Democratic presidential candidates Martin O’Malley and Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., both condemned government plans to deport illegal immigrants back to Central America. The order, which will be carried out by the Department of Homeland Security, will target families that have been given instructions to leave the country but have not yet left, the Hill reported Thursday

“I am very disturbed by reports that the government may commence raids to deport families who have fled here to escape violence in Central America," Sanders said in a statement Thursday.  "As we spend time with our families this holiday season, we who are parents should ask ourselves what we would do if our children faced the danger and violence these children do? How far would we go to protect them?"

In a similar statement, former Maryland Governor O’Malley said such action is "completely at odds with our character as a nation," adding, "We must put an end to these mindless deportations."



The move comes as drought and a record number of homicides in El Salvador pushed migrants across the southern U.S. border in record numbers. More than 12,000 people traveling in family units were apprehended at the border in October and November, up from 4,500 in the same months last year, the Wall Street Journal reported. The number of unaccompanied children detained during that time exceeded 10,000, double 2014’s figures.

An official inside the government said the goal of the deportation raids is “to send the message to would-be crossers that they won't be allowed to remain in the U.S.,” an official who spoke with the Journal said.  

"Our nation has always been a beacon of hope, a refuge for the oppressed," Sanders said in his statement. "We cannot turn our backs on that essential element of who we are as a nation. We need to take steps to protect children and families seeking refuge here, not cast them out."

Clinton's campaign did not immediately respond to emails from the Hill on the issue.