Undocumented immigrants risk deportation to protest Biden in DC
A group of undocumented immigrants on Friday blocked traffic near the White House to protest what they say are President Biden’s broken immigration promises in his first 100 days in office.
Protesting in this way is usually avoided by undocumented immigrants, for whom even a brief administrative arrest could draw the attention of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and detonate deportation procedures.
“I could lose everything. First I would lose my freedom, not only that … after being fingerprinted I could trigger an ICE hold or make aware ICE that I’m there and I don’t have status,” said Gema Lowe, an undocumented immigration and labor organizer who participated in the protest.
The action, entitled “papers not crumbs,” was organized by Movimiento Cosecha, an organization that advocates for the rights of undocumented immigrants.
“We’re going to do a civil disobedience action because I felt that we need to start doing drastic things in order for not just the politicians, but the public, [to understand] that we need to fight for our own liberation and our own rights,” said Lowe.
The protesters on Friday morning began their demonstration on Black Lives Matter Square. Law enforcement has been present, but officers have not yet made arrests.
Lowe, a 49-year-old grandmother who’s lived in Michigan for more than 30 years, said she has never before risked an encounter with law enforcement.
“But you know, if someone doesn’t do it we’ll keep being in the shadows, we’ll keep accepting these crumbs but we deserve more,” she said.
“30 years working, paying taxes, leaving my health and my youth in this country, I planted roots, my daughters and now my grandbabies are from this country and I think we all deserve the dignity of being recognized as people, not just for our labor,” added Lowe.
Héctor Morales, a 25-year-old who lives in Indiana, also risked arrest and potential deportation in Friday’s protest.
Many undocumented immigrants and their American families are incensed over what they see as a pattern of pandering and abandonment, and the Biden administration’s potential to repeat it.
Over the past three decades, Congress has failed at attempts to reform the immigration system, while funding immigration law enforcement.
While both Republican and Democratic administrations have called for reform, often including some form of status relief for undocumented immigrants, only smaller programs have granted temporary relief to select groups.
Former President Obama in 2012 enacted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protected roughly 700,000 so-called “dreamers,” and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) has been enacted decades, granting work and protection from deportation to less than half a million people.
In his speech to a joint session of Congress Wednesday, Biden called on lawmakers to seek permanent protections for dreamers, TPS recipients and undocumented farmworkers.
“What happens when they say we’re just fighting for dreamers, we’re just fighting for TPS? They’re separating our families,” said Lowe.
“How about everyone else? They’ve also been contributing to this country,” she added.
Biden has been caught up between two opposing extremes on immigration, with Republicans criticizing the handling of the surge of migrants to the southern border and his own party demanding quick action on campaign promises, like a freeze on deportation.