MERCEDES, RGV – Congressman Rubén Hinojosa has joined colleagues in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in condemning the Obama administration for rounding up hundreds of Central American families for deportation.

Officials with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement say they are targeting families that have arrived from Central America over the last 18 months and who have been processed by immigration courts.

More than 100,000 families with adults and children from Central America crossed the southwestern border in 2014 and 2015, fleeing violence and poverty in their homeland. A spike in crossings occurred in the summer of 2014 and then the numbers dipped. However, in October and November of last year more than 100,000 children from Central America crossed the border.

According to numerous news reports, the raids are producing widespread fear among Honduran, Guatemalan and El Salvadoran communities across the United States.

Hinojosa issued this statement on Wednesday:

“As a nation of immigrants, we must stand up against inhumane actions of raiding people’s homes and forcibly breaking families apart, such as with the current tactic of deporting undocumented individuals who entered the U.S. within recent years.

“Many of these recent immigrants, both women and children, fled from violence, oppression, and certain death from countries, such as Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, whose homicide rate increased by 70 percent this past year. ICE raids will only cause further distress and re-traumatize these refugees who have already suffered extensively. This is the exact reason why we need comprehensive immigration reform.

“This is against our nation’s founding principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as well as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs run by federal agencies, including immigration enforcement and removal proceedings. As such, each of these undocumented individuals has the right of due process and legal representation to fight to maintain their presence in the United States. We must ensure that these refugees are informed of this right and provided counsel.

“Instead of condemning these fleeing refugees, we must put further enforcement on deporting violent felons.

“We must find a more humane solution to resolve these issues and keep families unified – we must pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

On Friday, Hinojosa joined colleagues in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for a rally outside the White House. At the conference, the Mercedes, Texas, Democrat said:

“Ladies and gentleman, I am honored to join my Congressional Hispanic Caucus colleagues who are united in calling upon the Obama Administration to immediately cease the immigration raids that took place primarily in Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina.

“The women and children fleeing violence from countries like Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are refugees. These countries have amongst the highest crime and homicide rates in the world.

“I join my Congressional Hispanic Caucus members and the leadership of our chairwoman Rep. Linda Sanchez to ask the Administration to grant temporary protective status to these mothers and children. They seek asylum like other refugees escaping death, oppression, and persecution. They deserve the right to emigrate and stay with their families.

“The current raids are causing fear, panic, and great sadness to people who have already endured tremendous danger and tumult in their lives.

“Our Administration – the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration & Customs Enforcement in particular – must halt these raids and take every precaution to protect these mothers and children from peril.

“This is not about border security enforcement. This is a humanitarian crisis involving refugees – a very vulnerable population – who deserve due process protections and counsel. They deserve due consideration asylum before deportation.

“I stand with my Hispanic colleagues to send a message not only to our Administration but to our neighbors in the southwest that our government must take every precaution to protect the Central American women and children fleeing their homes, treat them humanely, and guarantee them due process as guaranteed by our Constitution and tradition of openness and welcoming those fleeing foreign lands.

“Para los que hablan español, quiero decirles que estoy muy orgulloso de mis colegas del Caucus Hispano, todos sus comentarios, y estoy de acuerdo con ellos.  Brevemente, debemos detener estas redadas de inmigrantes lo antes posible y buscar una manera más justa de lidiar con esta tema.”

Among those to speak at the rally were House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Linda T. Sánchez, Congressman Ruben Gallego, Congresswoman Norma Torres, Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Congressman Tony Cárdenas, and Congressman Raúl Grijalva. “We have a refugee crisis, not an immigration problem,” Gutierrez said at the rally.

Earlier this month, Congresswoman Sánchez said:

“Raiding people’s homes to forcibly break families apart is not what our country stands for. Our federal government should not be separating parents from their children. As the mother of a young son, it’s easy for me to imagine how traumatizing having ICE agents storm someone’s home and tearing families apart can be for a young child.

“Invading homes is inhumane and adds to the trauma of these families fleeing violence and oppression.  Many recent immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are escaping one of the most dangerous regions in the world.  In the past, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has spoken in defense of the unaccompanied minors fleeing the Central American countries.  These minors could be our sons, daughters, nieces and nephews.

“As we begin a new session of Congress, we must find a better way to deal with the recently arrived young children and mothers.  We must ensure that they are informed of their rights and provided counsel. And we must continue to fight for comprehensive immigration reform because it’s the only way we will ever truly solve this problem.”

The outcry from the CHC, Latino groups and liberal Democrats does not appear to have moved the Obama administration.

“The enforcement strategy and priorities that the administration has articulated are not going to change,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday. “Individuals who recently crossed the border are priorities for removal.”