U.S. Immigration Law: July 2010 Archives
Twenty-one undocumented youth were arrested in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday after staging sit-ins in the Hart Senate Office Building atrium and the offices of Senators McCain and Reid. This followed on the heels of a similar action in Senator McCain's Tucson office in May in which three undocumented leaders were arrested and turned over to ICE in what was the first civil disobedience action carried out by undocumented activists that I am aware of.
The students had come from all across the country to Washington, D.C., to participate in a three-day series of rallies and legislative visits to promote the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would provide a path to legal status for undocumented youth brought here as children who complete two years of college or military service. Currently, these youth face deportation and long-term separation from their families and friends.
The students began their sit-in shortly after an annual symbolic graduation ceremony, held at a nearby church, attended by hundreds of DREAM Act-eligible students in caps and gowns. Groups of DREAMers and supporters had driven from Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, and many other states to attend the days of action.
Shortly before 3:00 p.m., the 21 activists fanned out to the offices of Senators Feinstein (D-CA), Reid (D-NV), McCain (R-AZ), Menendez (D-NJ), and Schumer (D-NY), where they began peaceful sit-ins. After a short while, they left the offices and congregated in the atrium of the Hart Senate Building, except that the students in Senators Reid and McCain's offices stayed put.
Twelve DREAMers in the Hart Building atrium began a peaceful sit-in and were arrested by Capitol Police shortly afterwards. They were then taken to a local processing facility. Four DREAMers in Senator McCain's office and five in Senator Reid's were arrested between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. after the Senate office buildings closed. Seventeen of the DREAMers were released Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, while four were held overnight and released after appearing at their arraignments.
The activists in yesterday's action risk deportation if ICE gets involved as they go through the criminal process. Their arrests triggered an immediate and intense emotional response from the groups they had traveled with to D.C., which included siblings, parents, teachers, and friends, many of whom did not know the 21 would be arrested.