WASHINGTON — 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 was arrested later after group members blocked the hallway outside the office of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
As members of Congress prepared to leave for a long summer recess, organizers said they wanted to send the “strongest message possible” to Republican leaders in the House 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, executive director of the Latin American Coalition in Charlotte, N.C., said minutes before she was arrested.
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Also among those arrested at the sit-in were labor leaders — including Eliseo Medina, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union; Arlene Holt-Baker, a vice president of the AFL-CIO; and Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America — as well as Deepak Bhargava, Angélica Salas, Gustavo Torres, Petra Falcón and other immigrants’ rights advocates from around the country.
They were charged with blocking passage and held for several hours before being released.
Meanwhile, young immigrants delivered cantaloupes to the offices of more than 200 House lawmakers who voted in June to halt an Obama administration program that provides reprieves from deportation for some young people in the country illegally. That vote was on an amendment by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who created a stir last week when he said that many young immigrants had “calves like cantaloupes” from running drugs across the desert.
An immigration overhaul remains in doubt despite the Senate passing its own bill. Boehner has said he has no intention of taking up the Senate bill.
Material from The New York Times is included in this report.