Illegal immigrants chained themselves to a gate and blocked a bus in Phoenix on Wednesday in an effort to stop the Obama administration from deporting other illegal immigrants, according to activists who said the move marks an escalation in civil disobedience.
Six illegal immigrants were arrested for protesting, including four who chained themselves to the gate at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s facility, and another two who led an effort to stand in front of the bus, activists said. All were released by the Federal Protective Service, which polices government buildings.
All of them are here illegally, though they have been granted tentative legal status under President Obama’s non-deportation policy for young adults, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
“I am doing this because I am so fed up with people playing games with our lives,” Ray Jose, one of those arrested, said in a statement released by one of the activist groups. “My mom and my dad are getting tired. My dad cannot do physical labor any more. It is for the sake of my family, who sacrificed so much for me, that I am ready to do this.”
Young illegal immigrants who qualified for Mr. Obama’s non-deportation policy, and are now here in a tentative legal status, have become some of the most outspoken advocates for an overhaul of the immigration system.
Even as Congress debates what to do about immigration, the activists are demanding the Obama administration put a halt to all deportations, arguing that their family members are still in danger of deportation.
Until now, the efforts to halt deportations have chiefly been confined to protests or lobbying members of Congress to pressure the administration into releasing specific illegal immigrants.
Last week, that pressure succeeded in halting the deportation of an illegal immigrant in Ohio who is the chief provider for his family, including a son who has cerebral palsy.
The man previously had been deported but sneaked back into the country, making him a prime candidate for deportation under the administration’s policy of targeting repeat offenders. But the lobby campaign by activists succeeded in winning a one-year stay of deportation for the man.
This week’s action in Arizona went further, however. The Fox television affiliate in Phoenix reported that authorities had to use bolt cutters to unchain the activists from the gate.
All told, six activists were arrested but all were released, the station reported.
A call to the Phoenix ICE office was not returned.
Last month, several dozen activists blocked Independence Avenue in front of the U.S. Capitol in an act of civil disobedience. They were arrested.
The protesters in Arizona this week were arrested for obstructing the entrance to a federal building and refusing to leave when ordered. The Federal Protective Service released them after a records check showed they didn’t have criminal histories.
They were never taken into custody by immigration authorities.