Immigrant rights activists attempted to block the road to federal immigration agents’ headquarters in Atlanta on Monday, demanding President Obama stop deporting anymore illegal immigrants after last week’s Supreme Court stalemate.
Led by the Not1More campaign, which webcast the protest, the demonstrators called Mr. Obama to hamstring U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the deportation agency, saying it’s up to the administration to protect illegal immigrants now.
“We are defending the security and stability of our families, sending a direct message to the Obama administration,” said Carlos Medina, a member of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights. “We know that he has the ability to stop deportations at any given time. Our fight will not stop.”
The Supreme Court issued a tie ruling last week that left in place a lower court’s injunction blocking Mr. Obama’s broad amnesty program, which would have granted tentative legal status and work permits to as many as 5 million illegal immigrants.
Mr. Obama says his hands are now tied, and he won’t try anymore executive actions.
But activists say he could do more — including stopping all deportations.
Mr. Obama has already taken great strides toward that, issuing guidance that puts more than 9 million of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. out of any danger of deportation. The remaining illegal immigrants who can still be deported under his rules either have serious criminal records or admit they came to the U.S. after 2013.
Activists say that’s not enough. They question whether old criminal convictions should still be counted, and say many of the recent arrivals — particularly those from Central America — should be treated as refugees rather than as illegal immigrants.
“Deport la migra, not the people,” the activists chanted as they rallied in Atlanta. “La migra” is the Hispanic community’s slang term for immigration agents.
The Supreme Court’s ruling last week was a devastating blow to the hopes of illegal immigrants who had been counting on Mr. Obama’s amnesty to grant normal lives to millions who are living in the U.S. without authorization.
Justices split 4-4, and the tie ruling left in place an appeals court decision that held Mr. Obama broke immigration law by creating a new program to grant work permits, and the taxpayer benefits that come along with that, to parents of children who do have permanent legal status.
Mr. Obama called the ruling “heartbreaking” but said he had to abide by it.
He said, however, that the ruling does not affect his new “priorities,” which effectively order immigration agents not to bother deporting most illegal immigrants.
Activists point to a handful of cases in which illegal immigrants with decades-old convictions have been caught and deported. They argue Mr. Obama is padding his deportation numbers through inhumane enforcement.
But the president has drastically cut deportations of immigrants from the interior of the U.S. — down from 135,000 in 2012 to just 63,000 last year. Almost all of those had criminal records.
Indeed, The Washington Times calculated that an illegal immigrant living in the interior of the U.S. has a less-than-1 percent chance of being deported in any year — and that rate is even smaller for those without criminal records.