Immigration Protests Denounce Obama on Deportations
On Saturday, pro-immigration protesters carried out demonstrations throughout the U.S., even marching to the White House to denounce President Obama for deportations. Led by the National Day Labor Organizing Network, the protests were held on the date believed to mark the Obama administration’s deportation of two million people. Several thousands of protesters demonstrated in favor of immigration reform in 60 US cities, calling on President Obama to halt the deportations that protesters said separate people from family members.
In Washington, D.C., an estimated 250 activists marched to a park adjacent the White House. They carried signs denouncing President Obama as “Deporter in Chief,” based on the fact that his administration’s estimated two million deportations constitutes a higher figure for deportations than that of any previous administration. Another demonstration saw 100 protesters journeying over 60 miles from Phoenix, AZ to Eloy, AZ in order to march on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center. One woman said that her son had been in the Eloy Detention Center for almost three years.
Law enforcement made arrests in connection with at least two of the protests. In San Jose, CA, 12 protesters who occupied an intersection by sitting down in it were arrested, cited, and then released. In San Francisco, CA, 23 protesters were arrested on Friday afternoon near U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Offices, after they blocked an intersection. These acts of civil disobedience were carried out peacefully, without recourse to violence. All of the protests were held to encourage Obama to stop the deportations and reform the immigration policies denounced by the activists.
Protesters said President Obama can take action on immigration through the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), approved by the president in 2012. They argued that President Obama should use DACA to curb the deportations and grant work permits to undocumented youth. The protesters message was that the detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants is breaking up families, and denounced Obama for his administration’s record-breaking number of deportations.
President Obama is coming under renewed pressure to reform immigration from within political circles as well. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus recently drafted a new memo on immigration reform, which will be formally released on April 9. Like the protesters, the memo denounces the deportations for separating family members, and argues that President Obama should take action on immigration. Like the protesters, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus memo points to DACA as the answer, suggesting that President Obama should suspend deportations of the parents and siblings of those already covered by DACA to prevent thousands of children from being forced into the US foster care system when their parents have been deported.
The US has nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants, but Congress has not passed legalization legislation since 1986. The legal debate on the matter is convoluted, particularly about much authority President Obama actually has to reform immigration and curb the deportations denounced by the protesters. It is a partisan issue in Washington, where Republicans have expressed opposition to immigration reform, and arouses opposition from some sectors of the public as well. Still, analysts say, pressure is mounting on the president to at least curb deportation, and will only intensify if he does not act.
By Michael Schultheiss