About 200 demonstrators were arrested at a rally for immigration reform on the National Mall Tuesday. Capitol Police detained the protesters, including Rep. John Lewis and other members of Congress, after they sat down in the street in front of the U.S. Capitol building.
Rally organizers say they wanted to remind Congress to keep immigration reform on the legislative agenda, which has been bogged down by the on-going government shutdown and federal spending debate. Tuesday’s event followed similar demonstrations over the weekend around the country in support of immigration reform.
In the nation’s capital, the chanting of “¡Sí, se puede! ¡Sí, se puede!” (“Yes, we can! Yes, we can!” in Spanish) echoed across the Mall as a mix of labor union members, community organizers, and young families with strollers made their way towards the Capitol from the rally’s earlier site in front of the Smithsonian Institution Building.
Despite the political gridlock on Capitol Hill, demonstrator Rebecca Diaz of Washington, D.C., said she’s hopeful that immigration reform will pass.
“We have been waiting enough,” she said. “I think you don’t have to choose [either a government spending bill or an immigration reform bill]. They have to do both. That’s what they get paid for.”
Fellow D.C. resident Jasmine Garcia was more hesitant in her demands for Congress, describing herself as “hopefully pessimistic.”
“Immigration doesn’t feel like it’s going to be on the [legislative] agenda in the short term,” Garcia said. “But at least we are speaking up by being present and demonstrating.”
The Senate did pass an immigration reform bill in June, but the House has yet to vote on it. Republican leaders in the House say they prefer to focus on smaller bills about individual immigration issues instead.
NPR’s Abbey Oldham contributed to this report.