How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Bakersfield protesters confront House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy over Immigration Reform

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A sit-in at the Bakersfield office of House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy Wednesday became the latest in a series of escalating protests as activists push for immigration reform legislation this year.

While others rallied outside, a group of women from advocacy groups around California asked to meet with the Republican congressman, refusing to leave until he signed a pledge to push an immigration overhaul in the House. Police were called in, but the thirteen protesters – calling themselves the “Baker’s (field) Dozen" — stayed after closing time, late into the night.

Among them were four advocates from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, or CHIRLA, including director Angelica Salas, who said in a written statement on Thursday that it was, "absolutely unacceptable that the House, led by men such as Speaker Boehner and GOP Whip McCarthy, refuses for purely political reasons to move one inch on an issue most Americans and a large portion of Republicans agree upon.” 

Organizers said that around 11 p.m. Wednesday, McCarthy finally came to the office to meet with them. But he did not sign the pledge.  

Mike Long, a spokesman for McCarthy, said in an emailed statement that the congressman “remains undeterred toward reforming our broken immigration system.” But he condemned the protest tactics, saying McCarthy would listen to his constituents, not protests.

“It is unfortunate that these groups have resorted to these type of tactics, during, and long after, business hours,” Long wrote.

Some immigration reform protests have grown bolder in recent months, ranging from self-deportation protests at the U.S.-Mexico border to activists in Arizona and California recently blocking busloads of immigrant detainees.

With contributions from Henry A. Barrios / The Bakersfield Californian

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