Dozens of leaders in the immigration movement were arrested Thursday after they blocked a major intersection near the Capitol in a protest of Republican opposition to an immigration overhaul that would include a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million immigrants who are in the country illegally.
More than 40 leaders were taken into custody after they walked onto Independence Avenue and locked arms, chanting in Spanish “Si, se puede” – “Yes, we can.” Another, smaller group of activists were arrested later in the afternoon after they blocked the hallway outside the office of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
As members of Congress prepared to leave Washington for a long summer recess, organizers said they wanted to send the “strongest message possible” to Republican leaders in the House of Representatives that they’re dissatisfied with progress on immigration and they’ll continue to fight for a comprehensive overhaul that includes a path to citizenship.
“We have to turn up the heat,” Jess George, the executive director of the Latin American Coalition in Charlotte, N.C., said minutes before she was arrested. “We have to let the House of Representatives know that America deserves a vote on citizenship. The vast majority of Americans want this. It’s democracy, and we need to make (House leaders) pay attention.”
An immigration overhaul remains in doubt despite the Senate passing its own comprehensive bill. Boehner has said he has no intentions of taking up the Senate bill. The House favors a more piecemeal approach focused on separate provisions that, among other things, address border security and measures to help children who were brought to the country illegally.