STORY UPDATED: New information included about a third arrest.
Two immigration activists were arrested Monday while participating in sit-ins at the offices of Latino members of Congress. A third activist was arrested Monday evening.
U.S. Capitol Police arrested Marco Pacheco and Marcela Espinoza on Monday for unlawful entry. Pacheco was arrested inside the office of Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-Texas), who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Espinoza was arrested inside the office of Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), a longtime advocate of immigration reform.
A third activist, Brandol Hernandez, was arrested later in the evening at the office of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).
The three activists are part of the so-called “Dream 30.” The group is composed of 34 young immigrants who were detained in September after crossing the United States-Mexico border through Texas and surrendering to U.S. authorities. Most of the activists have been released and one was deported last week.
Pacheco and Espinoza, who were released from detention last week, refused to leave the congressional offices on Monday until Hinojosa and Gutiérrez agreed to call the Department of Homeland Security and President Barack Obama to ask for the release of the eight activists who are still in a detention center at El Paso, Texas.
Mohammad Abdollahi, one of the organizers behind the border crossings of the “DREAM 30” group, said he and others have spent the last two weeks asking Gutiérrez and Hinojosa—as well as other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus—to call for the release of the detained activists. However, he said they haven’t been successful.
“We’re tired of not getting any answers,” Abdollahi told VOXXI. “We are staging sit-ins and refusing to leave until we get answers.”
Hinojosa, Gutiérrez respond to sit-ins by the ‘Dream 30′ activists
Jasmine Mora, communications director for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, responded to the sit-in at Hinojosa’s office in a statement sent to VOXXI:
“Together with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), Congressman Ruben Hinojosa has been on the frontlines, fighting to ensure that comprehensive immigration reform becomes a reality. We need Americans across the country to stand up and make their voices heard, but unfortunately some methods of protest, as was demonstrated today, do not move us closer to making reform a reality.”
Mora added that Hinojosa was not in his office when the sit-in took place. She also said that in the past, Hinojosa’s staff has “met multiple times with the DREAM 30 group to hear their concerns.” Furthermore, Mora said CHC staff has also been working with DHS to ensure that members of the “Dream 30” group receive due process of law.
“While congressional offices cannot place demands on agencies around deportation cases, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is working to ensure that immigration reform happens,” Mora said.
Meanwhile, Gutiérrez spokesman Douglas Rivlin released a statement explaining why Gutiérrez, who has expressed support for the release of the “Dream 30” activists in the past, and his office will no longer work with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) and advocates at DREAMActivist.org. The two groups organized the border crossing of activists from the “Dream 30.”
Rivilin said in the statement:
“The Congressman met privately with the parents of some of the young people in detention in El Paso last week in Washington; a meeting that was frank, emotional, and confidential. But that meeting was also recorded surreptitiously by NIYA, without the knowledge of the parents, the Congressman or his staff. It is unfortunate that the actions of the advocates in this case are preventing this office from being able to work with parents and family who are understandably and rightly concerned for the safety of their son or daughter.”
‘Dream 30′ activists staged sit-ins in multiple congressional offices
Besides Pacheco and Espinoza, fourteen other activists from the “Dream 30” group participated in similar sit-ins on Monday at the offices of multiple members of Congress, including Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.).
One of those activists was Israel Rodriguez, who spent much of the day on Monday inside the office of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).
“We’re trying to ask him to give us his support and to stop the deportations of our friends,” the 24-year-old told VOXXI.
Rodriguez had been living in the U.S. since he was 6 years old before he left the country two years ago. He had just earned a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University when he decided to return to Mexico because he couldn’t use his degree to work due to his undocumented status.
Like Rodriguez, many of the activists from the “Dream 30” group are Dreamers who grew up in the U.S. and returned to live in Mexico for various reasons, such as to seek work or education opportunities. They are asking for asylum, claiming their upbringing in the U.S. makes them vulnerable to persecution and kidnapping in Mexico.
Rodriguez noted that two activists from the “Dream 30” group, Alfredo Ortega and Brandon Peña, were denied asylum on Friday and could be being deported soon.
“They could be deported at any moment,” Rodriguez told VOXXI, referring to Ortega and Hernandez. “We know that Sen. Menendez has a lot of influence, so we are asking him to make a call to DHS or President Obama to stop these deportations.”