A total of 41 pro-immigration reform activists were arrested Thursday near the U.S. Capitol building for engaging in civil disobedience, in an attempt to call on House Republicans to approve legislation with a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
The activists were arrested by U.S. Capitol Police officers for blocking traffic on Independence Avenue. Locking hands, they sat in the middle of the road with a sign in front of them that read: “Keep Families Together – Immigration Reform Now.”
On each side of the road were hundreds of advocates who were there to stand in solidarity with those who were getting arrested. They shouted phrases like: “What do we want? Citizenship. When do we want it? Now.” Some wore white shirts that read: “Citizenship Now.”
These acts of civil disobedience come as members of Congress prepare to go home for the one-month summer recess, a time when activists are planning to intensify their efforts to push for immigration reform. These acts also come a day after a coalition of pro-immigration groups announced they will be targeting 52 congressional districts where they’ve organized 360 events aimed at pushing House Republicans to take action on immigration reform.
Diverse group of activists arrested for civil disobedience
The activists who were arrested Thursday represented a broad coalition of leaders from various immigrant rights, labor and faith-based organizations.
Among those who were arrested was Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. She was carrying a portrait of an undocumented family that has been living in California for the last 13 years.
“I’m taking this photo in representation of all the undocumented families who are waiting for Congress to pass an immigration reform that will keep families together,” Salas told VOXXI prior to getting arrested.
Ricardo Campos, a Dreamer from Maryland, was among the few undocumented immigrants who participated in the civil disobedience acts. He was recently granted deferred action, which gives him the authority to stay and work in the United States.
Campos explained his decision to participate, saying, “For me, deferred action is nothing if my family can be deported.”
“I hope this is part of the coal that lights up the fire so that other states repeat similar actions until we have an immigration reform that is just and comprehensive,” he added.
Other leaders arrested were: Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center; Eliseo Medina, secretary-treasurer of the SEIU; Kica Matos, organizer with the Fair Immigration Reform Movement; Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice; Giev Kashkooli, vice president of the United Farm Workers; and Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Campaign for Community Change.
Arrests kick off summer-long push for immigration reform
Activists said Thursday’s acts of civil disobedience marks the beginning of a series of nationwide actions planned for the August recess. The planned actions intend to push House Republicans to pass immigration reform legislation with a path to citizenship.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who was there to voice his support for those getting arrested, said actions like these are going to be crucial during the August recess. He is encouraging pro-immigration reform supporters to press their elected House Republicans to support legislation with a path to citizenship.
“Both the pro-reform folks and the anti-reform folks are going to be out during the August recess,” he told VOXXI. “Those of us who care about reforming this law in a good and just way need to be out, too. We cannot be passive about it. We need to draw attention to our side as well.”
Grijalva also commended those who got arrested, saying they are a group of people who “are taking the risk to draw attention to the issue—not to themselves.”
Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) were also there to stand in solidarity with the activists who were getting arrested. They both addressed a crowd of supporters who convened at a rally prior to the arrests.
Gutierrez told supporters that in order to get Congress to act, they will need to be “consistent and persistent” in their demand for immigration reform. He said that throughout the month of August, “we must make sure that our voices are heard throughout the United States.”
In her address to the crowd, Schakowsky said: “Vamos a ganar — we are going to win. This is a great battle that we are going to win, and sooner rather than later.”