About two dozen immigrant rights advocates and religious leaders were arrested Monday outside the White House as they participated in a civil disobedience action aimed at calling on President Barack Obama to stop deportations.
They prayed and sang in front of the White House, refusing to leave until police officers moved in to arrest them. Those participating in the civil disobedience action included two United Methodist bishops and family members of undocumented immigrants who are currently in detention. They were loaded into white vans and taken away.
While the arrests took place, dozens of people stood several feet away and shouted, “Not one more deportation.” Others prayed for Obama to reverse his immigration policies before his administration reaches 2 million deportations, which would surpass the number of deportations that occurred under President George W. Bush.
Those arrested Monday said one way Obama can stop deportations is by using his executive authority to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – which allows Dreamers to stay and work in the United States temporarily – to benefit more undocumented immigrants.
The civil disobedience action was organized by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, which has put together similar actions in states all across the country as part of the “Not1More Deportation” campaign. NDLON’s executive director, Pablo Alvarado, was among those arrested Monday.
“I voted for President Obama, and I don’t want to see his legacy be that of the president that has deported more people than anybody else in the history of the country,” Alvarado told VOXXI prior to his arrest. “It’s not too late for him to turn around and stop the deportations.”
He added that an estimated 1,100 people are deported every day. Among those who are deported are undocumented immigrants who would be allowed to stay in the U.S. under an immigration reform deal.
Obama insists he can’t stop deportations
Obama has consistently said he cannot legally expand the DACA program or take any other actions to stop a large number of deportations.Most recently, he told House Democrats — many of whom have been urging him to stop deportations — at their annual meeting on Friday that there are limits to what his administration can do unilaterally to reduce the number of deportations.
Obama has also argued that the best way to stop deportations is by getting Congress to pass an immigration reform bill. But with the chances of passing any immigration reform legislation this year looking increasingly dim, Alvarado said the president must act to stop deportations.
“The president has both the legal authority and the moral obligation to stop deportations,” he said. “If he doesn’t want to do it, it’s not because he can’t. It’s because he doesn’t have the political will to do it.”
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, one of the two United Methodist bishops arrested Monday, agreed with Alvarado that Obama should take action to stop deportations. Prior to her arrest, Carcaño said in a statement she was willing to be arrested in order to “tell the president that compassion on immigration starts with the stroke of his pen.”
“We know that the consequences will be minor for us compared to the grave reality undocumented people live with on a constant basis,” she added. “Far too many families are being ripped apart by the injustice of our broken immigration system; a system that President Obama can begin to repair by turning his own policies around before he reaches the milestone of two million deportations. We’ll be praying that he does so.”
In conjunction with the civil disobedience action outside the White House, two hunger strikes were initiated in Pennsylvania and Arizona. The hunger strikes include undocumented immigrants who have family members that are currently in detention centers and are facing deportation. Lourdes Hernandez, a mother of three living in Arizona whose husband has been detained for more than a year, said she will be fasting for 14 days.
“My family is not complete without him, I need him home now,” Hernandez said in a statement. “I am fasting so that everyone knows that I will put my body on the line to keep my family together.”
Originally published on VOXXI as Activists protesting deportations arrested outside the White House