Activists Demand End to Deportations, Family Breakups

Activists gathered at the State Capitol to demand that immigrant families be kept together in this country.EXPAND
Activists gathered at the State Capitol to demand that immigrant families be kept together in this country.
Griselda Nevarez

Migrant advocates today announced a November 20 march against deportations and family separations that will take place on the one-year anniversary of President Obama's executive action on immigration.

Last November, the president announced a series of orders on immigration that he said were meant to prioritize the deportations of “felons, not families.”

But a Texas judge blocked most of the measures from taking effect after 26 states, including Arizona, joined in filing a lawsuit. The fate of Obama's executive actions now rests in the hands of a three-judge U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals panel that has been deliberating for more than three months.

“It’s going to be a year since the president’s announcement . . . but all we’ve gotten over the last year is more deportations,” Carlos Garcia, director of the immigrant rights group Puente, said today at a rally outside the state Capitol.

“So we stand here today as a united community to say that we’re not going to take it,” he continued, “that we’re marching to demand an end to the separation of families and an end to detention and deportation.”

The march is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. that Friday outside the State Capitol, where activists will call on Governor Doug Ducey to drop Arizona from the lawsuit. It is to continue on to the Fourth Avenue Jail and conclude at the Phoenix Police Department.

Obama’s immigration actions would've created a new program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). The program would’ve provided millions of undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to live and work in the United States without fear of immediate deportation.

The president’s actions also would've expanded another deferred-action program for undocumented youth who came to the country before age 16. That program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), was first announced in 2012.

The DAPA and expanded DACA provisions are mainly what plaintiffs are challenging in the lawsuit before the 5th Circuit. 

Attending today's event were people like Rosa Maria Soto, an undocumented mother who would’ve qualified for the DAPA program. She came to the U.S. from Mexico more than 15 years ago.

“When the president announced his executive actions, I was filled with so many illusions,” Soto said. “I felt that I was finally going to be fully integrated into society and feel protected, because I would have a legal presence in this country.”

But even though the DAPA program still is blocked by the suit, she hasn’t lost hope: “I’ve always had the optimism, the faith, and the confidence that something good will come.”

Garcia said there are undocumented immigrants whose deportation cases are getting reopened because — under an Obama action that wasn't challenged in the suit — prior criminal convictions now make them a priority.

He pointed to Adriana Bonilla’s husband as an example. The father of two U.S.-citizen children was arrested for driving under the influence in 2011 and was put into deportation proceedings. But the deportation order was dropped and his case was closed after the DUI case was settled.

“Just when we thought that this nightmare had ended, in August, we got his deportation order in the mail,” Bonilla said. “He wanted to do the right thing so he presented himself to immigration and was deported that day.”

She added, “If President Obama doesn’t want to separate families like mine, why do deportations continue to happen [in his administration]?”

The planned march is being organized by a coalition of local immigrant- and worker-rights organizations, including Puente, Mi Familia Vota, LUCHA, Neighborhood Ministries, and the Arizona Dream Act Coalition.

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