A group of immigrants representing the ‘Not1More Deportation’ campaign are currently on a hunger strike near the White House in Washington, DC to protest against the deportation of family members and relatives over minor crimes. With House Republicans refusing to compromise on the issue of immigration reform, Democrats clamoring for change and immigrant communities up in arms over the issue, the pressure is continuing to build on President Barack Obama and his administration to undertake reforms to deportation procedures currently being used in the country.
Although the Obama administration says that it is only going after hardcore criminals who cause disruption in communities, statistics show a steep rise in immigrants being deported after committing only minor offenses. A large proportion of those being deported have been in the country for a long time and the deportations have resulted in many families being broken up, often without due process having been undertaken.
Government records show that a large proportion of illegal immigrant deportations were as a result of minor infractions, including driving offenses such as a DUI, or illegally re-entering the country to be with US-born family members. Deportations have become a contentious issue during Obama’s tenure as President and critics accuse the current administration of making claims of reform that are far from the harsh reality that is playing out on the ground.
Although the current actions outside the White House are by a small number of hunger strikers, it is symptomatic of the wider discontent in the immigrant community, society as a whole, and even the Democratic Party itself. Recently, Democrats running for an available House seat made remarks criticizing the policy during a candidate forum hosted by the NAACP. Senator Adam Ebbin was quoted by the media as saying; ‘‘The Federal Government should not be deporting people the way it is’’. President Obama has been reluctant to act before Congress does. This has caused an impasse as neither political party wants to move without the other. However, the administration has now begun a review of the contentious deportation policy.
The current hunger strike is being carried out by a handful of people from the immigrant community-led ‘Not1More Deportation’ campaign, which is organized by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and has made Washington the focal point of its attention due to the perceived inaction and unwillingness to make any changes over immigration by the administration. Those taking part have family members who have been deported or are currently detained pending removal, and they have vowed to continue their protest until the President listens to them and reviews the current policy so they can be reunited with their loved ones.
However, the action represents the feeling among immigrant communities across the country as more and more families are torn apart over minor offences. Republicans have signaled that they want to pass immigration reform and members of Obama’s party are asking for more lenient policies. Obama has found himself with little room to maneuver and how his administration reacts to the rising discontent may very well end up shaping the legacy of his time in the White House.