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  • Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign event at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, Jan. 8, 2016.

    Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign event at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, Jan. 8, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 10 January 2016

The treatment of migrants and refugees is likely to remain a major issue on the campaign trail in the United States.

Democratic presidential hopeful and self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders reiterated his opposition to U.S. President Barack Obama's mass deportations of Central American migrants, reported AP.

"I do not agree with (Obama) on his policy toward deportation," said Sanders during a campaign event Saturday in Iowa.

Sanders also criticized his Republican rival, Donald Trump, saying he would, “do everything I can to stand up to the Donald Trumps of the world and their bigotry and their xenophobia."

Trump's far-right rhetoric has made the issue of migrants and refugees a hot topic in the United States. He even attempted to take credit for the mass deportation efforts by U.S. officials after a Washington Post article revealed the plans just ahead of Christmas.

"We need to take steps to protect children and families seeking refuge here, not cast them out,” said Sanders after news of the deportation plan emerged.

Despite widespread criticism, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement together with the Department of Homeland Security have followed up on their intention to deport thousands of families.

OPINION: US Should Legalize Mexican and Central American Migrants Now!

​The wave of deportations began shortly after the new year with the detention of families in Atlanta, Georgia. That was followed up with the mass deportation of hundreds of Guatemalan migrants and asylum-seekers.

Several Central American countries are experiencing an explosion of violent crime, largely due to impunity and the collaboration between state security officials and organized crime groups.

Many families have been forced to flee to the United States to escape the rampant violence. The United Nations has asked U.S. officials to treat the newcomers as refugees and not to deport them.

The decision to raid homes to conduct deportations, unprecedented in modern U.S. history, is proving to be highly controversial and is likely to continue to be a contentious issue on the campaign trail.
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