" />
partlycloudy
Monday July 6th, 2015 6:10PM

Immigrant activists push to stop deportations

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
DENVER (AP) -- President Barack Obama's surprise announcement last week that his administration would change its deportation policy to become more "humane" shows how the immigration battle has narrowed after months of congressional deadlock.

As recently as last year, immigrant rights activists, along with an unusually broad coalition of business, labor and religious groups, were united in their demand that Congress pass a sweeping bill to both remove the threat of deportation from many of the 11 million people here illegally and eventually make them citizens. But now activists just want to stop deportations.

They have pressured Obama to limit the number of people sent back overseas, which led to his administration's announcement Thursday of a review of deportation policies after a meeting with the Hispanic Congressional Caucus. Activists also are pushing state legislatures to end participation in a program to help federal immigration authorities deport people and chaining themselves across entrances to local jails or immigration detention centers.

"We need relief and we need it soon," said Reyna Montoya, 23, of Phoenix, whose father is fighting deportation and who co-wrote an open letter with dozens of other young activists urging immigrant rights groups to stand down on the citizenship issue. "People who are directly affected just want peace. Later on they'll worry about becoming citizens."

Immigrant rights groups still want to win citizenship for many who are in the U.S. without legal permission. But the shift to deportation relief shows the desperation felt by immigrant communities as deportations have continued, even as the president and many in Congress say they support changing the law to allow some of those people to stay in the U.S.

It also represents the possible splintering of the diverse coalition for an immigration bill that would overhaul the system by expanding citizenship. And the more aggressive, confrontational tactics also raise the risk of a public backlash.

"One picture of a cop with a bloody nose and it's all over for these people," Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors greater restrictions on immigration, said of the activists.

The change comes after many expected Congress to pass a sweeping immigration overhaul last year. Republicans have been torn between some in their base who want to step up deportations and others alarmed at how Hispanics, Asians and other fast-growing communities are increasingly leaning Democratic.

The Senate in June passed a bipartisan bill to legalize, and eventually grant citizenship to, many of the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally. But the bill died in the Republican-controlled House. Republican leaders there floated a proposal that could stop short of citizenship for many people here illegally. But Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, acknowledged it stood little chance of passing.

Meanwhile, Obama's administration is on track to having deported 2 million people during the past six years. Critics say that's more than President George W. Bush's administration deported, though some who push for a tougher immigration policy argue the Obama administration's numbers are inflated.

Obama already has eased some deportations. In 2012, as he was trying to generate enthusiasm among Hispanic voters for his re-election, Obama granted people who were brought to the country illegally as children the right to work in the United States and protection from deportation if they had graduated high school or served in the military. Advocates are pressuring the president to expand that to other people here illegally. The administration has said it cannot make sweeping changes without Congress, and it is unclear what steps it will take after its review is completed to limit deportations.

Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said it's inevitable that Obama makes changes. "This is a White House that has told the immigrant rights community that they had to build up enforcement massively to create the political climate for comprehensive immigration reform," Newman said. "Well, that gambit failed."

Roy Beck of Numbers USA, which pushes for a more restrictive immigration policy, said expanding deportation relief could also fail. "It looks radical," he said of the notion of sharply limiting removals.

Activists are willing to take that risk and have grown tired of waiting for Washington.

Late last year the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition's members acknowledged there were no hopes of a big immigration bill anytime soon. They began pushing the local sheriff's office to end its participation in the Secure Communities program, which checks the immigration status of anyone booked into local jail and refers people here illegally to federal authorities. Last month, six coalition members were arrested after locking themselves together to block entrance to the county jail.

"We decided we needed to change our focus because this is a more winnable campaign," Executive Director Alejandro Laceres said. Of Congress, he added, "We don't have the luxury of moving at their pace."

In Arizona, activists have launched a series of protests, including blocking buses transporting immigrants to courts. "We just realized we are losing too many people in our community," Carlos Garcia of the group Puente Arizona said in a telephone interview minutes before he was arrested outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix. Worries about whether their tactics could cause a backlash "go out the window," he added. "Our heads hurt from thinking about the politics around it."

At the state level, activists have had notable successes. The biggest victory came last year in California when Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Trust Act, barring California police from participating in Secure Communities. Immigrant rights groups are trying to replicate that legislation in Illinois and Massachusetts.

Driving the efforts are cases like that of Abel Bautista, who was stopped for traveling 8 miles per hour over the speed limit on a Colorado interstate in 2012 and has been fighting deportation ever since. At first he was not too worried, because he expected an immigration overhaul last year to make the case moot. Now he worries about the lack of legislative action and the trauma inflicted on his three U.S. citizen children as his case drags on.

"We're just left hanging at loose ends," Bautista said in an interview, recounting how his children's performance at school has deteriorated and how they sob when he leaves for court hearings. "If the community unifies and has more demonstrations, maybe they will listen to us."
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 6 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 6 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 6 months ago )
U.S. News
State DOT awards $48M contract for NE Ga. road project
The state Department of Transportation has awarded a $47.8 million contract for nine miles of work on a northeast Georgia road.
9:37AM ( 6 months ago )
Business News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 6 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 6 months ago )
Maysville man dies from Banks County wreck
The Georgia State Patrol reports that alcohol and/or drugs were factors a single-vehicle wreck that claimed the life of a Maysville man in Banks County Tuesday night.
11:07AM ( 6 months ago )
Local/State News
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 6 months ago )
Conviction of Putin foe sets off protest in Moscow
President Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as a vendetta by the Kremlin, triggering one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years.
6:03PM ( 6 months ago )
More Georgians signing up for health insurance
A federal report says more Georgians have selected health insurance plans through a federally facilitated marketplace.
4:16PM ( 6 months ago )
Politics
Greece enters uncharted territory after referendum 'no' vote
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece lurched into uncharted territory and an uncertain future in Europe's common currency Sunday after voters overwhelmingly rejected demands by international creditors for mor...
7:06AM ( 11 hours ago )
Man shoots off firework from top of his head, dies instantly
CALAIS, Maine (AP) — A 22-year-old man who was drinking and celebrating the Fourth of July tried to launch a firework off the top of his head, killing him instantly, authorities said Sunday.Devon Stap...
8:41PM ( 21 hours ago )
Back at work: Congress facing busy agenda, funding deadline
WASHINGTON (AP) — Members of Congress return from July Fourth fireworks and parades Tuesday facing a daunting summer workload and an impending deadline to fund the government or risk a shutdown in the...
3:02PM ( 1 day ago )
Obama: Freedom is paid for by men and women of US military
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says U.S. service members make it possible to enjoy the "incredible blessings" in the greatest country on earth.He says "freedom is not free" but is paid for b...
12:45AM ( 1 day ago )
At least 14 hurt in deck collapse at North Carolina beach
EMERALD ISLE, N.C. (AP) — A deck collapsed at a North Carolina beach house as a family got set to take a group photo Saturday evening, leaving at least 14 people injured with two of those in critical...
11:58PM ( 1 day ago )