Activists arrested after Obama nixes stopping deportations
September 19, 2013
A day after President Obama told Telemundo’s Jose Díaz-Balart that it was “not an option” for him to halt deportations of undocumented parents, seven immigration activists were arrested in Washington, D.C. after chaining themselves to the White House fence.
One of the arrested today was Tomas Martinez, a member of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR). “The only ‘no’ we’ll accept, is no more deportations,” Martinez said. “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?”
In the Telemundo interview yesterday, Obama talked to Díaz-Balart about why he could not expand a halt to deportations beyond Dreamers, saying, “essentially, I would be ignoring the law in a way that I think would be very difficult to defend legally.”
After the interview was aired, Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network released a statement.
“The president’s statement is factually inaccurate. He has the power to reduce deportations, the legal authority to expand deferred action, and the political obligation to lead the national debate through bold action. In fact, courageous leadership will only galvanize momentum for reform and focus Congress’s attention on their constitutional duty to modernize immigration law.”
The National Day Laborer Organizing Network had planned the protest at the White House before Obama’s interview with Telemundo, but his reassertion that he would not use his executive powers to stop deportations further riled the protesting immigrants.
“I am tired of seeing so many families separated and the children who cry when they don’t see their father at home and question why their father is not there,” said Rodrigo Guzman, 37, a New York carpenter who was among those arrested.
Guzman and the other six arrested were fined $100 each on charges of failure to obey a lawful order, said Sgt. Paul Brooks of the U.S. Park Police.
All seven of the arrested are not legally in the country and some are already in deportation proceedings, although Guzman is not. Guzman, originally from Mexico City, Mexico, said the activists were prepared to pay fines with $100 each given to them by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
The debate over whether or not the president can and should halt deportations comes at a time when immigration reform advocates are stepping up the pressure on Congress to pass immigration reform legislation, which appears to have stalled.
During the interview last night, Obama was asked by Díaz-Balart whether immigration reform was “dead.”
Obama did not directly answer ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ instead saying “It shouldn’t be,” and adding that there were enough votes in the House in support of immigration and the only thing stopping a vote was that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), had not brought it to the floor. Yet groups as well as legislators on both sides of the aisle who support reform legislation worry time is running out as Congress is expected to debate the debt ceiling, Syria and other topics.