- The Washington Times - Monday, January 11, 2016

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton urged President Obama to halt the new round of deportation raids and called Monday night for the government to pay for attorneys for all children who wind up in immigration courts.

Belatedly joining the other Democratic presidential hopefuls, who criticized the raids more than two weeks ago, Mrs. Clinton said the families from Central America who have flooded across the border in recent years deserve a chance to make their case for claiming asylum.

She also blasted the Homeland Security Department for how it has conducted the raids, which have netted 121 immigrants — about one-tenth of a percent of the number of illegal immigrant family members who have stormed the U.S.-Mexico line since the beginning of fiscal year 2014.

“Our immigration enforcement efforts should be humane and conducted in accordance with due process, and that is why I believe we must stop the raids happening in immigrant communities,” Mrs. Clinton said, adding that the raids “have sown fear” among immigrants.

She said there are better ways to enforce laws against illegal immigrants — though it was unclear what she had in mind. She has previously called for granting legal status to most of them and vowed to go beyond the executive actions Mr. Obama has taken to grant tentative deportation amnesty.

Mrs. Clinton’s move puts her on the opposite side of the leading Republicans, who have called for an immigration crackdown and promised to try to deport most illegal immigrants.

The former secretary of state had been under fire from immigrant rights groups, who praised her two chief opponents, Sen. Bernard Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who quickly and vehemently opposed the raids when word of them leaked at Christmastime.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign said at the time that she had concerns but didn’t go as far as Mr. Sanders, who has called for a full deportation amnesty for more than 1 million illegal immigrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The illegal immigrants being targeted in the raids all came to the U.S. within the past two years as part of the surge, have exhausted all of their chances for appeal, and do not have pending claims for asylum.

The actual number of people targeted is minuscule, totaling 121 out of a population of more than 100,000 who crossed the border in 2014 and 2015.

But activists have elevated the raids to a major symbolic dividing line and rallied outside the White House last week. Hispanic Democrats in Congress are circulating a petition demanding that Mr. Obama grant leniency to the illegal immigrants in question, saying they should be treated not as illegal immigrants but as refugees.

Some Democrats have even accused Mr. Obama of a type of racism, saying he has shown a hemispheric bias by welcoming Syrian refugees but taking a sterner line toward those from Latin America.

Of the 121 immigrants nabbed in the raids in North Carolina, Georgia and Texas, a dozen have had their deportations stopped by a single immigration judge, said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican.

He called the stays of deportation “highly unusual” and urged the administration to overrule the immigration judge and see the deportations through.

“These stays appear to be an abuse of authority and an affront to the rule of law,” he wrote in a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Mr. Goodlatte also said that relaxing the rules would only entice more Central Americans to make the journey to the U.S. border — a stance the administration itself has made in court.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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