Forty pro-immigration advocates were arrested in front of the Capitol today in what they called an act of “civil disobedience.”
The incident comes on the eve of Congress’ August recess with the House continuing their resistance to comprehensive immigration reform, instead moving on a piece-by-piece basis.
“As we begin this month today here…we must make sure that our voices are heard throughout the United States,” Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said during the rally, but who did not participate in the sit-in. “It’s not just when they are finished with the pool. I want to make sure that the woman who puts that little chocolate on the bed, that they also see and hear from her because she needs comprehensive immigration reform.”
The group of around 40 labor, faith and other leaders sat down in the middle of Independence Avenue, in front of the Cannon office building, where members of Congress work, to protest the inaction on immigration reform in the House. About 200 others stood in support, chanting “Si, se puede.”
Frank Sharry, the executive director for America’s Voice, told ABC News while he was waiting in handcuffs to be transported to holding that although it was the first time he had been arrested, he felt “great.”
“The purpose is to elevate the pressure on House leadership to give us a vote on citizenship,” he said. “There is a long tradition of civil disobedience as a way of expressing your political commitment to a cause, it’s quite cathartic to put yourself on the line like this.”
Labor participants who were arrested include: Arlene Holt Baker, executive vice president of AFL-CIO, along with the United Farm Workers Union Vice President Giev Kashkooli, and Larry Cohen the president of the Communications Workers of America union.
Rep. Luis Grijalva, D-Ariz., who stood along with Guitterez and Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois to lend their support to those being arrested said today’s activity was a “huge step forward for the movement” and expects to see it “repeated across this country.”
“That we do something not just on the surface, but do something deep and profound for the millions and millions of people that need this law reformed,” Grijalva said. “For the good of our nation and the society that we live in, this Congress, its leadership, beginning with [House Speaker] Boehner, have to have the moral courage and the democratic principle to allow a vote and to allow us to move forward on immigration reform.”
Inside the office building, 224 House members received a “gift” from pro-immigration advocates -a cantaloupe.
On each fruit a message was affixed: “Grown in California/Harvested by Immigrants” and “You Gave King a Vote, Now Give Us a Vote on Citizenship.”
The cantaloupes were in reference to Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, recent remarks where he said immigrants had “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
Every member who received the fruit previously voted with King on his amendment to end Deferred Action for young undocumented, known as DREAMers.
“It’s just a reminder that we are listening to you and we heard your really absurd comment,” 21-year-old UNC-Chapel Hill student and DREAMer Emilio Vicnte told ABC News. “We are going to take your words and we are going to amplify them… it’s more of a symbolic statement on the need for immigration reform.”
Last week United We Dream, an immigrant youth organization, hosted a similar event, with DREAMers in caps and gowns delivering cantaloupes to Rep. Steve King .
Pro-immigration groups have scheduled dozens of events throughout the United States over the next 5 weeks, including everything from petition drives and canvassing, to town-hall meetings and hunger strikes.