WASHINGTON – Immigration reform advocates rallied Thursday in front of the White House, where they called on President Barack Obama to “to stop the deportation machine” that is splitting up families like theirs.
The protesters, many of them from Arizona, said the president should use his executive authority to stop deportations of immigrants here illegally as long as immigration reform legislation is stalled in Congress.
“We have seen a lot of folks within both parties play with the lives of undocumented people … many times for political reasons,” said Erika Andiola, an Arizona resident at the Washington event. She said her mother and brother, who are in this country illegally, are currently being detained in Arizona.
The rally was organized by Not1More, the same group that plans a weekend of action across the country, with marches or vigils planned in scores of cities.
Advocates had been pushing for congressional action on an immigration overhaul that stalled in the House, but have since shifted tactics and are now trying to pressure the president to halt deportations until Congress acts.
They point to the level of deportations under the current administration, which they say are nearing the 2 million mark since the president took office.
About 20 protesters – who appeared to be outnumbered by reporters Thursday – gathered outside the White House for the hourlong rally, holding signs and giving speeches.
Arizona resident Naira Zapata told the rally that she was two months pregnant with her daughter, Nyla Rosales, when her husband was detained last year. She said he has yet to see his infant daughter, who was with Zapata at the White House rally.
“We need the president to change the system,” Zapata said through an interpreter. “We voted for the president and we want him to vote for us by changing the system so that he can let us live without fear.”
Andiola said it is difficult to be heard in Arizona, with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the self-described “toughest sheriff in the country,” and the “papers please” provisions of the state immigration get-tough law, SB 1070. She said family members are being detained in the state and nothing is being done about it at the national level.
Andiola said in Arizona she and other families were ignored at the local level, so she came to Washington to speak at the president?s doorstep.
“It has got to this point that we need to actually bring it here so that (Washington) can actually, like, listen to the people who are going through this … on the state level,” she said.
Not1More member Tania Unzueta said the group will stay outside the White House until the president takes action to end the deportations that are taking their family members away.
“We can’t wait anymore, our families can’t wait anymore,” Unzueta said. “We’ll be … here in front of the White House indefinitely until we know that he (the president) has heard us.”