“You have to have the courage of hunger to cross."
That's how an undocumented immigrant who is being threatened with deportation explained entering the United States from Mexico a decade ago. The woman is one of many people in similar situations who drove to Washington D.C. to ask President Obama not to deport them until Congress reaches an agreement on immigration reform.
The demonstration was organized by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and other immigrants' rights groups. The goal is to call attention to the many immigratns currently facing deportation who have worked hard for years in the United States. For example, the 62-year-old woman was hunched over her sewing machine when immigration agents raided the factory she worked at.
According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, large-scale raids like that one have been dramatically cut back in recent years. Now, immigration officials say more of a focus is being paid to "paper raids" involving employers who illegally hire undocumented immigrants, often taking advantage of their willingness to work for low wages.
Additionally, ICE said it deported a total of 410,000 undocumented immigrants last year, and only a small percentage of these individuals were law-abiding. ICE says that's because the agency now implements a “common-sense” deportation policy that focuses on immigrants with criminal records, those who flee immigration court and those who repeatedly violate immigration laws.
Even so, the NDLON and the other advocacy groups are working hard to make sure that the problems facing working immigrants who are in the country illegally are not being overlooked. In addition to speeches and demonstrations, the week-long event at Freedom Plaza also features artwork about immigrants.
Source: The Washington Post, "Illegal immigrant workers ask not to be deported while Congress debates," Pamela Constable, July 22, 2013