Illegal immigrants blockaded a federal office that handles deportations in Atlanta on Tuesday morning, and later in the day others in Chicago chained themselves to the wheels of a bus they said was headed to the airport on a deportation run.
The moves were designed to call attention to President Obama’s deportation policies, which the immigrant-rights activists say have gone too far. They want the president to use executive authority to stop almost all deportations.
“Undocumented, unafraid,” the protesters chanted in Atlanta. “No papers, no fear.”
Late last week, the Obama administration said it would allow illegal-immigrant relatives of U.S. troops and veterans to apply for “parole in place,” which would allow them to remain in the country. The activists Tuesday said they want the same considerations for all illegal immigrants.
“If the president can stop the deportations of military families, he can stop breaking apart other families as well,” one of the Atlanta protesters, Marisela Medina, said in a statement issued by the organizers as the protest was underway. “All my children think about is the day I could be taken away. Instead, the president should grant relief to my family and all families. What is he waiting for?”
Similar protests have hindered immigration authorities in Arizona, California and Louisiana in recent months. They are all part of the Not One More campaign.
The activists targeted the Chicago bus in part because it had two high-profile illegal immigrants who have been the subject of an effort to halt their deportation: Octavio Nava-Cabrera, who was put into deportation proceedings after being arrested in a traffic stop, and Brigido Acosta Luis, who the activists said has two U.S. citizen daughters. Immigrant-rights groups said neither man deserves to be deported.
But U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said those two both fell under the deportation guidelines the administration has laid out.
ICE spokeswoman Gail Montenegro said Nava-Cabrera had been deported once before and illegally returned, and he had been convicted of fraud. For his part, Acosta-Luis was deported in 2002, illegally re-entered and was convicted earlier this year of shoplifting.
“As a previously removed alien with a criminal conviction, Mr. Acosta-Luis clearly falls within ICE’s enforcement priorities,” Ms. Montenegro said.
U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials in Atlanta and Chicago said they support the rights of protesters to make their views heard, “within the confines of the law.”
Mr. Obama has said he doesn’t believe he can unilaterally halt all deportations, though his administration has steadily carved out individual categories of people that it says it will no longer try to remove.
Chief among those are young illegal immigrants, who call themselves “Dreamers,” and who are considered among the most sympathetic figures in the immigration debate because most were brought by a parent to the U.S. as minors with no say in the decision.
As of August, more than 450,000 young illegal immigrants had been granted tentative legal status under that policy.