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Sanders writes Obama, urges end to recently started deportation raids

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at Northstar Elementary School in Knoxville, Iowa, last week. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
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LAS VEGAS — Seeking to further distance himself from the Obama administration, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders sent a letter on Thursday to the president and top homeland security officials calling for a halt to recently started deportation raids targeting families that fled violence in Central America.

“Raids are not the answer,” the senator from Vermont said in the letter. “We cannot continue to employ inhumane tactics involving rounding up and deporting tens of thousands of immigrant families to address a crisis that requires compassion and humane solutions.”

Instead, Sanders suggested extending temporary protected status to the families that have crossed the U.S. southern border illegally since 2014. The status would provide employment authorization and protection from deportation.

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Sanders sent his letter the morning after an appearance at a Democratic Party dinner in Nevada, an early presidential nominating state where Latinos are the most rapidly growing segment of the electorate and immigration is a top issue.

Sanders’s two Democratic rivals, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, also have voiced concerns about the administration’s actions. O’Malley devoted a segment of his remarks at the dinner to the issue, saying the administration's policy is “not consistent with who we are as a country.”

In his letter, which echoed earlier public statements, Sanders said that more than 80 percent of the migrant women detained since summer 2014 faced credible threats to their safety if they were returned home. Yet, he said, 80 percent of those cases have ended with the Department of Homeland Security ordering the same families deported back to the dangerous conditions they fled.

“I urge you to immediately cease these raids and not deport families back to countries where a death sentence awaits,” Sanders wrote in the letter to President Obama, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Sarah Saldaña, the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.