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Bernie Sanders: Central American refugees should not be ‘cast out’

Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said Thursday that he is “very disturbed” by reports that the Obama administration has begun preparing for a series of raids that would target for deportation families who fled violence in Central America.

“Our nation has always been a beacon of hope, a refuge for the oppressed,” the Vermont senator said in a 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.”

The Washington Post reported Wednesday night that the nationwide campaign, to be carried out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents as soon as early January, could affect hundreds of families who have flocked to the United States since the start of last year. The ICE operation would target only adults and children who have been ordered removed from the United States by an immigration judge.

As he competes against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, Sanders has pledged, if elected president, to aggressively use executive action to offer protections to undocumented immigrants against deportation as he seeks comprehensive reform from Congress.

In polls, he lags far behind Clinton among both Latino and black voters and has been stepping up efforts to make inroads into those communities.

“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?” Sanders said in his statement. “How far would we go to protect them?”

Another Democratic candidate, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, also spoke out on the plan being developed by the Department of Homeland Security.

“DHS’ Christmas Eve announcement that they are planning to launch mass holiday raids and deport families who risked their lives to flee violence in Central America is completely at odds with our character as a nation,” O’Malley said in a statement. “We must put an end to these mindless deportations.”

The Washington Post’s Jose A. DelReal contributed to this story.

© 2015, The Washington Post

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