While President Barack Obama spoke about the economy Thursday at Northwestern University, about two-dozen immigration reform advocates protested outside, calling the president the “deporter in-chief.”
“We need to remind the president of the pledge he took to stop deportations,” said Carlos Rosa, an organizer with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
The president landed in Gary, Ind., Wednesday evening and on Thursday morning appeared at a closed-door fundraiser for Gov. Pat Quinn – who is in a heated contest for re-election with Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner – in Chicago’s prestigious Gold Coast neighborhood.
Obama then traveled via helicopter to Northwestern University’s Cahn Auditorium in north suburban Evanston shortly after 1 p.m. to deliver a speech on the economy.
Chanting “stop deportations, not one more,” the immigration reform protesters were lined up outside the auditorium as early as 11:30 a.m.
“If Obama doesn’t take action, and fulfill his promises to the immigrant community, he will cement his reputation as the deporter in-chief,” Rosa said.
Obama said back in June that he would single-handedly move forward with immigration reform by the end of the summer, while the Republican-controlled House continues to stall on addressing sweeping legislation.
But considering the risk of losing Democratic control of the Senate during the November midterm elections—Republicans need to gain just six seats in order to get control of the higher chamber—the president announced last month that executive action on immigration reform would have to wait. He promised to act before the end of the calendar year.
Obama’s executive action could provide work permits and protection from deportations for millions living in the country illegally.
“There have been so many broken promises and we are tired of waiting,” Rosa said. “He promised he’d do it before the end of the summer, now I don’t even know what his pledge to do it before the end of the year means given that he’s backtracked so many times. We are here to tell him that he needs to take action now.”
Here's more from Thursday's protest:
June 27 marked the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Senate’s passage of a bipartisan bill that would provide a streamlined path to citizenship for America’s more than 11 million undocumented immigrants. In October, House Democrats introduced a nearly identical bill. But Republican House leaders, who previously rebuffed the Senate’s bill, have not acted on either piece of legislation.
During his speech at Northwestern, Obama renewed his call to pass the Senate's immigration reform bill, S. 744.
“Independent economists say that the bipartisan immigration reform bill that the House has blocked for over a year would grow our economy, shrink our deficits, and secure our borders. Let’s pass that bill, and make America stronger,” Obama said.
He also called for raising the federal minimum wage, bolstered his policies on education and healthcare reform and criticized partisan gridlock.
“But if gridlock prevails; if cooperation and compromise are no longer valued, but vilified; then I will keep doing everything I can on my own if it will make a difference for working Americans,” Obama said.
Idalia Flores, who has several family members living in the Chicago area as undocumented immigrants, said the president needs to “stop making excuses.”
“When President Obama got elected in 2008 I was hopeful, I hoped that he would understand our struggle, I hoped he would do something for our community. It has been six years since he got elected, and he has done nothing,” said Flores, 24, who came to the United States 13 years ago and got her green card in 2010.
More than 400,000 people were deported during fiscal year 2012 — a record high for the nation — and more than 368,000 people were deported in fiscal year 2013. The Department of Homeland Security has not yet released immigration removal statistics for fiscal year 2014, which ended Sept. 30.
“He has deported 1,100 people a day, and that’s not fair for our community,” Flores said. “He lied to us, he said he was going to do something and he has kept us waiting.”