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Hundreds Arrested In Acts Of Civil Disobedience During Immigration Rally

Immigration activists stage protest in front of U.S. Capitol. 
Photo by Patrick Madden
Immigration activists stage protest in front of U.S. Capitol. 

Following an immigration reform rally on the Mall today, approximately 200 people marched to the Capitol building and were arrested for civil disobedience after staging a sit-in.

Immigration reform activists were gathered in the District to urge Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform. Among the estimated 20,000 activists were nearly 300 faith leaders representing 18 faith traditions.

"It's such a big issue for us because it's personal. It's about our parents. It's about parents being separated from their children. It's about DREAMers not being able to contribute to the country they call home," says Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block. "And we're closer than we've ever been to passing comprehensive immigration reform."

After a day of speeches and entertainment, which included popular Mexican band Los Tigres del Norte, bout 200 demonstrators refused to move and were arrested by Capitol police. This included several congressmen, including Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Rep. Raul Grivjalva (D-Ariz.), Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.).

Organizers said they wanted to send a message to House leadership. The Senate passed an immigration reform bill in June, and advocates say they believe they have the votes in the House, if the leadership would call for a vote.

"Obviously government is very stuck, they can't even operate themselves right now," says Kim Propreak with Casa de Maryland. "We believe we have to show massive force of grassroots people who support changing this broken immigration system. That's what we're going to do today."

The rally was met by a small group of protesters from groups like Virginians Opposed to Amnesty. They say they took to the National Mall to show their opposition to the Senate bill, which they say has less to do with immigration reform than it does providing amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Brad Botwin is director of "Help Save Maryland," a grassroots organization opposed to the idea of immigration reform. Botwin insists efforts such as yesterday's rally in support of immigrant dignity and respect encourages the possibility of amnesty for undocumented workers now living in the U.S.

"Blanket amnesty for everybody? It's just not going to work," Botwin said. "There's so much unemployment right now, and the economy is in the tank that we're just not going anywhere fast."

A bill approved by the senate during the summer includes a plan that would provide undocumented immigrants in the country a path to citizenship which would take more than a dozen years. Jose Freeas says the path is not amnesty, but rather a challenge.

"Fourteen years to wait to have the opportunity to regularize the status of an immigrant to U.S. citizens is a long time, but it's certainly not amnesty as they describe it," Freeas says.

The protest follows weekend marches in cities across the country, with marchers calling for immigration reform.

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