Environmentalists and comprehensive immigration reform advocates protested outside Chicago's Downtown Hilton where President Barack Obama and other key political leaders attended a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser Wednesday evening.
Activists called upon Obama to stop the deportation of undocumented immigrants and reject the Keystone XL Pipeline, among other issues.
Yesenia Najera, 11, a leader of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council, said her father was deported earlier this month.
"It is not fair," she said. "My dad is a good person and will always care for me and my brother and sister."
No other child should have to endure that kind of pain, she said.
Najera had one question for Obama.
"Will you stand for immigration families, and stop all deportation until immigration reform passes," she asked. "Not one more. Not one more."
Obama visited two Chicago fundraisers Wednesday in efforts to help raise money for Democratic congressional candidates in the 2014 midterm elections.
Other political figures expected to be in attendance at the Hilton fundraiser included House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-NY) and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL.).
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Democratic U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush (1st), Robin Kelly (2nd), Jan Schakowsky (9th), Bill Foster (11th) and Cheri Bustos (17th) were also slated to attend.
At about 9 a.m. Wednesday, 12 activists protesting the large number of deportations under Obama's presidency were arrested after blocking southbound traffic on Michigan Avenue. Protesters made a "lockbox" by linking arms inside tubes made of PVC pipes and then blocked traffic outside of the Hilton, said Rigo Padilla with the Immigrant Youth Justice League.
Padilla was there for the action and said the 50 activists wanted to send Obama an early message.
The demonstrators also toted a banner reading "400,000 deportations" referring to the number of people U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) looks to deport each year, he said.
Padilla said the 12 protesters were still in jail and being processed as of 5 p.m. He said it is likely they will be released Wednesday night.
Carlos Arango with Casa Aztlán said he wanted to send one concrete message to Obama — stop deportations now.
"He has the power to do it," Arango said. "He'll be able to sign an executive order to stop deportations until we have a new immigration system in place."
Arango also raised concerns about the immigration reform legislation, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, S 744, introduced in April by the "Gang of Eight" in the Senate. Arango said the legislation does not represent the interests of the community.
"They're going to continue deportations, they're going to do more border enforcement, more E-Verify, and the people are going to be subject to waiting for years and years to get their permanent residency and more to get citizenship," Arango explained.
Rozalinda Borcila with the Moratorium on Deportations Campaign said the bill in the U.S. Senate is really about militarization, increased enforcement and increased criminalization of most undocumented immigrants.
Here's more from Borcila explaining the issue:
Dylan Amlin with the Chicago Youth Climate Coalition said he stands in solidarity with the immigrant rights advocates, because immigration is also a climate justice issue.
But the main reason he was protesting outside of the Hilton was to urge Obama to stop the proposed expansion of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada through the United States to the Gulf Coast of Texas.
"Basically, climate scientists are saying if that oil is burned, it’s basically game over for the climate, meaning we will have emitted enough to raise global temperatures enough to get to a point of runaway global warming," he said. "We're calling for Obama to reject the pipeline."
Ryan Baker, chair of the Chicago Sierra Club's air and energy committee, said tar sands are a very dirty form of oil.
"We just feel this is the wrong action, at the wrong time," he said. "We shouldn’t be spending a lot of money building a pipeline that is going to help destroy our planet."
The decision to approve or reject the pipeline is Obama's choice, Baker said.
"Congress has proposed a bill a couple weeks ago that failed where they were going to try and overturn Obama’s authority, but it's questionable whether they have constitutional authority to do so," he explained. "But right now, it's really Obama’s choice, his administration's choice [on] how to proceed on this."