Meet The Immigration Reform Activists Who Got Arrested At Yesterday’s Rally On The Mall

WASHINGTON, D.C.– At the Camino Americano: Rally and March for Immigrant Dignity and Respect on Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other House members, including two House Republicans, spoke about the need for immigration reform that includes a pathway to eventual citizenship. Eight House Democrats were arrested in a show of solidarity.

ThinkProgress spoke to two House Democrats and asked how they would help bring an immigration reform bill to a vote. Rep Joe Garcia (D-FL) expressed his frustration with House Republicans, whom he accuses of “stand[ing] in the way of progress.” He said, “I filed a bill and I’ve collected 170 signatures, all Democrats, now it’s up to them [House Republicans]…There’s a U.S. Senate that put it on the floor, overwhelming number of Democrats and a small number of Republicans voted for it…It’s not the majority of the House, it’s simply the leadership.”

At the New York immigration rally on Saturday, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) explained that House Democrats introduced the bill to push Republicans on the issues, saying, “this bill is bipartisan so they have no excuse not to do it and this is why we need to get over this shutdown and then continue to put the pressure. We met with Boehner. We will continue to meet with him. Bring the bill to the floor! We will never know until the bill is brought to the floor.”

ThinkProgress also interviewed a few civil disobedience protesters who were identified by red armbands. When asked why they were willing to risk arrest, they all stated that it’s the right thing to do. Here are their stories:

Immigration Rally Jhonatan Llamas

Jhonatan Llamas is a self-identified DREAMer, or undocumented youth who was brought to the country from Mexico at the age of 11. He was willing to risk arrest because many members of his family are undocumented. He was unwilling to settle for a piecemeal immigration plan, an approach that some House Republicans have suggested, saying, “We think that it’s the time to pass immigration reform and fix this problem in the nation. I have family who’s undocumented– my brothers, my parents, uncles, cousins, so this affects me a lot. We need citizenship for all of the immigrants in the country.”

Immigration rally Sister Patricia Rogucki

Sister Patricia Rogucki, a Baltimore Archdiocese nun, believes that getting arrested is “the least that I can do for my brothers and sisters.” She believes that legalization and eventual citizenship would lead to a “strong working force for our middle class. We need their children to become educated so that they can become leaders in the future… right after Hurricane Sandy, these people were cleaning boats day and night. It’s not the most pleasant work– it’s cleaning houses, cleaning toilets, cleaning asbestos, and these are the people who have come up to do it. And unfortunately sometimes employers take advantage and pay very low wages.”

Immigration Rally Jose La Lue

Jose La Lue, a member at the Florida Immigration Coalition, was willing to get arrested because he believes that it’s the least he can do to “dramatize the urgency because every month that goes by, 1,500 people are deported. There is real suffering and this is not what America’s about. It’s not an affair of the mind, but an affair of the heart.” (Actually, La Lue underestimated the numbers: 1,120 people are deported each day).

Although the purpose of the march was to bring awareness to immigration reform, some conservatives instead criticized the Obama administration for allowing the rally to take place on the National Mall, which is otherwise closed due to the shutdown. Camino Americano organizers insist that the National Park Service allowed the event to take place on First Amendment grounds.

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