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Protesters rally at White House as Obama-era deportations top 2 million

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WASHINGTON – Protesters rallied outside the White House again Tuesday, renewing demands that President Barack Obama halt deportations amid reports that they had surpassed the 2 million mark under his administration.

Several dozen protesters, including many from Arizona, held signs and shouted “2 million, too many,” with some criticizing Obama as the “deporter in chief.”

“I have been working with about 40 families who are suffering because of deportation,” said Natally Cruz, a caseworker with the immigration advocacy group Puente Movement in Phoenix. “This policy does more harm than good.”

The protesters called on Obama to sign an executive order halting deportations as long as Congress refuses to act on comprehensive immigration reform, a power they insist the president has.

But administration critics from the other side of the aisle dispute the suggestion that Obama can take that action on his own.

“Our nation has become lawless as a result of the administration picking and choosing which laws to enforce,” said Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott. “The first step in restoring the rule of law is holding Attorney General Eric Holder – our nation’s chief law enforcement officer – accountable for this administration’s blatant disregard of the Constitution.”

The latest rally came as reports indicated that the number of deportations since Obama took office just over five years ago has topped 2 million, a number that it took his Republican predecessor, President George W. Bush, eight years to achieve.

Department of Homeland Security officials did not return calls Tuesday seeking to confirm the number, but advocates said that they are confident it exceeded 2 million within the last few weeks, based on deportation numbers from the last five fiscal years.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported an average deportation rate of 1,009 people daily in fiscal 2013. If that rate held steady, the 2 million mark would have been hit 166 days after the Oct. 1 start of fiscal 2014 – on March 15.

“Deportation numbers are not made public right away and so projections are being made based on the fiscal year reports,” said Michael Earls, spokesman for America’s Voice, an immigration reform advocacy group. “Based on the rates from previous years, deportations are expected to hit 2 million by mid-March or early-April.”

Gosar charged that the administration’s “metrics are inconsistent, they have no idea who’s entering and leaving our nation, they failed to secure the border, and they refuse to administer immigration laws as they appear in the books.”

But to some protesters Tuesday, the number 2 million was often not as important as the number one – the one family member they can no longer see because of deportation. For Cynthia Diaz, that came on the night in May 2011 when her mother was taken from their Phoenix home and deported.

“My father woke me up screaming, ‘They’re taking your mother!’” Diaz told the rally Tuesday.

She said her mother has since been returned in the country, but is being held by authorities. She hopes to pressure the president to act, vowing to go on a hunger strike Tuesday and stay on it until her mother is back home or “for as long as my body is able.”