WASHINGTON – Immigration reform activists blocked traffic on 12th Street Tuesday to protest deportation of immigrants whose family members are U.S. citizens and to call for a comprehensive immigration bill.
“We are here to profess one year of inaction, one year of broken promises,” said Gustavo Torres, executive director of Casa de Maryland.
The immigration debate has “always been the history of this great nation,” Torres said. “The racists and the anti-illegal immigration are a minority. A majority want comprehensive immigration reform.”
About 200 supporters held “Immigration Reform” signs and rallied in front of the Department of Homeland Security.
The rally, spearheaded by Casa de Maryland, highlighted two issues: to end the deportations of undocumented immigrants with family legally residing in the United States and passing a comprehensive immigration bill that would include the end to Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids.
The rally was co-sponsored by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Jobs with Justice, and the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium.
After several officials of the organizations spoke, many activists lined the crosswalk in the intersection of 12th and D streets.
“We’ve been really patient in terms of hoping the Obama administration will do the right thing,” said Mary Moreno of the Center for Community Change in Washington. “We’re not going to wait any longer. We’re going to be more vocal.”
The activists sat down in the street, arms linked, blocking traffic and chanting.
“The people united will never be defeated!” they said in Spanish. “Obama, Listen! We’re in the fight!”
Protesters demanded an end to DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement immigration raids, which many protesters said to be violent.
“ICE respects the rights of individuals to advocate for reform of our nation’s immigration laws,” said Brandon Alvarez-Montgomery, ICE acting chief of staff. “ICE will continue to investigate and review cases that meet our priorities and further our mission to protect the United States from immigration violators.”
The agency, he said, is just doing its job.
“We’re not a policy shop, we uphold whatever Congress mandates.”
Instead of spending money to deport undocumented immigrants, long-time activists John Lopez, 22, and Marina Martinez, 33, both of Hyattsville, said immigrants help the economy. They spend more money and stimulate our communities, Lopez said.
“If we had documents, we can live in better conditions. We can help the State,” said Doris Depaz, 45, of Silver Spring. “They hate us but we can help everyone.”
Nearly an hour and half later, Torres and Rev. Whit Hutchinson, of Takoma Park, led the linked activists a couple of blocks over to the intersection of Independence Avenue and 12th Street.
Along with blocking heavier traffic, said Eric Houser of the Department of Homeland Security, the activists are blocking an evacuation route. However, the Metro Police and Department of Transportation are used to protests and traffic jams, he said.
“We’ll wait all night if we have to.”
Metropolitan Police began escorting activists off the street and on to the sidewalk soon after the relocation.
No arrests were made.