Immigration-reform protesters block Central Avenue

PHOENIX – Protesters chanting “We deserve our freedom,” and waving the American flag blocked Central Avenue outside federal immigration offices, hours after the Supreme Court deadlocked on an immigration reform case.

About 50 people blocked the northbound lanes of Central Avenue, outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Office in Phoenix near McDowell Road. They held aloft signs such as “Block ICE” and “ICE breaks families apart, ” and yelled “We lost the battle but we will win the war.”

“It’s sad,” Maria Hernandez, 23, said. “It enrages me to see that we have a system that is setting us up to fail. We don’t live in a system that helps immigrant communities like mine to flourish.”

Police began clearing protesters off the street around 90 minutes after the protest started, about 12:30 p.m. Four people were arrested, according to azcentral.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The protest started after immigration reform groups ended a news conference decrying the Supreme Court split decision. The Thursday deadlock means President Barack Obama cannot legally stop the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants with children who are U.S. citizens or legal residents, as he tried to do with an executive order.

The decision was a 4-4 tie, which allowed a lower-court decision to block the Obama plan to remain. “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court,” the split decision said.

Immigration has become one of the most contentious issues in the country, where presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton duel over differing narratives on immigration reform. In the border state of Arizona, the divide includes those who agree with Trump’s campaign pledge to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. and those who say millions of immigrants are being denied the American dream.

Protestors gather on Central Ave chanting

Protestors gather on Central Ave chanting “Si se puede” (Photo by Isabel Menzel/Cronkite News)

Protester Chris Fleischman said families are suffering.

“We’ve always been fighting to fix our immigration system and tell our elected leaders and our government officials that their inaction in causing the problem,” Fleischman said. People are not the problem, it’s a broken law system that is the problem.”

Several Arizona immigration-reform groups, including Puente, Neighborhood Ministries, Mi Familia Vota, and Center for Neighborhood Leadership conducted a media conference before the protest.

Individuals attending the protest wore matching shirts that supported

Individuals attending the protest wore matching shirts that supported “Unite Here.” (Photo by Christopher West/Cronkite News)

“We’re here supporting our community after the decision was made that’s going to devastate millions of lives and thousands of lives here in Arizona, especially when you look at the demographic, most of our community is affected by that law,” Romero Ramirez said.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said he was disappointed by the Supreme Court decision.

“I am incredibly disappointed that the Court’s split decision will set back common-sense efforts to bring 4 million undocumented parents of U.S. citizens or legal residents out of the shadows,” Stanton said in a statement. “As it stands now, more than 136,000 Arizona residents — who only want to work and contribute to our communities — will continue to live in a state of fear and uncertainty.”

(Video by Alexa Salari/Cronkite News)