WASHINGTON – Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva was arrested Tuesday with nearly 200 other protesters outside the Capitol after a daylong rally to demand congressional action on comprehensive immigration reform.
The Tucson Democrat was one of eight lawmakers arrested late Tuesday afternoon at the end of the Camino Americano rally, which drew thousands to the National Mall for speeches, music and cheers.
“It is only a small sacrifice on our part, but it is important to bring attention to this issue,” Grijalva said after his release. He was held by police for about three hours before paying a $50 fine and being released.
“I made up my mind and made the commitment a while back, a month and half ago,” to be arrested, Grijalva said.
Organizers said the Camino Americano Rally and March for Immigrant Dignity and Respect was designed as the culmination of more than 150 immigration reform rallies around the country Saturday.
Those events were aimed at pressuring the House to act on a comprehensive immigration reform bill, passed by the Senate in a bipartisan vote, that includes a path to citizenship, a revamped visa program and tough new border security measures.
Since passing the Senate, however, the bill has stalled in the House. Speaker John Boehner has said the House will not be rushed into acting on a comprehensive measure, but has taken up a number of smaller reform measures instead.
Tuesday’s rally featured House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and dozens of other members of Congress demanding both an end to the government shutdown and a vote on an immigration bill House Democrats introduced last week. That bill mimicked the Senate measure, but without the tough border language.
Organizers estimated that as many as 20,000 people turned out for noon rally, which featured a two-hour concert by Los Tigres del Norte in addition to hours of speeches and presentations.
With dozens of kids who lost parents to deportation leading the way, the crowd marched toward the Capitol chanting, “Si, se puede” – “Yes, we can” – and “Justice now.”
About 5 p.m. advocates moved on to the street to block traffic – and get arrested.
Dana de la Cruz, a spokeswoman for the Center for Community Change, which helped organize the event, said a total of 195 people were arrested. All were expected to be released by the end of day with no criminal record, she said.
Along with Grijalva, de la Cruz said the other lawmakers arrested were Democratic Reps. Joe Crowley and Charlie Rangel of New York, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Al Green of Texas, Luis Gutierrez and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and John Lewis of Georgia.
Grijalva said it was his first time getting arrested “in a while.” He called it little sacrifice when there are still immigrants in this country who are insecure and don’t understand freedom.
“It’s within our rights. It’s civil disobedience, it’s not violence, and it’s protected under our laws,” Grijalva said, before he joined the crowd and got handcuffed.