Peaceful protesters from 15 U.S. cities and from as many special interest groups converged in the District on Saturday to urge President Obama to take administrative action on issues involving undocumented immigrants.
The event featured hundreds of protesters chanting slogans in English and Spanish, including “Stop deportation,” “Sin papeles, sin miedo” (no papers, no fear) and a chant familiar to the president, “Si se puede” (yes we can). The demonstrations began at the Mall, went on to Freedom Plaza and ended up at the White House.
B. Loewe, 32, of Chicago, a spokesman with the National Day Laborer Organization Network, said the goal of the protest was to push the administration to expand provisions of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals administrative act to all undocumented immigrants. Loewe said the other goals are to end the Secure Community partnerships that requires law enforcement to share information with U.S. Immigration, Customs and Enforcement, as well as ending deportation of undocumented immigrants.
“The conversation has moved from can [Obama] act to will he, and what should he do,” Loewe said.
Marisa Franco, 36, of Phoenix, lead organizer with NDLON, said Obama could put an end to the immigrants’ suffering by simply picking up his pen.
“We hope he’s going to deliver on the promise he made to be a champion in chief, not a deporter in chief,” Franco said.
The Obama administration is planning to act on the immigration issue prior to the mid-term elections in November . Pressure has risen for the president to act with the spike in border-crossers, including unaccompanied children, many of whom are fleeing violence, gangs and drugs in their home countries, organizers of the protest said. Obama said he must act soon because the lack of legislation has depleted federal resources.
Hairo Cortes, 21, an undocumented immigrant from Santa Ana, Calif., said families come to the United States to flee difficult situations. His family, he said, were fleeing hunger and poverty in Guerrero, Mexico.
Cortes said he and his brother have deferred action because they are students at Santa Ana College, but his mother, who brought them to the U.S. 14 years ago, isn’t protected.
“People are just trying to survive,” Cortes said. “That process of trying to do it by the book is too long.”
Valencia Delaluz, a transgender woman from Veracruz, Mexico, spoke at the protest for the Familia Trans Queer Liberation Movement in support of equal rights for LGBTQ immigrants who are being detained. Though an interpreter, Delaluz said she was detained in San Diego for 1 1/2 months in a unit with 40 t0 50 men. She said she was harassed and assaulted by prisoners.
Delaluz said she is “suerte,” or lucky, because she had advocates fighting for her to help get her out and secure a year’s time to get citizenship.
Edmund Frost, 37, of Louisa, Va., said he drove to the event to show solidarity for undocumented immigrants because it’s a human rights issue.
“If we’re going to have a free flow of goods and products, what about people?” Frost asked.