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Protesters at Milwaukee immigration office call for reforms

By Brendan O'Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - A dozen protesters, calling for a stop to deportation raids and changes in the nation's immigration policies, blocked the garage doors for three hours on Thursday at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Milwaukee.

Another 80 demonstrators marched and chanted near the dozen or so who lay down to block the doors to the garage used by ICE vans that take part in the raids. Police were watching nearby and no arrests were made.

"If we don't speak up, there will not be any justice," said Leilani Lopez, 28. Her brother-in-law Manuel Lopez was taken into custody during an ICE raid on May 27 for failing to renew his paperwork, she said.

ICE officials could not be reached immediately for comment.

Immigration reform in the United States has been a thorny political issue as President Barack Obama, a Democrat, has pushed for new laws to create a pathway to citizenship for some 11 million undocumented residents.

A bill that passed the Democrat-majority Senate has stalled in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Obama asked his administration in May to wait until the end of August to change the nation's deportation policy to allow Congress time to approve immigration legislation.

"It's time now for the president to act. It isn't just a broken immigration system, we also have a broken immigration enforcement system," said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, an immigration rights group.

As she lay on the ground connected by plastic tubing to another demonstrator, Neumann-Ortiz said ICE raids break apart families.

"Everyday, families are being separated," she said. "The whole deportation machinery has to change."

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; editing by Gunna Dickson)