Hundreds of immigrants and allies took to streets and squares across the country once again today in yet another effort to get the Obama administration to put a halt to its deportations, and to push Washington to pass immigration reform.
Rallies organized by immigration coalitions and on social media took place in New York, Los Angeles, Austin, and Denver.
In Austin, students organized by United We Dream, a national youth-led organization devoted to immigrants' rights, rallied for the second day in a row at the University of Texas, where President Obama delivered the keynote address at a summit marking the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.
Those at Wednesday’s demonstration sang classic protest songs from the civil rights era and held signs that read “Obama’s civil rights legacy: 2,000,000 deportations.” On Thursday, at least three people were arrested ahead of Obama’s speech after crossing into a secured area at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.
The irony that pro-immigration protesters got arrested at an event commemorating civil rights was not lost on critics. Nor was the fact that the keynote speech was to be given by the president, who has recently come under attack for his administration’s harsh enforcement against undocumented immigrants.
More than three million people have been shipped out of the country over the last decade, and two million of them are since Obama took office — a dubious accomplishment that has earned him the label “deporter-in-chief.”
“It’s hypocritical that the President — who has presided over the most deportations in the history of this country — give a keynote speech at the Civil Rights Summit,” United We Dream said in a statement. “It’s President Obama’s harsh policies that have torn so many families apart.”
Students protested deportations at the University of Texas, Austin, where Obama delivered an address on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.
Meanwhile, in Denver, immigration advocates accompanied 16-year-old Nicole, an undocumented girl from Peru, to her deportation hearing.
“They don’t have any rights to legal representation,” said Jennifer Piper, an organizing director at the American Friends Service Committee's immigrant rights program, who works with Nicole and other young undocumented immigrants. “They are treated exactly the same way as an immigrant who’s an adult.”
A group of supporters sang John Lennon’s “Imagine” outside the court and held signs saying, in English and Spanish, “no to deporting children.”
“I want to imagine a different world. How would our world be different if our system respected families and children?” Nicole said in a statement. “If we lived in a world where children wouldn't have to worry about being deported?”
In New York City, city officials, religious and labor leaders, immigrants, advocates, and supporters took to Foley Square to call on the administration to stop the deportations, and on Congress to break the stalemate over immigration reform.
"This is not a political issue for pundits to opine over, this is an issue of civil rights, respect, and basic human dignity,” said Don Elisa-Garcia, a member of La Fuente, a coalition of Hispanic organizations, who was at the event. “Washington has procrastinated for far too long, the need for reform is urgent and the time is now!"
Follow Alice Speri on Twitter:@alicesperi