CAPITOL HILL —
Advocates for immigrant rights are calling on President Barack Obama to suspend deportations of otherwise law-abiding residents who are undocumented while Congress considers reforming the nation's immigration laws.
Allies of the president are criticizing the Obama administration for deporting more than 1.9 million undocumented immigrants.
Immigrant rights groups are increasingly frustrated by the Obama administration's crackdown on undocumented immigrants.
Two of those groups hosted an event on Capitol Hill, calling on Congress and the president to suspend deportations they say are tearing families apart.
Maria Perez is a U.S. citizen who never thought she would see her husband deported to Mexico. She came to the event.
"Even though my husband was undocumented, I always believed President Obama that the focus of deportations were violent criminals and felons," she said. "My husband is neither. He’s a good father, a good husband who provided for his family. But on October 16, three officers came to our house..."
Perez says the arrest traumatized their children.
"They handcuffed him, they arrested him, in front of my children," she said. "To this day, my son goes white when he sees officers."
Many families face the same fate, including U.S. citizen Seleste Wisniewski, whose husband has been granted a one-year reprieve from deportation. He's the primary caregiver of four American children, including her adult son who has cerebral palsy.
"I can speak firsthand that the family life is not taken into consideration," she said. "What goes on in the home - if they would have just listened and seen, I was begging them - put two ankle bracelets on every member of my household, don’t take this man, please. Don’t take my husband!"
Advocates for reform say the Republican-controlled House of Representatives should act. The Senate passed immigration reform last year.
"Too many voices on the other side of the aisle are saying ‘go slow’ or ‘not now’ and it’s up to all of us who know that reform is urgent to say that’s not good enough," said Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren. "The time is now to move forward."
But Speaker of the House John Boehner was pessimistic about immigration reform passing this year. He said Republicans don't trust the president.
"... I think the president is going to have to demonstrate to the American people and to my colleagues that he can be trusted to enforce the law as it is written," he said.
Republicans say border security should be the priority before any talk of legalizing the undocumented.
Immigration rights activists vow to keep up the pressure - on the president and Congress.