To bring more attention to the need for comprehensive immigration reform, eight Democratic lawmakers, including Georgia Congressman John Lewis and New York Congressman Charlie Rangel, were arrested yesterday in front of the U.S. Capitol.
In addition to Lewis and Rangel, the other lawmakers arrested were Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Joe Crowley of New York, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, and Al Green of Texas.
The politicians staged a sit-in alongside activists at an immigration rally on the National Mall Tuesday afternoon. Police arrested nearly 200 people for crowding and disrupting the streets around the Capitol.
“We cannot rest, we cannot be satisfied until we have comprehensive immigration reform,” Lewis told reporters earlier in the day.
Lewis said on Twitter that the arrest was his 45th, after many years of sit-ins and protests for the well-known civil rights advocate.
“My colleagues and I are not afraid to get arrested for what we believe is important to move America forward,” Rangel tweeted.
The rally brought thousands of people to the National Mall, with mostly Democratic politicians giving speeches and exhorting the crowd not to give up on the fight to reform the country’s immigration laws, despite the political environment where such expectations seem somewhat hopeless amid a government shutdown.
House Speaker John Boehner declined to put a Senate-passed immigration bill up for a vote last June, waiting instead on “piecemeal” legislation from GOP House members that never came.
“I thank you for subscribing to the idea: Don’t agonize, organize,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told the crowd. “Let us act without further delay, let’s get a vote on the Floor…because the time for immigration reform is now.”
“Si se puede,” she yelled, her voice hoarse. “Yes we can.”
“The enthusiastic demonstration of support for immigration reform this week has proven to Congress that the broad coalition behind commonsense solutions to our nation’s broken immigration laws is as strong as it has ever been,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said of the rally.