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Hundreds of people rallied at a church in Charlotte's Belmont neighborhood Wednesday night, calling for an end to deportations that break up families.
The event was part of a nationwide tour by U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez of Chicago.
In an at-times passionate speech, he told the crowd the U.S. immigration system is broken. He called on President Obama to use the power of his office to stop deportations that break up families.
Many who came to St. Paul's Baptist Church for the rally had personal stories of how deportation has affected their loved ones. One woman who's a U.S. citizen told the crowd her illegal immigrant fiancee is facing deportation after being arrested for a minor offense.
"Even though he wasn't born here, he is my family," she said. "He is my children's father. And that's all that should matter."
Outside the rally Mar Betancourt told us her American citizen cousins' illegal immigrant parents were deported, and it's caused psychological issues for her cousins.
"Why deport somebody if you're breaking up families?" Betancourt said. "Where have our American values gone?"
In an interview after the rally, Gutierrez told WBTV he is against the 287g program used by many sheriff's offices in our area to identify illegal immigrants.
He says too many are being later deported by the federal government after being arrested for minor offenses.
"I want my federal government to make me safer by going after dangerous criminals in our community, jailing them and deporting them," Gutierrez said. "Those aren't dangerous criminals that we heard from today."
But Mecklenburg County Sheriff Chipp Bailey says 287g is a great program that does what it's meant to do.
"No one living here has anything to fear as long as they follow the law," Bailey told WBTV.
Many folks who disagree with the point of Wednesday's rally say it shouldn't be the government that gets blamed for breaking up families -- it should be the folks who chose to come to the U.S. illegally. But Gutierrez disagrees.
"What do you say to those four million American citizen children?" he said. "Do you say, '[your] mom should have thought about that?'"