A massive weekend raid netted several hundred illegal immigrants who were either car wash workers or customers in Phoenix, according to immigrant-rights groups who say the move highlights the ongoing tensions within President Obama’s deportation policy.
Even as Capitol Hill lawmakers debate whether to move on an immigration bill this year, many immigrant-rights advocates are lobbying Mr. Obama to halt all deportations, and they have picked several cases to make a stand.
Just last week, activists in Ohio demanded a halt to the deportation of a man whose son suffers from cerebral palsy. The Obama administration complied, granting him a one-year stay.
The man previously had been deported and returned anyway, so he would likely qualify as a repeat-violator — one of the categories the Obama administration says it still does want to target for deportation. But the man’s backers say this is a special humanitarian case because he’s the primary caretaker for his family.
Meanwhile, advocates have planned a news conference Monday in Phoenix to protest what they said was one of the biggest immigration raids in recent history.
With Congress on vacation, the immigration debate has shifted away from Washington and to the home districts of House lawmakers, and to Republicans in particular, who are wrestling with how to tackle the issue.
GOP leaders in the House have signaled they’ll try to have legislation on the chamber floor in October, and will take up a series of bills, including improving border security and interior enforcement, rewriting the legal immigration system and at least some effort at legalizing young adult illegal immigrants.
A “step-by-step approach is the way to do it with enforcement coming first,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” program Sunday.
Mr. Goodlatte again appeared to oppose giving what he called “a special pathway to citizenship” to illegal immigrants, saying that gives them an advantage over others who waited in line to enter the country the right way.
Mr. Obama and fellow Democrats, though, have said an explicit path to citizenship for most of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. is a non-negotiable ingredient for any bill to clear Congress.
Such a path was part of a bill that passed the Senate in June, 68-32, with 14 Republicans joining Democrats to clear it.
Back in their home districts, House Republicans have been pressed at town halls and in columns and newspaper editorials to take a stand on the Senate bill.
Some Republicans have embraced it, but most appear to be saying they agree with parts of it, but want to see the House go its own route.
Immigration-rights advocates say the standoff leaves illegal immigrants vulnerable to deportation.
Even though the Obama administration has granted explicit or implicit stays of deportation to many of them, it is planning to deport about 400,000 immigrants this year. That means about 40,000 immigrants will be deported during Congress’ summer vacation.
The weekend raids in Phoenix netted several hundred illegal immigrants, though most of them are being released, according to local news reports that said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency responsible for interior enforcement, was targeting the car wash owners.
Still, the roundup angered advocates.
“If this isn’t an immigration raid, what is it?” said Nataly Cruz an organizer with Puente Arizona, who said the illegal immigrants should be treated as witnesses to the business owners’ crimes, not as criminals themselves.
“ICE operations terrorize our entire community. And despite what they say, there are children who went to sleep without their parents last night and woke up this morning not knowing if they’d see them again,” she said.