Immigrant rights activists blocked the entrance to Eloy Detention Center in Arizona and held a demonstration in front of Phoenix’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement office on Monday, in the latest in a series of acts of civil disobedience to protest deportations.
The demonstrations came as part of the “Not One More” deportation campaign organized by the National Day Labor Organizing Network, Puente Arizona and other groups.
Eloy is one of three immigrant detention centers run by the Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison contractor in the United States. “The company is the fifth-largest corrections system in the nation, behind only the federal government and three states,” CCA says on its website.
“I’m doing this to show my brother and all the other people inside that we support them and we will do what it takes to get them out,” protester Sandy Estrada, 16, said in a statement posted to the Not One More campaign website. “I want the President to know that everyone deserves to be with their families and that he can stop our pain.”
“Who did we shut down? ICE!” protesters chanted outside the entrance to the detention center.
At least two detainees have died this year in the 1,600-bed detention center, prompting an investigation by ICE in May. The Associated Press referred to the deaths as “apparent suicides.”
Hundreds of activists also protested in front of the Phoenix ICE office, where they uploaded images to Twitter of the banners they placed on the office’s entrance.
Protesters pointed a finger at President Barack Obama, arguing that he could use his executive authority to scale down deportations.
“Today we are here to shut down ICE,” one organizer said during a livestream of the Phoenix protest. “This here is a manifestation of the president’s immigration policy… We are approaching 2 million deportations and that ain’t no hope and that ain’t no change and that ain’t something we’re going to vote for.”
The protests were the latest in a series of increasingly audacious demonstrations from activists across the country frustrated with the high rate of deportation and government inaction on immigration reform.
Immigrant activists chained themselves around the wheels of a bus carrying roughly 70 immigrant detainees to a Tucson courthouse on Friday to protest Operation Streamline, an immigration enforcement program that slaps undocumented immigrants with an illegal entry conviction and jail time before deportation. The protest resulted in the cancellation of the detainees’ court appearance. By Friday they had been deported, but without the criminal conviction, according to the Arizona Daily Star.
The Arizona protests came on the heels of two unique demonstrations staged by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance. In July, three undocumented immigrant youths traveled to Mexico and returned to the United States through a legal port of entry at Nogales, Ariz., gathering a group of six other people who had once lived in the United States as undocumented immigrants along the way.
NIYA organized a similar demonstration this month, with nearly three dozen people who had once resided in the United States without authorization crossing through the port of entry at Laredo, Texas, and asking for either humanitarian parole or asylum.
Obama made immigration reform a campaign issue in both elections, but reform remains elusive. The Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill with bipartisan support in June. But the bill, which contains a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented and pours more than $40 billion into ramping up border security, stalled in the House before Congress shut down the government in the wake of Republican efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration has wracked up a record-setting 1.7 million deportations.