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Civil Rights Groups Press Attorney General To Stop Prosecuting Border Crossings

"Criminalizing migration is profoundly immoral. The causes of migration are complex and varied, and migration per se poses no threat to public safety."

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WASHINGTON — A group of 170 civil rights and immigration organizations called on Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Tuesday to halt all prosecutions of undocumented immigrants for illegally crossing the border, especially of those seeking asylum in the United States.

In a letter to Lynch Tuesday, the organizations — which include the NAACP, ACLU, Jesuit groups, and others — expressed their "profound concern with the ongoing criminal prosecution by U.S. Attorneys of asylum seekers who have fled their countries seeking safety and of migrants who wish to reunite with their families in the United States. Federal criminal prosecution is the wrong response to immigration at our southern border."

"Criminalizing migration is profoundly immoral. The causes of migration are complex and varied, and migration per se poses no threat to public safety. Our nation can find far more humane and compassionate ways to respond to people crossing our southern border," the groups added in the letter.

The demand for an end to prosecutions for both illegal entry and re-entry comes as Republicans have become increasingly entrenched on border security issues, thanks in part to presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Trump has made the border a key focus of his campaign, using incendiary and largely unfounded claims about Mexican immigrants to argue for a wall along the southern border. With a small but vocal part of the GOP base reacting strongly to Trump's immigration stance, much of the party has begun moving to the right on the issue, and House Republicans are now planning a series of votes this fall on border security, legislation to end so-called "sanctuary cities" and other tough-on-immigration measures.

The letter appears to be an effort by immigration groups and their supporters to push back against that tide, which many worry could set back their effort to overhaul immigration laws for years.

But it's unclear how, if at all, sympathetic Lynch will be. President Obama has made his administration's record deportation levels a key talking point for demonstrating his border security credentials.

John Stanton is a senior national correspondent for BuzzFeed News. In 2014, Stanton was a recipient of the National Press Foundation’s 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting of Congress.

Contact John Stanton at john.stanton@buzzfeed.com.

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