Jaime Valdéz spent 17 years in Phoenix before he was deported to Mexico in February, in what he says is retaliation for protests against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. On Tuesday, Valdéz turned himself in at the port of entry in Nogales, Ariz., to protest what he calls the inhumane practice of separating families. He hopes U.S. authorities grant him humanitarian parole.
"The president says he wants humane treatment, which is exactly what I was fighting for when ICE retaliated by deporting me,” said Valdéz, 31. “I hope that more humane treatment can start with our cases today.”
This act of civil disobedience by Valdéz is part of a growing campaign against President Barack Obama’s policy on deportations, which are expected to reach the 2 million mark this month. What started several months ago with isolated protests at immigration detention centers and border crossings has expanded into a national movement that will reach a crescendo on Saturday, when immigration reform advocates in more than 40 U.S. cities engage in a national day of action and call on Obama to suspend deportations.
The #Not1MoreDeportation campaign will include a rally in front of the White House, an attempt to shut down the Broadview Detention Center in Chicago and a march to City Hall in Los Angeles to call on ICE to change its immigrant detention policy.
Saturday’s planned protests underscore a recent shift in tactics among immigration advocates. Frustrated with the prospects of legislative reform in Congress, immigration proponents are increasingly calling on Obama to take direct action on immigration and use his executive authority to halt deportations.
“We see a significant change in the immigration debate,” said Arturo Carmona, executive director of Presente.org, the largest online Latino advocacy organization in the United States. “Efforts at comprehensive immigration reform have been declining in momentum and are officially dead.”
Hispanic support for the president is wilting as well. Seventy-one percent of Latinos voted to re-elect Obama in November 2012. But his approval rating among the group has dropped 23 points in the last year — the biggest decline among major subgroups, according to a recent Gallup poll.
The public’s disapproval of Obama is reflected in a growing grass-roots movement against the president’s deportation policy — which, in turn, has recently garnered mainstream support in Congress. Last month, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, an author of the Senate-approved immigration reform bill, called on Obama to halt deportations for relatives of U.S. citizens. And although most Republicans remain staunchly opposed to a comprehensive immigration reform bill, some GOP members openly admit the party needs to tackle the deportation issue to make inroads among Hispanics.
“The bottom line is, the Hispanic community, the Latino community, is not going to care [about other issues] until we get beyond this issue,” Rand Paul, R-Ky., referring to deportations, told the Washington Post.