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Reps. Lewis, Butterfield, Johnson, Adams Oppose Massive Immigration Raids

June 24, 2016
Press Release

Reps. John Lewis (GA-05) led members of Congress to register their complaints about recent mass raids and deportations by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted under the name Operation Border Guardian.  Reps. Lewis, G. K. Butterfield (NC-01), Hank Johnson (GA-04), and Alma S. Adams (NC-12) shared their deep concerns in a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released today.  

The states of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina – all covered by the ICE Field Office in Atlanta – accounted for more than one-third of all persons apprehended in this nationwide operation, far outnumbering those detained by any other field office in the country.  The Huffington Post also reported that Atlanta immigration judges denied asylum requests more than 98 percent of the time to those escaping their homelands under duress.  In 2015, the Atlanta court had the worst record in the country among courts that heard more than five cases.

“No human being can be illegal, and no innocent child should live in fear of deportation.  I have fought my whole life to ensure that every human being is treated with fairness and justice.  In 2013, I was arrested while protesting in support of comprehensive immigration reform.  The raids conducted as part of Operation Border Guardian have deeply troubled me.  They are not right, not fair, not just.  They are an inappropriate response to those fleeing violence and disorder.  It is my hope that DHS ends this Operation and finds the most humane way to address these refugees.”  Rep. John Lewis (GA)

“I am deeply concerned with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s enforcement actions while conducting Operation Border Guardian, particularly those that have occurred in North Carolina under the jurisdiction of the ICE Atlanta Field Office.  These raids have not only had a negative impact on the individuals who have been detained, but they have also created a deep sense of fear within the community and our schools.  I continue to believe that ICE should be focusing its limited resources on identifying dangerous individuals who pose a threat to our communities, rather than young people, mothers, and children who fled extreme violence in Central America in search of refuge in the United States.  It is my hope that Secretary Jeh Johnson will take a hard look at these operations and the negative impact they are having in communities across the Southeast.”   Rep. G. K. Butterfield (NC)

“ICE raids should be stopped immediately,  Targeting mothers and children who come to our shores fleeing human rights abuses and war in their home countries is against everything we stand for as a nation. We should be doing more to live up to our creed as a safe haven for the downtrodden, not subjecting the most vulnerable among us to more trauma and terror. We have to decide what kind of nation we want to be. I, for one, don't think rounding up innocent women and children in the dead of night and shipping them back to their countries where they face death, violence and persecution is who we are or what we want to be.”  Rep. Hank Johnson (GA)

“While I respect the discretion granted to ICE and Immigration Judges to uphold our immigration laws, I believe we must have greater empathy for immigrants, who are the heart of our nation.  In the State of North Carolina and the greater Southeast region, I am deeply concerned that this discretion is being used to deport individuals whom would have their asylum requests granted by an immigration court if they resided in other parts of the country.” Rep. Alma S. Adams (NC)

These members of Congress were provoked to write Secretary Johnson due to their recent meetings with advocates and families who shared horrifying accounts of young students who were aggressively apprehended in their homes or on their way to school.  They said many of those detained have been denied legal representation to adequately defend themselves in legal proceedings.  They described the alarm and fear these raids have fomented in Latino and immigrant communities across the Southeast.  

Their stance is that U.S. policies must reflect compassion for our neighbors fleeing violence and disorder in Central America and that those who are detained should be treated  with the utmost respect and dignity. This letter is in addition to one sent to the President in January and signed by most House Democrats encouraging the Administration to find a comprehensive, regional solution to the refugee crisis.