Protesters want Obama to end mass deportations

April 7, 2014

(WBEZ/Yolanda Perdomo)
Demonstrators make their way through downtown Chicago protesting President Obama’s deportation record.

More than 200 people, including groups of children, are staging a two-day march drawing attention to mass deportations of undocumented immigrants. The protesters want the Obama administration to end the practice by executive order.

The march, which began this morning at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in downtown Chicago before heading west. It is an extension of this past weekend’s National Day of Action against deportations.

As of this month, around 2 million undocumented people have been deported since Barack Obama took office, which is approaching the record set by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Immigration reform advocates have shifted their focus recently  to putting an emphasis on the number of mass deportations. Previously their priority was pushing for immigration reform legislation. An immigration bill passed the U.S. Senate early last year but has stalled in the House since June).

“Two million (is) too many,” says Rosi Carrasco, with Organized Communities Against Deportations. “It is possible to stop deportations with the organization, determination, and strength of our community. President Obama can use his executive authority to avoid that detention centers continue to profit from human suffering.”

The Chicago-area protests will continue into tomorrow. Lawrence Benito is executive director of the Illinois Commission for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and he says the focus on mass deportations highlights the continued frustration he has with Obama -- who he said pledged to pursue immigration reform as an agenda item he would tackle during his second term.

“He promised our communities that passing immigration reform would be a priority,” says Benito. “Instead he has prioritized enforcement. He can remedy the situation while Congress debates immigration reform, through administrative relief.”

Advocates want the president to take the same approach he did in 2012 when he ended the deportation for so-called “Dreamers,” young people who were brought into the country with undocumented relatives. 

Marchers began their demonstration at ICE shortly after 10 a.m today. Their route wends through the city, including a stop in the heavily Latino South Side community of Pilsen, before decamping tonight in the western suburbs.

Tuesday’s events are scheduled to start at the Broadview Detention Center. That is where more people are scheduled to take part in civil disobedience protests.

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