Activists chain themselves to ‘deportation bus’ in Tucson, ask Obama to halt all deportations

Liz Goodwin

More than 20 people were arrested in Tucson, Ariz., on Friday after they chained themselves to buses holding immigration detainees at a federal courthouse.

Those arrested were among about 100 activists protesting Operation Streamline, a program run by the Department of Homeland Security that prosecutes people suspected of illegally crossing the border into the U.S. from Mexico. Activists say they succeeded in delaying the court proceedings for the day, meaning the approximately 70 detainees on the buses the activists chained themselves to were not prosecuted.

“We delivered a very strong message both to Operation Streamline and also to the president,” said Marisa Franco, an organizer of the protest.

Protesters frustrated by the lack of progress on immigration reform have sometimes resorted to more drastic tactics, such as Friday's protest and another incident in Tucson earlier this week when activists surrounded Border Patrol agents who were attempting to arrest two men stopped for a traffic violation. Police used pepper spray on the crowd to break up the protest, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

Franco and the protesters want President Barack Obama to expand to all immigrants his deferred action program, which keeps young immigrants without legal status from being deported. A broader immigration reform effort that would legalize millions of immigrants has stalled in the House after passing the Senate in June. 

“We think that ultimately it's a political choice that the president has to make,” Franco said.

Earlier this week, about 100 activists tried to prevent the Border Patrol in Tucson from arresting two men who were stopped over a traffic violation. 

On Monday, the protesters travel to Phoenix and will attempt to stop deportations there by demonstrating at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office.