TUCSON, Ariz. (CN) - Immigration-reform activists blocked the entrance to the federal courthouse in Tucson on Friday and plan to "shut down" the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix today.
About 80 protesters representing various groups gathered early Friday morning in front of the Evo A. DeConcini U.S. Courthouse in downtown Tucson, blocking the entrance and chaining themselves to buses holding illegal migrants set for deportation hearings.
The activists also blocked traffic near the courthouse in a coordinated effort, part of the larger #Not1More Deportation campaign, to disrupt deportation hearings that are part of the U.S. Border Patrol's "Operation Streamline."
Operation Streamline mandates that illegal border crossers be subject to federal criminal prosecution and deportation. Since its inception in 2005, the fast-track program has greatly increased caseloads in many regional district courts and led to thousands of criminal prosecutions.
"Under the president's administration, nearly two million families have been torn apart through detention and deportation," said Marisa Franco of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network in a statement.
"Our communities can no longer wait for the president to rediscover his moral compass or for Congress to actually do its job. We will do what any mother or father would do and keep our families together by preventing ICE from being able to tear them apart," she said.
Federal officials canceled hearings for the remainder of the day on Friday, and police arrested about 17 people after cutting the chains that some had used to secure themselves to buses.
Friday's protest was a preamble to what promises to be a much bigger event planned for today in Phoenix.
According to the group Puente Human Rights Movement, hundreds will gather today in downtown Phoenix to "Shutdown ICE".
"How often have you been told to wait? How often have you been told to be patient, even when what you're waiting for seems further and further away?" the group states on its Facebook page. "October 14 we draw the line. Our families are too precious to allow them to continue to be separated. Our future is too bright to allow it to be gambled in Washington DC political games. If Congress and the President won't take action, we must."
Protesters planned to meet around noon Mountain Time to march to ICE headquarters in Phoenix.