Like many undocumented immigrants, Oscar Alfaro said he came to the United States to escape poverty and earn enough money to support his family. He has been living in Washington, D.C., for the past 15 years where he has been working, paying taxes and raising his two daughters.
But these days, Alfaro worries hell be deported to Honduras and separated from his wife and daughters. He was put in deportation proceedings in 2011, a few years after he applied for permanent residency through his employer and was denied. Thanks to the support he received from elected officials and community members, he was allowed to stay in the country temporarily. However, he still runs the risk of getting deported.
Tired of living in fear of deportation, Alfaro joined a group of 145 undocumented immigrants, faith leaders and immigrant rights advocates on Thursday to engage in an act of civil disobedience in front of the White House. Together, they called on President Barack Obama to issue an executive order that will provide administrative relief from deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants.
We know that more than 1,100 people are deported every day and that approximately 200 children are separated from their mothers and fathers because of deportations, Alfaro told VOXXI prior to getting arrested. Thats what motivates me to risk arrest and show the despair we are going through. We want to show the president that we are willing to do everything as long as he issues an executive order that will offer us relief.
Alfaro and the others stood in front of the White House, chanting phrases like no justice, no peace and not one more. After refusing to leave, U.S. Capitol Police offices moved in to arrest them.
The civil disobedience action led by CASA de Maryland, CASA de Virginia and other pro-immigration advocacy groups took place after more than 1,000 people marched from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters in Washington, D.C., to the White House. The action was one of the more than 20 events held all throughout the country on Thursday as part of the National Day to Fight for Families.
Obama is ‘determined’ to take action
Immigration advocates have been pressuring Obama to use his executive powers to protect many of the 11.7 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. from deportation. Obama did just that for undocumented young immigrants when he announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012. The program allows undocumented youth to stay and work in the U.S.
Meanwhile, a number of Republicans have urged Obama not to bypass Congress on immigration. But Press Secretary Josh Earnest signaled Wednesday that Obama is not backing off from his plans to take executive actions on immigration even as Republicans threaten to retaliate.
The president is determined to take the kind of common-sense steps that are required to address the worst problems of our broken immigration system, Earnest said. Nothing the president does is a replacement for the kind of robust solution that passed with bipartisan support through the United States Senate, but the president is determined to act where House Republicans wont.
Maria Jose Sandoval, a spokeswoman for CASA de Maryland, said she hopes Obama will think of the millions of undocumented parents, like Alfaro, who live in fear of getting deported as he prepares to issue executive orders on immigration by the end of the summer.
These are families who have been working here for years, Sandoval told VOXXI. Its hard for these families to get out of the houses in the morning to head to work and not know if theyre going to make it back home.
Alfaro said he doesnt want to think about what would happen if he were deported. He said he wouldnt want to take his family to live in Honduras because he fears his 5-year-old daughter, a U.S. citizen who has been diagnosed with autism and faces a series of other health issues, wouldnt get the adequate medical attention she needs.
She needs medication even to sleep at night and to be calm throughout the day, he said. Those are things I wouldnt be able to give her in my country.