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Thousands rally for immigration reform at National Mall, hundreds arrested

Andrés Rodriguez
Close to 15,000 people rally for comprehensive immigration reform Tuesday at the National Mall. The march ended in front of the Capitol where officials say about 200 were arrested in an act of civil disobedience.

WASHINGTON – Hoping to pressure Congress into passing immigration reform, close to 15,000 protesters marched Tuesday from the National Mall to the Capitol steps, where a number of democratic congressmen and activists were arrested in an act of civil disobedience.

Approximately 200 arrests were made by U.S. Capitol Police on First Street, between Maryland Avenue SW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The arrests, which were made as crowds chanted in Spanish, “Yes, we can,” lasted into the evening. Capitol Police Public Information Officer, Shennell Antrobus, said the arrests were made because the crowd was “crowding, obstructing and incommoding.”

Members of Congress arrested include Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.; Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.; John Lewis, D-Ga.; Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; Charlie Rangel; D-N.Y.; Jan Schakiwsky, D-Ill.; Al Green, D-Texas and Joseph Crawley, D-N.Y.

Brenda Perez, 29, of Nashville, Tenn, was among those arrested. She traveled to D.C. from Nashville withWorkers Dignity, a low-wage worker center that organizes against economic injustices.

“We know a lot of immigrants don’t get paid the right wages cause people think they can exploit them because they’re immigrants,” Perez who’s originally from Matamoros, Mexico, said. “It’s the first time I’m doing it and I’m a bit nervous, but I’ve been in this country since I was six and I can’t have that fear anymore.”

Pullquote Photo

I’ve been in this country since I was six and I can’t have that fear anymore.

— Brenda Perez


Gustavo Torres, executive director of Casa de Maryland, a community organization which partly organized the event, said the time is now for immigration reform as the crowd surrounding the stage chanted in agreement.

“In our country, because this is our country, there is a clear consensus which has produced a diverse and ample movement,” he said. “Now is the time for immigration reform. Now is the time because families continue to be torn apart, and if not now then when?”

The event featured a free concert with the Norteño Mexican band Los Tigres del Norte and Lila Downs, who sang of the struggle of undocumented immigrants.

Fidel Moreno Chavez, 55, sang along with Los Tigres del Norte and screamed for them to sing “El Dolor de un Padre.” Moreno, who came to the U.S. from Guerrero, Mexico in 1997, held a sign that decried his son’s deportation in 2011. His son of 32 lived in the U.S. for eight years.

“He was deported only because he didn’t have a license,” Moreno said. “He left children and a wife.”

Brenda Suarez, 27, of Essex, Mass., hasn’t seen her daughters in nine years, she said. She left Jalisco, Mexico in 2004.

“We just want them to say yes to immigration reform,” Suarez said. “And we’re just fighting like everyone else here because that’s all we want; we want it to become law now.”

The comprehensive immigration reform proposal that the Senate passed in the summer remains stalled. Thursday, House Democrats introduced their own bill, similar to the Gang of Eight’s, but Speaker of the House John Boehner has said he won’t allow for a vote on the floor if a majority of Republicans oppose it.

Still, Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said at the rally comprehensive reform will pass.

“The time is now for equality and opportunity and for every immigrant to have a fair shot at the American dream.” Pelosi, the House minority leader, said. “We want a vote on the floor, because the time for immigration reform is now.”

Reach reporter Andrés Rodríguez at [email protected] or 202-326-9871.

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Thousands rally for immigration reform at National Mall, hundreds arrested