A coalition of activists from labor, religious, and civil rights groups took to the streets of Hempstead on Saturday to call on President Barack Obama to suspend deportations of immigrants who are in the country illegally.
The marchers, who gathered at the offices of the Workplace Project labor organization in Freeport, marched about half a mile to the NICE bus terminal in Hempstead, carrying signs that read "Education Not Deportation" and "Obama, Deporter-in-Chief."
In the terminal parking lot, about 70 marchers held a boisterous rally, chanting "No more deportations" and calling on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
"Enough is enough," said Jesse Gonzalez, 21, of Hempstead, who said his aunt was deported to Colombia last year after spending four years working as a maid on Long Island. "These deportation policies are wrong, because they punish hardworking immigrants who are the backbone of the American economy. The administration, at the very least, can stop deporting hardworking people with kids."
The demonstration was part of a national day of action with marches, rallies, and vigils planned in more than 40 cities nationwide that called on Obama to curb his administration's aggressive enforcement of immigration laws.
Obama has been under increasing pressure from Latino advocates to relax those efforts. Last month, the president ordered a review of his administration's deportation policies.
"These deportations are tearing our families apart," said Omar Henriquez, 57, of Long Beach, of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network who helped lead Saturday's rally. "Too many children are seeing their parents deported. We call on the president to do the right thing."
Other participants in the Hempstead march and rally included members of the activist group La Fuente, students from the Hofstra University Center for Civic Engagement, members of Unity Housecleaners, and the New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, organizers said.
"We are crying out for our great country to do the right thing and let these people stay," said marcher Maria Bustamante, 23, of Mineola. "They deserve a piece of the American dream."