on the basis of their immigration status.

“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 in his letter Thursday. “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.”



Federal immigration authorities began conducting raids New Year’s weekend, apprehending 121 adults and children, the Washington Post reported Monday. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents took the families — who had been living in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina — into custody, adding they would be held in federal detention centers before being deported to their home countries.

In addition to Sanders, presidential candidate Martin O’Malley has been vocal about his opposition to the raids since their announcement. Other Democrats, including members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus spoke out this week as well, emphasizing America’s historical role as a nation that accepts refugees.

U.S. Rep. Linda Sánchez of California has said the Obama administration’s raids go against America’s values. She said invading “homes is inhumane and adds to the trauma of these families fleeing violence and oppression,” the Hill reported Wednesday. “These minors could be our sons, daughters, nieces and nephews.”



Democratic front-runner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also come out against the raids although she has been more reserved on immigration than her opponents for the Democratic nomination.

“Hillary Clinton believes the United States should give refuge to people fleeing persecution, and should be especially attentive to the needs of children,” Clinton spokesperson Jorge Silva said in a statement to the Latin Post Wednesday. “Families who arrive here should be guaranteed due process on their asylum petitions, including a full and fair opportunity to tell their stories. She believes we should not be conducting large-scale raids and roundups that sow fear and division in our communities.”

In contrast to Clinton’s relatively calm language, Sanders’ letter Thursday called the raids “inhumane” and worked to paint a picture of the fate that deportations could leave for some families.

“Raids are not the answer. 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 this [sic] families are refugees seeking asylum and entitled to humanitarian protection and legal counsel,” Sanders wrote.

He added: “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. I urge you to immediately end these raids and not deport families back to countries where a death sentence awaits.”