Chicago – Pro-immigration reform activists protested on Tuesday in front of President Barack Obama's reelection campaign headquarters in Chicago and delivered 24,000 signatures demanding the end of the Secure Communities program, which has led to the deportation of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants.
"Obama, we're not criminals but workers who demand respect," said Zoraida Avila at the sidewalk demonstration some 20 meters (yards) from the entrance to Two Prudential Plaza.
"It's not our fault that there are unsafe communities in this country," she added to applause and cheers from about 200 people who had gathered there for the event.
Earlier, the executive director of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities, Oscar Chacon, demanded "immediate executive action" from Obama to cancel the controversial program.
"Secure Communities doesn't contribute any tangible benefit to anyone, it has to disappear," he said.
"What makes the communities unsafe is the bad state of the economy," Chacon said, adding that the president should devote himself to creating good jobs.
Activists gathered first in front of the Chicago Cultural Center with signs reading - among other things - "Obama has deported more families than Bush" and "Enough, no more deportations," before marching two blocks along Michigan Avenue.
Before arriving at the Obama campaign HQ they were halted by the building's security guard.
Chacon and four other activists were given authorization to enter the building to deliver the petition on which signers had affirmed that "the decision to obligate all (states) to join Secure Communities is anti-democratic."
"Deporting innocents and breaking the trust between the police and immigrants will have a devastating effect on our communities," it added.
The Department of Homeland Security announced earlier this month that participation in S-COMM is obligatory, nullifying efforts by Illinois and other states to opt out of the program.
S-COMM requires local authorities to share with the federal government fingerprints and other biometric data taken from undocumented prisoners in local jails.
Like other activists at Tuesday's protests, Carlos Roa of Presente.org warned that Obama could lose the support of Latino voters in the 2012 election due to his lack of action.
Roa noted that during the 2008 campaign, Obama promised to get immigration reform under way during the first year of his mandate and that he would be "a friend to the Latino community."
More than 1 million undocumented immigrants have been deported since Obama took office in January 2009.
Illinois was one of the first states to cancel its participation in S-COMM, yet Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Wednesday in Chicago will hold a public audience to announce details of its expansion.
The Chicago rally was part of a "National Day of Action" that includes planned protests in Houston, Boston, Miami, Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina.