Today, Latinos, immigrants, faith leaders, union activists, and other allies marched to the U.S. Capitol where nearly two hundred attendees blocked traffic and were arrested to protest the partisan gridlock in Congress. Tens of thousands called on Congress to get back to work and pass the lone bipartisan issue in America—immigration reform. Among the arrestees included: Reps. Joe Crowley (NY), Keith Ellison (MN), Al Green (TX), Raul Grijalva (AZ), Luis Gutierrez (IL), John Lewis (GA), Charlie Rangel (NY), and Jan Schakowsky (IL),along with prominent national and local union leaders, dozens of impacted immigrants, and faith, immigrant rights, and community advocates.
The October 8 rally, where nearly 20,000 people gathered in the nation’s capital to demand the House Republican leadership pass comprehensive immigration reform, was followed by 180+ major mobilizations that occurred in 40 states over the Oct 5 weekend. The surge by the pro-immigration reform movement aims to underscore the urgent need for Congress to vote and fix our country’s broken immigration system.
“There exists a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives who support immigration reform with a path to citizenship,” said Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of CASA in Action, one of the lead organizations behind the Oct 8 rally. “But Speaker John Boehner is stalling and won’t schedule a vote, even though legislators and advocates are certain it will pass.”
Bipartisan support took center stage at today’s rally. Sen. Menendez reminded the audience of the bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform earlier this summer when the Senate passed a bill that garnered votes from both sides of the aisle. Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi proclaimed that immigration reform remains a top priority for her caucus as it is for the majority of Americans across the country. Along with her on stage were dozens of Democratic House members. Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart also spoke at the rally, and shared the stage with pro-immigration reform Republican House members: Reps. Jeff Denham (CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), and David Valadao (CA).
Rep. Luis Gutierrez closed the rally with his rousing call to the crowd and then led the march to the non-violent civil disobedience.
“Speaker Boehner needs to recognize that we are not going away until we get comprehensive immigration reform,” said Jaime Contreras, the 32BJ SEIU Vice President and Capital Area Director. “Last year’s November election was the largest demonstration the pro-immigration reform movement has put forward when we exerted our power and pressure at the ballot box. If the House Republican leadership continues to stall and hold out from giving us a vote on citizenship, they should be prepared for our escalation—because they haven’t seen anything yet.”
The pro-immigration reform movement is just beginning its escalation to put direct pressure on Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. This fall, House Republicans will continuously receive constant contact by immigrant rights and union activists, faith leaders, and the broad bipartisan coalition that is growing stronger every day and is determined to get Congress to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship this year.
Some of the national and local leaders that participated in the civil disobedience include Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice-President of the AFL-CIO, Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, Bruce Goldstein, Executive Director of Farmworker Justice Fund, Gustavo Torres, President of CASA in Action, Bernard Lunzer, Vice-President of the Communication Workers of America, Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, Abel Nuñez, Executive Director of the CARECEN DC office, D. Taylor, President of UNITE HERE, Maryland Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, John Stocks, Executive Director of the National Education Association, Maria Elena Durazo, President of the LA County Federation of Labor, New Haven Alderman Delphine Clyburn, Joslyn Williams, President of the DC Central Labor Council, Jaime Contreras, Vice-President of SEIU 32BJ, Giev Aaron Kashkooli, Vice-President of the United Farmworkers, Terry Cavanagh, Executive Director of SEIU MD/DC State Council, Javier Valdes, Co-Director of Make the Road New York, Lawrence Benito, Executive Director of Illinois Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, and Javier Morillo, President of SEIU Local 26,
Faith leaders include Sister Pat Rogucki, Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block of Bend the Arc Jewish Action, Pastor Sandra Jones, Senior Minister of Judson Memorial Church Donna Schaper, Pastor Alice Harrington of Southside Presbyterian Church, Father Clete Kiley, Reverend Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, Reverend C.D. Witherspoon, President of the Baltimore Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Reverend Dr. Sharon Stanley of the Refugee and Immigration Ministries of the Disciples of Christ Church, and Reverend William Barber, II, President of the North Carolina Conference of the NAACP.
For profiles of some of those arrested today, go to www.OctoberImmigration.org and click under Civil Disobedience.