Eight immigrants living in the United States illegally remained in custody in Nogales, Arizona, on Wednesday, two days after attempting to re-enter the U.S. from Mexico without immigration papers -- a move aimed at highlighting the Obama administration’s record on deportations.
Of the eight who returned to the country Monday, three were the children of undocumented immigrants who had self-deported earlier in July, while six immigrants had been deported by U.S. immigration authorities earlier in the year, according to DreamActivist, an immigration advocacy group. A ninth person joined the group at the last minute, and her name and immigration status were unclear.
Lizbeth Mateo, one of the detained immigrants, called on President Obama to alter the administration’s deportation policy.
"We are giving President Obama a chance to do the right thing," she said. "They always say, 'Why don't you come here legally?' Well this is his chance to create the legal process."
The Obama administration is expected to reach 2 million deportations by next year, according to figures from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, much sooner than President George W. Bush, who took eight years to reach the 2 million mark.
Obama's deportation record spotlights a disparate immigration policy that saw the president also sign an executive order last summer halting deportations for many young immigrants who entered the United States as children, a response to years of pressure from immigrant rights groups.
"They pledge allegiance to our flag,” President Obama said at the time. “They are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper."
Domenic Powell, a spokesman for the National Immigration Youth Alliance, which organized Monday’s protest, said the group would continue to pressure federal authorities to let the young immigrants "go back home" to the U.S.
The group plans several cross-country protests against the deportations. About 60 people waited for the activists to come home and chanted in Spanish, “No papers, no fear,” according to the Associated Press.
“I was brought to Phoenix when I was four months old," said Adriana Diaz, one of the detained Monday. "My home is in Arizona, not here in Mexico."
Monday's protest in Arizona comes as House Republican leaders appear ready to introduce legislation that would offer young undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally a path to citizenship. The bill, however, would exclude immigrant parents from the same right.
"I do not believe that parents who made the decision to illegally enter the U.S. while forcing their children to join them should be afforded the same treatment as these kids," Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said at an immigration subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, according to the Huffington Post.
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security will study the issue at a hearing this week, while Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) iron out details of the bill, tentatively called the "Kids Act."
Democrats, though, sensing sweeping immigration reform is within reach, are not planning to give in to a measure that they say will risk separating families.
"Legalizing only the DREAMers is not enough," Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill) told The Associated Press, referring to the term used to describe young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. "I cannot imagine for one minute that Republicans, who also honor the sanctity of families, want to legalize the children, but leave the rest of the family vulnerable.”
Source: Al Jazeera and wire services