Advocacy groups protest recent federal immigration raids
Posted January 27, 2016
DURHAM, N.C. — Advocacy groups held vigils in North Carolina on Wednesday and plan to take other actions to protest the Department of Homeland Security's recent immigration raids across the United States.
Student Action with Farmworkers held a news conference Wednesday afternoon in Durham to protest the deportations of Central American families. At the Wake County Detention Center in Raleigh, El Pueblo and other organizations held a 5:30 p.m. vigil to show solidarity with those who are detained.
Protesters in the Triangle, and across the southeast, say families should not be a priority when it comes to deportation.
"We need to be able to keep these families together," said Will Saenz. "Sending them back into these conditions where they were already escaping abject poverty, violence, drug wars—that just goes against our values as a country."
The events in the Triangle were only two of several that were scheduled to occur simultaneously across the southeast. Southeast Immigrant Rights Network delivered a petition of 66,000 signatures in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, asking President Obama to stop the raids
Lina Santillan recalled having a third grader from Guatemala fearful for his mother's future.
"They gave him a refugee status, but they didn't give his mom one," Santillan said. "Having him come into my classroom during lunch time crying because he didn't know if his mom was going to get hte same status that he had. To me, that's just heartbreaking."
Immigration Customs Enforcement recently held a national operation targeting adults who crossed the boarder with their children.
Officials cited an increase in the numbers of families and children as one reason for the raids.
"We have parents who don't even want to bring their kids to school because they're afraid they'll be deported on the way," Gabriel Martinon said.
At least 121 people have been detained in raids that began during the holiday season. Last week, 22 Democratic senators asked President Obama to halt the deportations, citing the threats of violence and possible death the mothers and children face when they're returned.
According to a Department of Homeland Security news release, there has been a significant spike in families and unaccompanied entering the U.S. from Central America.
However, the release said it is "consistent with our laws and values" to send people back who are entering the country illegally.
A 2014 memorandum from the Department of Homeland Security described its immigration enforcement policies, naming threats to national security and public safety as the top priority.
Demonstrators at the Wake County Detention Center rally said families and children should not be considered a priority when talking about immigration enforcement.