WASHINGTON — Immigration activists are gearing up for a major day of action on Saturday directed squarely at President Barack Obama, demanding he halt deportations that split immigrants from their families and communities.
There will be about 80 events Saturday as part of the #Not1More campaign, the latest in a slew of upcoming and ongoing movements against deportations. The fact that they're not letting up — if anything, immigrant rights groups are becoming more vocal — shows that Obama's recent announcement that the Department of Homeland Security will review deportation policies isn't enough for many activists. They want action now, and they will stake out the White House, go without food and rally until they get it.
"We want to keep our families together," said Tania Unzueta, who is organizing the #Not1More campaign with the advocacy group National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
"We want to dismantle the deportation machine," she continued, on a call hosted by pro-reform group America's Voice. "We want to move the president to be the champion that he was elected to be and not the deporter-in-chief that he has become."
Deportations have hit record highs under Obama, but many came from along the border, and there have been policies put in place to target more criminals and repeat immigration offenders. Still, activists argue there have been far too many removals — likely about 2 million during Obama's presidency.
Along with the Saturday events, pro-reform groups and activists are planning a spate of rallies, protests and meetings meant to urge deportation relief and comprehensive immigration reform. A group of activists, including Dreamers and family members of immigrants in detention, announced at a Thursday press conference that advocates will maintain a daily presence for an indefinite period outside the White House. In front of a banner reading "Mr. President, Stop Deportation," members of the coalition said that groups from New York, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia and more would travel to Washington to take part.
"The time is now to stop deportations," Cesar Vargas, co-director of the Dream Action Coalition, said at the press conference. "Immigration reform has been stalled, and we need action now. Not in three months, not review. We need it now."
There has been a rift over whether to continue to push House Republicans to pass immigration reform or whether to put pressure on Obama to halt some deportations. Some groups are attempting to do both, and some argue it's time to recognize Congress isn't going to act, and if they want something to change, the president is the one who can do it.
Arturo Carmona, the co-founder of advocacy group Presente, said he expects politically-focused campaigns to continue, but that right now activists are increasingly concentrated on Obama, as his group has been for a while. Presente began its Obama Legacy Project last week to highlight the president's record on immigration, and is planning more actions in the coming weeks.
"The movement is headed toward coalescing around focusing on the president," Carmona said in an interview. "I think that the movement generally recognizes that that's the only viable policy solution."
But efforts targeting Congress are continuing as well. The group We Belong Together is holding a 48-hour fast on the National Mall next week, with 100 women expected to attend from around the country. They'll get support from nearly a dozen female members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), according to the organization.
The Fast for Families coalition, which held a month-long vigil without food on the National Mall last fall and is now touring around the country, is spending four days in Virginia to put pressure on Republicans, particularly House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).
Within the House, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is also focusing on both the GOP and the president. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) told reporters Friday that he expects some type of action from the president if Congress fails to act.
"Republicans can either see a grateful nation and a grateful immigrant community lining up for immigration status the Republicans helped draft, or they can watch the president and the Democrats do what they have to do without them," Gutierrez said on the call hosted by America's Voice. "Either way, I think a substantial number of immigrants are going to be lining up sometime later this year to apply for some sort of deportation relief, and I will be there helping them."