Philadelphia police arrested six protesters demonstrating at the campaign headquarters of former Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday. The protesters were demanding the candidate apologize for Obama-era deportations of undocumented families.
The undocumented families at the protest left before police arrived for fear of being remanded into ICE custody.
The group protested for an hour and a half, calling attention to the Obama-era policies that led to a record number of deportations across the eight years of the Obama presidency. In fact, thanks to the rise of sanctuary cities, Obama still holds the record for mass deportations over even the Trump administration, and though it’s likely loathe to admit it, the Trump administration benefits greatly from Obama’s deportation machine.
President Obama was labeled “Deporter-in-Chief” by critics of his harsh policies on immigration. And protesters of Biden have tied that legacy to him, as well.
“We can’t ignore the fact he was complacent to Obama’s vicious deportation machine,” said Catalina Santiago, media coordinator at Movimiento Cosecha, which organized the protest. “He is shamelessly ignoring the countless families he destroyed.”
And that criticism isn’t unearned. Biden defended Obama’s deportations during the first Democratic debate in June, saying comparisons to the Trump deportation machine were “immoral” and unjustified. Though Obama never operated facilities compared to concentration camps to house detained immigrants, his legacy on deportation is still unmatched.
“They are very much the same policies,” said Julie Mao, immigration attorney at Just Futures Law. “We need a change in policy, not just a change in identity politics or dog whistle politics.”
The protests of Biden are the first salvo from Movimiento Cosecha, which is critical of the broader Democratic field in regards to immigration policies. The group says opposing Trump’s treatment of migrants is the bare minimum and a bar that not all Democrats meet — case-in-point, the group says, funding for draconian Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations that House Democrats continue to authorize, albeit at reduced levels.
“We basically had the responsibility to not allow anyone to forget the Obama-Biden legacy and how there were 3 million people deported,” Santiago said. “Beyond the statistics we know there are experiences, there’s trauma, there’s impact. … We had families share those stories of what it means to lose your best friend, the love of your life, your son to deportation, and what it means to have that empty hole in your heart.”
As of yet, no apology has been offered by Biden or Obama.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.