WASHINGTON (AP) - The president of a prominent Latino advocacy group called President Barack Obama the "deporter in chief," denouncing the administration's deportation of nearly 2 million immigrants.
Janet Murguia, who heads the National Council of La Raza, also directed her anger and frustration at House Republicans for stalling on immigration legislation, which is languishing some eight months after the Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive bill. Murguia made the comments at an awards dinner Tuesday night.
"For us, this president has been the deporter in chief," Murguia said. "Any day now, this administration will reach the 2 million mark for deportations. It is a staggering number that far outstrips any of his predecessors and leaves behind it a wake of devastation for families across America."
Since Obama took office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has removed nearly 2 million immigrants in an aggressive enforcement of current law. Advocacy groups fault the president for deporting too many people, but Republicans argue that Obama has been too lax in dealing with the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally.
Murguia argued that Obama has the authority to stop tearing families apart.
Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, part of the group of eight Republicans and Democrats who spent months crafting the Senate bill, implored Obama to halt deportations for relatives of U.S. citizens, legal residents and young people who were brought to the country illegally by family members.
"While we continue waiting for the House of Representatives to wake up and move on immigration reform legislation, I urge the president to take action today and halt needless deportations that are splitting apart our families and communities," the New Jersey senator said. "The current deportation apparatus is an outrage and it's a tragedy."
Menendez made the remarks at the awards dinner where he was honored for his work on the Senate bill.
In her speech, Murguia pressed the House GOP to act on immigration.
"You have had more than enough time to come up with legislation to move reform forward. It is time to stop the political gamesmanship," she said.
House GOP leaders unveiled principles on immigration in January, but splits within the ranks has prevented any action as Republicans fear that addressing the divisive issue during an election year will undermine their chances in November's midterm elections.