In advance of President Obama's expected announcement of big changes to the nation's immigration policies, hundreds of demonstrators staged a protest Thursday in Washington, D.C., calling for "humane and compassionate administrative relief" for undocumented immigrants. About 145 of the activists, including at least one elected official and many organizational leaders, were arrested following a sit-down rally that blocked the sidewalk outside the White House.
Following a mile-and-a-half-long march from the headquarters of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, protesters hung banners and flowers on the fence outside the White House before sitting down on the sidewalk. "About 145 people were then peacefully handcuffed by the U.S. Park Police and taken in vans and buses to a detention facility in Anacostia," the Washington Post reports.
They chanted "Si se puede!" and "Not one more!" and children wore T-shirts that pleaded: "Don’t Deport My Mom." Marchers carried a banner that read, "Pres. Obama Stop Deporting."
The demonstration was specifically focused on the negative effects of deportation on families who are separated as a result of U.S. policies. Ana Sol Gutierrez, a Democrat serving in Maryland House of Delegates who was one of those arrested during the action, said U.S. policies are dividing families who have been in the United States for years. And Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, who was also taken into custody, said "immigration reform that respects women and families is a feminist issue."
Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA de Maryland, a Latino advocacy group that organized Thursday’s demonstration, was also arrested. “Today, on this national day to fight for families, we call on President Obama to do everything in his power to enact humane and compassionate administrative relief that will end our suffering,” he said.
All those who were detained were processed and released by last night.
On Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported that Obama "is suggesting that he will defer his self-imposed deadline for announcing an expected change in immigration policy, as the White House wrestles with the political and legal dilemmas involved in making significant alterations without congressional approval.
"Fed up with congressional gridlock, the president has said he'll use his executive power to make changes. One proposal under discussion would delay a decision on the more sweeping and controversial changes under consideration until after the November midterm election, according to a White House official familiar with the discussions."
Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and National Immigration Law Center sued the federal government "to challenge its policies denying a fair deportation process to mothers and children who have fled extreme violence, death threats, rape, and persecution in Central America and come to the United States seeking safety."