Immigration Reform 2013: Undocumented Handcuff Themselves To White House Fence, Promise More Civil Unrest

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Immigration Rally Chicago July 2013 Getty
A U.S. immigration reform rally in Chicago.

A handful of undocumented immigrants were arrested after they handcuffed themselves to the White House fence Wednesday morning, calling on President Barack Obama to stop deportation.

Frustrated with Congress' stalled effort to move a bill to the president’s desk for his signature, the immigrants and some immigration-reform advocates are calling for more civil disobedience across the country to pressure Obama to take executive action if Congress won't act.

The crowd that gathered could be heard in a video feed chanting “yes, we can” and “not one more, stop deportation.” The feed showed two of the activists being arrested, then was cut off.  

“We want Obama to take action,” said Marisa Franco, campaign manager at National Day Laborer Organizing Network, or NDLON. “He has campaigned as the champion of our community. He’s overseen record deportations. It’s unacceptable. He cannot call himself champion when he’s deporter in chief.”

The Obama administration made a record 1.5 million deportations in his first term.

During an interview on Tuesday with Spanish-language network Telemundo, Obama said it is “not an option” to use executive action to halt the deportation of the parents of children brought illegally to America. A year ago the president used such actions to give children a reprieve.

What we can do is then carve out the DREAM Act, saying that young people who have basically grown up here are Americans that we should welcome,” Obama said. “We’re not going to have them operate under a cloud, under a shadow. But if we start broadening that, then essentially I would be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally. So that’s not an option.”

In response to Obama's interview, Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the NDLON, said the demand for Obama to stop deportations is only growing louder.

“Our community will not take ‘no’ for an answer,” he said. “Unless the President alters course, he risks cementing his legacy as having presided over the most anti-immigrant administration in history. History books will blame the President and not Congress for a hypocritical and shameful period of immigrant expulsion.”

Those word were echoed by other advocacy groups.

“The only ‘no’ we’ll accept is no more deportations,” said Tomas Martinez, a member of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights. “The President can’t deny he has the power and the responsibility to stop deportations. We’re being told to wait for reform but waiting is not an option when 1,200 of us are being deported each day."

The undocumented immigrants and advcoates plan to continue their self-described civil disobedience next month in Arizona, where they will gather for the same cause from Oct.12 to Oct. 14. At that point the call will be for national action to shut down the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, the agency responsible for enforcing the federal immigration laws.

“When our community loses its fear, we’re capable of anything,” Maria Cruz Ramirez, a mother of three undocumented children, from Phoenix, Ariz., in a statement. “My children have taught me that. Until the  president stops deportations, we will begin to stop them ourselves. What other option do we have? What would you do if ICE came to take your loved one away?”

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