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Families Separated Over Citizenship Stage Christmas Deportation Protest

CHICAGO — Dozens of Chicagoans marched outside the Department of Homeland Security's Chicago headquarters Monday to protest deportation policies that have left families separated this Christmas Eve.

Not content to spend Christmas Eve at home, Alejandra Henriquez walked hand in hand with her mother-in-law Melba Henriquez outside 101 W. Congress Pkwy. at 11 a.m., hoping to bring attention to the plight of her husband, who will spend Christmas at McHenry County Jail's immigrant detention center.

Alejandra Henriquez brought with her a bag full of documents related to her husband's fight to stay in the country, which she says has cost the family more than $25,000. She said she has been "fighting and fighting and fighting" to sit down with the department of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in Chicago, where her family has lived for 27 years with their 12- and 14-year-old sons.

Cesar Henriquez is one of 40 Chicago residents incarcerated for his immigration status in the last 20 weeks, according to Father Jose Landaverde of Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican Mission, who has staged Christmas Eve anti-deportation demonstrations for the last six years.

Landaverde brought a list with the names of congregants who won't make it to Christmas services at his church this year.

"Many families are not gonna have a Christmas because their parents are in jail," Landaverde said. Demonstrators at DHS Monday included children as young as four years old.

The demonstration included a posada, a traditional Latin American staging of Joseph and Mary's search for lodging as detailed in the nativity story. Landaverde and other protesters knelt in front of the DHS headquarters to represent their pleas for a safe haven.

During the posada, Landaverde and other speakers made direct appeals to politicians including Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9th) and President Barack Obama.

"[Politicans] who say they are about family values" but support deportation without alternatives "are hypocrites and liars," Landaverde said before leading participants in prayer. "People who destroy families are destroying family values."

ICE reported a record number of deportations in the 2012 fiscal year, with 408,849 immigrants removed from the country, up more than 19,000 from the 2011 fiscal year.