Obama 'tearing families apart,' immigration activists decry

Wearing blue T-shirts that read "Obama Deports Parents," more than a dozen young immigration activists blocked traffic near the White House on Thursday as they protested President Obama's deportation policy.

The protesters are upset that Obama asked the Department of Homeland Security to delay its deportation policy review, a move they fear will deport parents who are illegal immigrants while their children remain in the U.S.

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Obama commissioned the review in March, which could have relaxed deportation rules, but he reversed course last week in an effort to negotiate immigration reform with House Republicans. 

"The Obama administration says, 'We're not removing fathers; we're not removing mothers,' " said Lorella Praeli, policy and advocacy director at United We Dream, which organized the protest. "But we see that's not true."

One of the protesters, Oneeka Johnson, broke into tears as she told the story of her father, Dave, who was arrested in New Jersey last week by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and sent back to Jamaica, despite the facts that his four children are U.S. citizens and he had lived in the nation without a criminal record for 17 years.  

"Because Obama waited, my dad is in Jamaica fighting for his life," Oneeka said. "It's not right. Now, he's separated from his kids."

Greisa Martinez, another protester, accused Obama of "tearing families apart." 

"I want the same protections that I have for my mother," Martinez said. "We need relief for our parents today. We need relief for our parents right now."

Ten of the protesters planned to be arrested, but nearly two hours later, police still had not broken up the demonstration.

Marco Quiroga, a member of the group Immigration Equality, which also joined in the demonstration, said deportations can be particularly dangerous for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, because it is illegal to be gay in 77 countries around the world.

"I'm gay, and deportation for the gay community can be life threatening," he said.

Quiroga's brother, who is also gay, was deported to Peru recently. 

"There are absolutely zero protections for LGBT people in Peru," Quiroga said.