Dream Activists Arrested After Senate Sit-Ins
On Tuesday, 21 DREAM Act activists were arrested in the Hart and Russell Senate Office Buildings after they staged sit-ins at the offices of five key senators. Half of the protesters began their sit-in at the offices of Senators Menendez (D-Fla.), Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Feinstein (D-Calif.) before moving to the atrium in the Hart building, where they were quickly arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. The remaining students were arrested in the offices of Senators Reid (D-Nev.) and McCain (R-Ariz.) after they refused to leave.
“The reason I was arrested was for believing in justice,” said David Morales, an undocumented immigrant who was charged with disorderly conduct. He was targeting Sen. Feinstein.
Questions were raised over why the DREAM Activists targeted key Democrats, most of whom are co-sponsors of the DREAM Act and have long supported the legislation. It is to inspire those senators to act, says Morales.
“We’re not asking for any kind of excuse,” he said. “We’re asking for answers.”
The DREAM Act has wide, bi-partisan support in Congress and across the country, but the bill has stalled as legislators consider whether to pursue it as a stand alone bill rather than as part of broader comprehensive immigration reform.
Aside from arrest and possible fines, all 21 protesters faced the possibility of deportation. As of publication, local police had not turned the case over to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but there is no guarantee that they won’t in the future.
This afternoon, dozens of DREAM Activists were at D.C. Supreme Court waiting to hear the fate of the four arrested protestors who were not released yesterday night. The four, Dulce Matuz, Reyna Wences, Tania Unzuetta and Myrna Orozco, faced the more serious charge of unlawful entry on federal property. The four were arrested in Sen. McCain’s office.
Rosario Lopez was one of the DREAM Activists arrested in the Hart building on Tuesday. She was in Sen. Schumer’s office before moving to the Atrium.
“We didn’t have any discussion at all with the staff,” she said. “But visitors to the Senator’s office kept asking us questions about why we were here.”
For about half an hour she remained in Schumer’s office, before moving to the atrium, where the larger group unveiled a sign reading “DREAM Act Now.” There, passersby snapped photos until Capitol Hill police escorted the protesters off the premises.
Lopez was released later that evening, but she and her fellow activists waited around Capitol Hill police headquarters until 1 a.m., when they were told that the last four arrested protestors would not be released.
Ann Wilcox, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, was on hand at the courthouse this afternoon.
“I’m here to make sure all get released today,” she said. The National Lawyers Guild is a progressive organization that comes to the legal aid of protestors and demonstrators like the DREAM Activists.
According to Wilcox, all 21 were issued citations to appear before a judge for sentencing. Most court dates are set for early to mid August. At those hearings, Wilcox expects sentences ranging from post and forfeit to some type of diversion program that could involve community service.