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MI Groups Call on Obama to Stop "Immoral" Raids

Central American refugees in the United States flee war-torn countries full of poverty and violence. (John Pavelka/Flickr)
Central American refugees in the United States flee war-torn countries full of poverty and violence. (John Pavelka/Flickr)
January 12, 2016

LANSING, Mich. - Ahead of his final State of the Union address, some Michigan groups are calling on President Obama to end immigration raids of Central American refugee families.

The demand comes from 40 organizations representing faith, labor and civil-rights organizations in the state. The raids, described by the groups as "immoral," are targeted at families who entered the country from Central America after May 1, 2014.

Michigan State University sociology professor Ruben Martinez said the families faced poverty and violence in war-torn countries.

"Children fleeing these countries are regularly subjected to gang violence and sexual assault," he said. "The children are ordered to join the gangs as young as 10 years of age, and if they don't comply, they will be beaten and sometimes killed."

Other demands from the groups include the assurance that due-process protections are in place. Grand Rapids attorney Richard Kessler said most refugees had removal orders, but lacked proper representation in their asylum cases.

"These procedures of the so-called 'rocket docket' and calling these people in immediately, and treating them faster and moving their cases ahead of other people before they could be prepared, was basically a program targeting them for failure, and targeting them to be deported," Kessler said.

The Rev. Paul Perez with the Detroit Conference of the United Methodist Church said the Obama administration also needs to work with Central American governments to create a clear, regional refugee response plan. He contended that refugees will continue to flee to the United States until the underlying causes of violence are addressed.

"We can pretend that the collapse of governance in Central America can be dealt with by raids and deportations," he said, "or we can rise to our higher American values and fight for the well-being of families and a dignified future for all."

The Department of Homeland Security has defended the raids as necessary to secure the U.S. border. More than 120 people have been apprehended so far in raids in several states, although none yet in Michigan.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI