WASHINGTON - More than 40 immigrant rights, labor, faith, and other leaders were arrested today on Capitol Hill protesting against unjust immigration policies and the House GOP's inability to pass a bill that contains a pathway to citizenship and keeps families together.
The sit-in was held to send the strongest message possible to House GOP leaders that the fight for immigrant families has been escalated and will continue through the August recess and into the fall until the House produces a comprehensive bill that creates a path to citizenship for some 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Thursday's action is just the start of many nationwide activities that will be held to continue putting pressure on House GOP lawmakers.
Over the August recess, the groups will participate in "Forty Days of Action" to make sure Republicans don't forget the urgency of passing immigration reform. The actions represent an escalation in the fight for immigrant families and a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
Those arrested were blocking traffic at the intersection of First Street and Independence Avenue Southeast by the House Cannon Office Building. They sat in the street chanting, singing and holding banners that demanded an end to the immoral separation of families.
House GOP members have not just failed to act on a pathway to citizenship, but have instead let the most conservative and anti-immigrant GOP members take the lead in the debate, prompting advocates to turn to non-violent direct action to address the moral crisis of the broken immigration system.
"I was arrested in an act of civil disobedience against unjust immigration policies that are tearing families apart, leaving children without their parents, wives without their husbands and brothers and sisters without each other," declared Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Campaign for Community Change.
"Speaker Boehner needs to understand the urgency for reform. Until the House passes a bill that includes a pathway to citizenship, we will continue to be in the streets, at town hall meetings and on the phones, demanding justice for the 11 million aspiring Americans in our country," added Eliseo Medina, secretary-treasurer of the Service Workers,
"With all of the talk about polling and demographics, I think too many people have lost touch with the human and moral crisis of deportations," said Arlene Holt-Baker, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President. "Every day, roughly 1,000 people are deported because the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives is denying the majority of the US Congress a chance to vote on citizenship. I was arrested today because the labor movement stands with the families tragically ripped apart by John Boehner and the House Republicans' embrace of a broken immigration system."
"All of us in the Communications Workers of America are proud to stand for citizenship and against intolerance," declared the unions president, Larry Cohen, as he was arrested. "I am proud to represent our members today as we demonstrate the broad movement that supports a citizenship path for 11 million of our co-workers and neighbors. We will support this campaign as long as it takes whether we are sitting in the streets or organizing in our communities."