ABOUT 50 immigrant-rights advocates protested outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office just north of Center City yesterday afternoon, blocking two garage doors.
The rally, led by the Latino immigrant-justice organization Juntos and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, aimed to stop vehicles with immigrant detainees from leaving the building.
Miguel Andrade, 22, kneeling on a canvas painted with the Spanish words for "Not One More Deportation," clasped hands with his mother on one side and a friend on the other. They were blocking the vehicle exit on Callowhill Street near 16th, in Franklintown.
"I'm here along with my colleagues to put a demand to President Obama to put an end to all deportations," said Andrade, youth organizer for Juntos and a legal U.S. resident.
His mother, Maria Serna, a U.S. resident originally from Colombia, reiterated what many advocates complain about - record numbers of deportations under Obama. About 400,000 people were deported in 2010 and again in 2011, and about 370,000 last year.
Kneeling with them was Cristobal Valencia, 30, an undocumented immigrant from Puebla, Mexico. "There are a lot of families being separated because of deportation," he said.
They were among 35 protesters who stayed on Callowhill for about two hours in the 35-degree weather while Department of Homeland Security officers and Philly police stood by.
An additional 15 protesters stood or knelt outside the garage entrance on the other side of the building, on Carlton Street near 16th.
The law-enforcement officers sought a peaceful end, but wanted a way for employees finishing their workday to leave the building. About 3:30 p.m., city bike cops arrived, surrounding the kneeling protesters on Callowhill.
Shortly after, the garage door opened and a few vehicles exited, driving at an angle on the sidewalk and onto the street to avoid hitting the kneeling protesters.
More vehicles later departed, including a white van with tinted windows. It was unclear if it contained immigrant detainees. Lt. Joseph O'Brien of the city police's Civil Affairs Unit said he believed it did. Commander Steve Bekesy of the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service would not say whether it did.
After all the vehicles that needed to leave the building were able to do so, many law-enforcement officers departed, and the protesters left shortly afterward.