They are “undocumented and unafraid.” That’s the message six immigration reform activists sent authorities at the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona on Monday. Their method of delivery once more was in the form of an act of civil disobedience: they chained themselves outside the facility to protest against the deportationo f undocumented immigrants held there. Their goal: to shut down the deportation process by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“Even with the government shut down, the deportation machine keeps running,” said Marisa Franco, campaign organizer for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, or NDLON. “Keeping our families together is essential to our community even if tearing them apart is still seen as an essential aspect of the government.”
Last week the group successfully prevented deportation buses from leaving a Tucson, Ariz., courthouse when they shut down Operation Streamline, a program that prosecutes those who enter illegally through the federal criminal justice system instead of the civil immigration system.
No one in the Phoenix ICE press office was available to comment on the demonstration; a voicemail message said the spokesperson will return to work after the “funding hiatus.”
Congress is turning a blind eye to the 2013 immigration reform bills awaiting action in the House. At the same time, House Republicans, who have rejected the Democratic concept of reform, which includes providing a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., have been working on their own piecemeal legislation. But they are just as busy as Democrats trying to prevent another fast-approaching fiscal crisis. On Oct. 17, the U.S. is at risk of default if the government’s borrowing authority is not extended. The fallout could trigger global economic problems, economists have warned.
Meanwhile, immigration reform has majority support among the American public, polls have shown. And President Barack Obama, whom advocates have been calling upon to end deportation through executive order, has been racking up record rates of illegal immigrant deportations. The number of expulsions was 392,000 in 2011 alone, according to the Pew Research Center.
“We have come too far to accept another year of political games in Washington,” Franco said. “If those in the Beltway will not lead, immigrant communities everywhere else will set an example for them to follow. Until the President stops deportations, we will stop them ourselves.”