Immigrants, advocates and nuns Wednesday urged President Barack Obama to step into the stalled debate over comprehensive immigration reform and use the powers of his office to halt mass deportations and help fix a system they say has been broken for decades.
A dozen protesters, chanting slogans as they gathered on a Brentwood street corner, said time is running out for Congress and the president to take action, because little legislative movement is expected as November elections approach.
They set a deadline of June 28 for Obama to act.
"Congress has failed our families," said Ana Chireno of the Brentwood-based Latino advocacy group Make the Road New York. "The president has caused immense pain to our communities with an out-of-control enforcement regime."
Protesters held signs, including ones that read, "President Obama, Yes, you can stop separating families" and "President Obama, Don't Deport My Mama." Patrick Young of the Hempstead-based Central American Refugee Center said the government is deporting as many as 1,000 people a day.
The deportations have reached record levels during Obama's tenure, a continuation of policies under President George W. Bush. Department of Homeland Security figures for the 2012 fiscal year, the most recent available, showed 419,384 deportations, the highest on record.
One protester, Maria Gomez, 60, of Brentwood, said her son was deported to their homeland of El Salvador in 2012 even though he had worked here for 15 years, paid taxes and had Temporary Protected Status that gave him temporary legal protection to remain in the United States.
He was deported because of a clerical error made on one of his TPS applications, she said.
"He left the country crying," Gomez said in Spanish. "I'm asking President Obama to help get him back."
Steven Camarota of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies, which favors immigration restrictions, denied the government is involved in mass deportations of people from the interior of the United States, and said Obama is obligated by the Constitution to deport people who enter illegally.
"It is fundamentally an assault on the constitutional order for the president to say, 'I am not going to enforce the law on millions of people,' " Camarota said.
There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the nation, according to the federal government and research groups. Local advocacy groups said about 100,000 are on Long Island.With Víctor Manuel Ramos