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Congressmen Arrested at New York DACA Protest

  • VOA News

A person from the group called "Make the Road" is detained while protesting in support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA during the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, Sept. 19, 2017.

Three members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the speaker of the New York City Council were arrested Tuesday during a protest calling for action to protect undocumented immigrants who came to the United States when they were children.

Under a program begun under former President Barack Obama, about 800,000 people registered as part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which gave them temporary protection against deportation and allowed them to work legally.

President Donald Trump ended DACA this month and gave Congress a six-month deadline to come up with a permanent fix for those affected.

WATCH: Video footage of protest

New York Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said the protesters rallied Tuesday "to send a strong message to Trump and the Republican Congress that we expect to protect DACA recipients, we expect to protect them and their family members."

She was arrested along with three congressional Democrats -- Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Rep. Adriano Espaillat of New York and Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois.

"We're taking the necessary steps to make it clear to President Trump, the Republicans and the Democrats that we will continue this peaceful fight for dreamers and immigrants as long as it takes to enact legislation and put dreamers in a safe place," Gutierrez said in a statement.

A police announcement told demonstrators blocking Fifth Avenue that those refusing to leave would be arrested for disorderly conduct. The lawmakers were later released.

The protesters carried signs with slogans such as "Stop ICE raids," referring to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and "Resistencia," Spanish for resistance.

They also chanted, including a Spanish refrain meaning "We are in the fight."

The young immigrants, also colloquially known as "dreamers," typically entered the United States as young children. Many trace their heritage to Mexico or Central American countries, but some arrived so young that they have grown up knowing nothing other than American society and customs.

Under Trump's deadline, Congress has until early next year to figure out a permanent legislative fix. But past attempts at immigration reform, including during Obama's administration, have not achieved enough support among Democrats and Republicans to become law.

In the current debate, Democrats broadly favor granting legal residence or citizenship to the DACA recipients. Republicans broadly favor more stringent border security. Trump himself has sometimes expressed support for the DACA recipients, but also during his campaign repeatedly said he would end the program and criticized it as "amnesty."

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