#Not1More Deportation

BREAKING: DC Area Protest Shuts Down Regional ICE Office

“The House may have failed to do its job on immigration but that doesn’t mean the President has to fail too. He could keep immigrant families together for the holidays with the stroke of a pen.” 

FairfaxVA – Monday, December 16th, 2013 – On the first workday after the House of Representatives closed its doors without passing immigration reform, a group of 9 protestors just blocked the entrance and exit of deportation vans at the Fairfax, Virginia Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, holding the President accountable for the thousands of deportations expected before Congress returns from Winter break.

“The House might have closed for the year but ICE will be deporting families on Christmas unless we stop it,” explained protester Rosa Lozano of DC. “Blaming Republicans can’t stop the suffering in immigrant communities. But the President can. With the stroke of a pen he could end his deportation quota and expand relief like he did for dreamers.”

The protest is the latest in more than a dozen dramatic direct actions in the past two months in cities across the country where participants have used their bodies to block deportations. They point toward the White House’s self-imposed deportation quota of 400,000 removals per year and the criminalization programs that conscript local police into efforts to meet it, such as the Secure Communities program, as areas under the President’s exclusive authority.

As the immigration debate winds on without result in Congress, more and more have expanded their search for relief to include the White House who granted it to Dream-eligible youth last year and most recently expanded it to include military families.  More than 500 organizations were joined this month by 30 Congresspeople in calling on the President to expand such relief to the fullest amount possible.

Blanca Hernandez, one of the protesters chaining herself to the ICE office this morning says, “I have DACA, but people in my family and so many other people in my community are excluded. Its only fair for everybody to have the same opportunity because we all came here searching for the same thing.”

Blanca Hernandez has lived undocumented for 24 years, since she came to the United States as a child. She is a beneficiary of the President's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and works as a paralegal in Washington DC. "As someone who was able to benefit fro DACA, I feel others should have the same opportunity, at least while Congress decides to take immigration reform as a serious issue and not a game. The President really has the power to stop deportations" she explains. In addition to knowing what it is like to grow up undocumented, Blanca has also seen how deportation and immigration enforcement has affected her family, community and close friends. "For the president to say that he can't do anything is the biggest lie he can tell the community. During his electoral campaign he said he was ready to take action. I do this to remind him that he needs to keep that promise, and for all the families that continue to be separated, hoping that it stops."  
Amrita Wassan is an educator living in Washington D.C. In her work, she has seen how deportation has affected her students. "Last year I had a student with special needs, who was HIV positive, and a United States citizen, being raised by a single mother who was also in deportation. This meant that my student had to chose between going to live in a country that he knows nothing about, where her and her family have no resources or support systems, or be put into the foster care system in the United States. The system and the laws are not working when a middle school kid like my student, is being separated from her mother." Amrita is also concerned with the effect of deportations on queer families and the inhumane treatment of transgender people in immigration detention centers. Amrita has been active with Southerners on New Ground (SONG), School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) and INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence.
Rosa Lozano is a second-generation Salvadoran immigrant who was born in New York and raised in Washington D.C. Her family came to the United States fleeing persecution from El Salvador for being part of the resistance movement during the civil war, and first came to the country undocumented. She also has several other undocumented relatives, some who have been in immigration detention and in deportation proceedings. Rosa has been an organizer in labor rights and immigrant rights since she was a student in college, and has been active in fights against SB1070, Secure Communities, and deportations. "Today is the first day that Congress is on winter break. Meanwhile, 1,100 families continue to be broken apart every day. Our communities cannot wait any longer. The President has the power to stop deportations and stop the suffering. I am here to tell him that until he stops deportations, we will continue to bring attention to the stories of families being broken apart," she explained regarding her participation in today's action.
Anna Duncan is a community organizer who has lived in Washington D.C. her whole life. She has been involved in several campaigns for immigrant rights, including supporting the 'No Papers, No Fear' Ride for Justice (also known as the 'Undocubus'), and is active in the DC immigrant rights coalition. "The immigrant rights movement has been trying for years to get immigration reform passed, to get relief for undocumented people, to stop deportations. But conventional strategies have not been enough. It's time to put our bodies on the line to disrupt these institutions that are separating our families. President Obama has to see what we are willing to do to defend our families and our communities. He must use his power to put an end to deportations."
Maria Luisa Rosal came to the United States with her mother from Guatemala escaping violence in her country following the disappearance of her father. Once in the United States, she remembers that "There was a point where my mom was given 24 hours to leave the country, and we did not know what was going to be in our future." Fortunately she was granted asylum, but has seen how other families have been devastated by deportation. "It is unfortunate that President Obama has deported more immigrants than any of his predecessors. Instead of having policies that are based on enforcement and surveillance, we should focus on human rights and people. If the President were doing that, he would stop deportations."
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Pabitra Benjamin is an queer immigrant from Nepal living in Washington D.C. She has been an organizer for immigrant rights for the last 5 years, focusing on the effects of immigration enforcement on our families. "It's not just the immigration laws, but how we enforce them that is inhumane. I have heard of many people who are in deportation or detention because they were pulled over while they were driving or because they are on a 'national security' list.  It's racial profiling that get's them in the system towards deportation." She is also interested in working with undocumented Nepali immigrants, whose stories of immigration and deportation are often overlooked and was inspired to take action today by SONG organizers who shut down ICE in Atlanta to highlight the 267,00 undocumented queer and trans folks living in the U.S.  "Everyone should have the right to be a part of and enjoy the freedoms of the country that they live in. The President must stop deportations, especially until there is a fair system in place for people to be part of this country."
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Benjamin Parisi is a former organizer originally from Indiana now living in Washington D.C. He began to get informed about immigration policy when he began to learn about the lives of refugees outside of the United States, and has known friends affected by immigration enforcement. "President Obama has the political capital and the power to create at least a temporary solution, until Representatives actually act on this issue and pass real immigration reform. I am here because it is important to stake our political ground, on this issue that impacts millions of families in this country. We cannot claim to live in a democratic society if we don't engage in actions like these. The President must listen to us and the thousands of families being broken apart every day and take action."
Nico Udu-Gama  is a community organizer with the School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) and an interpreter. His parents are Sri Lankan immigrants, although Nico was born in the United States and lives in Washington D.C. "I am participating in today's action because I am tired of waiting. I am tired of asking politicians to act, and relying on them to keep our communities safe, while they have refused to take action. I am here to create a small disruption in this deportation machine that targets immigrant workers and families. Until deportations stop, we will have to do it ourselves."
Salvador Sarmiento is an organizer living in Washington D.C. He is the Chair of the Washington D.C. Coalition for Immigrant Rights, and played an important role in the fight for driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants in the District. He is also a national organizer with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) working on immigration policy and legislation. "Families are being broken apart every day by absurd policies. With so many people suffering, it is unacceptable that we do nothing. It is unacceptable and immoral that the President do nothing. Every day that the Congress has delayed in taking action on immigration, more families have been separated. Now that the session is over, the President must act."