Immigrant-rights groups, teachers and the daughter of a Chicago-area man in deportation proceedings banded together Wednesday to ask the president to end the separation of families through deportation and detention.
"Women are more than half of the immigrants now living in the U.S.," said Irma Herrera of New America Media in a conference call requesting an end to deportations that send undocumented immigrant parents out of the country or detain them while their cases work their way through immigration courts. "Separating families is wrong."
She estimated 5.5 million children of immigrants live in fear of their parents' deportations.
Organizations including the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center and pro-immigrant-family group "We Belong Together" said among their goals for the press conference was reducing the number of children put into foster care because their parents have been deported. Herrera said there are at least 5,000 such kids in the system right now, with thousands more expected.
"It's clear that immigration enforcement at both the state and federal level are having a devastating impact," said Wendy Cervantes, vice president of immigration and child rights policy for First Focus.
Cervantes also said immigrants-rights activists were heartened to hear the Obama administration would begin to consider whether families would be separated as one of the factors in determining whether to pursue deportations.
One of the first-person examples offered up Wednesday was that of Izamar De La Rosa, an 18-year-old Waukegan resident whose dad may be deported after an arrest for not having a driver's license. In a letter written by De La Rosa, she laid out why her father leaving would be so difficult.
"He has been an example and inspiration to me my entire life," De La Rosa wrote. "I don't know if I will be OK without him."