Immigrant rights advocates held rallies at detention centers and government buildings across the United States on Saturday to urge President Barack Obama to use his executive powers to stop deportations.
One of about 50 rallies planned by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) took place on Friday in Columbus, Ohio. About 75 protesters marched past the LeVeque Tower, which houses offices of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They chanted "Two million too many!" and "Not one more!"
The march included undocumented immigrants and family members, clergy, LGBT rights activists, and other community supporters.
Edith was one of the DREAM 30 who crossed the border in September 2013 to test U.S. immigration policy. Edith's daughter, who is a U.S. citizen, joined her in Friday's march.
"I'm here today because my husband was put in a detention center," Edith said. Her husband and daughter attempted to cross the border in a group of 150 last month at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry near San Diego.
"My daughter was removed from him and put in a separate unit," she said. "My husband is still being detained, so please sign the petitions and call ICE. All we want is to be together as a family again."
José Hernandez, who attempted to cross the border from Mexico at the same time as Edith, joined the march with his three children. His wife is being detained in Arizona. Their children are U.S. citizens.
"It's been a great shock for us as a family to have their mother and my spouse away, knowing that she's in a detention center," Hernandez said. "The President and other Americans have said that one of the strengths of this great country is to be together as a family. All we're asking is for my wife to come back home.
"We're afraid that we're not safe in Michoacán, Mexico, where we're from," he said. "We want to be here, where we can be safe together as a family. We're not criminals. We just want to bring up our children in a place that’s safe."
Rashida Davison, Outreach and Engagement Coordinator for TransOhio, read a statement released by the Transgender Law Center: "Under the current system of detention and deportation, LGBTQ immigrants, especially transgender women of color, often experience horrific treatment within immigration detention centers, including violence, deprivation of necessary medical care, dehumanization and assaults on basic dignity, psychological torture in solitary confinement, and rape."
Rev. Rebecca Tollefson
Rev. Rebecca Tollefson is Executive Director of the Ohio Council of Churches, which represents about 6,000 Christian congregations and 3 million members.
"There needs to be reform of our employment-based immigration system so that migrant workers can enter the United States and work in a safe, regulated, and humane environment," Rev. Tollefson said.
Waiting times to reunite families should be reduced, and there should be due process protections for immigrants, she said. "We need to work together to confront and overcome unjust immigration laws. The deportations must end. This is the moral thing to do."
Cynthia Ubaldo came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was five years old. Her fiancé was detained four weeks ago under the Secure Communities program, and is facing deportation to El Salvador.
"He's been here for about nine years," Ubaldo said. "He's become very Americanized. It's going to be very dangerous for him when he goes back. He's scared. His family is scared."
Rubén Castilla Herrera
Organizer Rubén Castilla Herrera has worked for reform of U.S. immigration law for many years, but he doesn't see it happening soon. Instead, NDLON has been pushing President Obama to use his executive discretion to authorize deferred action on deportation for all undocumented immigrants who are not criminals, as he did with the DACA program for DREAM students. "We know he has the power to do that," Herrera said.
"Before the last election, the President offered DACA to DREAMers. And we thank him for that. But he also asked us to hold him accountable," Herrera said. "Mr. President, we hold you accountable for the husband of Edith, and for José's wife Patricia. We hold you accountable for all the people who are in detention centers."