A dozen immigation reform activists were taken into custody today outside of U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers office in downtown Spokane.
They were part of a protest calling on Republicans in the House of Representatives to pass sweeping immigration reform.
The 12 detained by Spokane police are local members of One America, a national activist group pushing for fixes to what members of both major political parties have repeatedly called a “broken” immigration system.
The protesters were arrested on charges of interference with vehicular traffic after ignoring requests to disperse, Spokane police spokeswoman Monique Cotton said. The charge is a municipal offense that is classified as a misdemeanor by law.
While some of the chants and the messages scribbled on signs were directed at McMorris Rodgers, the third-ranking member of the GOP, much of the criticism was directed at House Speaker John Boehner.
Protesters say Boehner is blocking a House floor vote on legislation passed by the Senate earlier this year that would enact some changes conservative lawmakers won’t stomach. In addition to beefing up border security efforts, the Senate bill also creates a new a new program for undocumented residents to apply for legal status. Several GOP lawmakers have signaled they won’t vote for such a program, prompting Boehner to proceed with reforms in a piecemeal fashion.
Among those arrested Wednesday for refusing to leave the street was 21-year-old Angela Solis, a Whitworth University student who participated because she said the current immigration system divides families.
“I risk arrest because I want to fight for the future of my friends, my family, and aspiring citizens,” Solis said in a written statement handed out before her arrest.
The protest began around 11 a.m. in front of the Peyton Building, where McMorris Rodgers maintains her Spokane office. Police took all 12 of the advocates, who sat in a circle with their arms intertwined, into custody before 12:45 p.m. Post Street was closed between Sprague and Riverside avenues during the protest, which included chants and songs imploring the GOP to consider the wide-ranging Senate bill.
In a variation of a popular rap song, protesters urged Boehner to “move” and “get out of the way” of immigration reform.
Boehner was confronted at a diner in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday morning by Redmond, Wash., native Jennifer Martinez, who urged him to bring the Senate bill up for a vote. In a press conference following the exchange, Boehner reaffirmed his commitment to pursuing reform on a step-by-step basis.
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Eagle, once a member of a bipartisan House group working on its own broad package of immigration changes, dropped out of that group earlier this summer, citing differences he had with plans to cover health care costs for those in the country illegally.
Labrador, a former immigration lawyer, told reporters at his Boise office earlier this month he doubts reform will be achieved this year.