Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Activists arrested in immigration sit-ins of DC offices of SoCal House members

A photo posted today to the Facebook page of the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance with the caption
A photo posted today to the Facebook page of the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance with the caption "@repbacerra we are waiting 4 you!" Activists calling for a halt to deportations staged sit-ins Monday at the offices of Reps. Xavier Becerra and Loretta Sanchez, both Democrats from Southern California.

Several immigrant rights activists were arrested Monday after sit-in protests at the Washington offices of U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Anaheim) and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles).

The protesters were members of California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, a group that along with other activists has participated in increasingly bold protest tactics as plans for an immigration overhaul have stalled in Congress.

According to Luis Ojeda, a coordinator with the group, several protesters went to each of the two offices Monday morning, demanding an audience and calling for a stop to deportations. By the end of the day, a total of six had been arrested, Ojeda said; authorities confirmed the arrests.

A spokeswoman for Sanchez said a group of protesters showed up in the late morning, and that Capitol Police were called after they became “disruptive and would not engage in meaningful  conversation with staff.” Three of the protesters at Sanchez's office were arrested, she said.

Sanchez issued an emailed statement that included the following:

“As a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, I continue to put pressure on the Administration to make the most compassionate choices based upon our shared American values. The law is the law, but there is a difference between a violent felon and a mother who filled out her paperwork incorrectly. We should not needlessly separate families. Though we can ask to stop the excessive deportations, the fundamental problem is our broken immigration system. We need to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Period.”

A spokesman for Becerra confirmed that protesters had staged a sit-in there also and stayed several hours, and that Capitol Police eventually showed up and removed them.

Becerra issued a similar emailed statement. An excerpt:

"Dreamers have come to Capitol Hill to the People's House to demand action. This is what democracy at its purest looks like. I, too, have had opportunities to participate in demonstrations, but one big difference does not escape me: I never had to fear being separated from my family for fighting for my cause.

"I respect the courage of these activists. And the last thing I want to do is deter America's Dreamers from fighting for a commonsense and just solution to our broken immigration system.”

Ojeda said the two lawmakers were targeted as part of an anti-deportation campaign targeting the White House and Democrats. 

"Our demands are not to Congress or Republicans," Ojeda said. "Our demands are more specifically to Obama and Democrats, to stop deportations, to expand deferred action, and to limit law enforcement cooperation with local authorities."

Ojeda said Sanchez and Becerra were targeted on Monday because "as part of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, they have the ability to influence the President."

The aggressive tactics being used by some youth activists groups haven't gone over well with some of their Democratic targets. Last year, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) formally distanced himself from a group called the National Immigrant Youth Alliance over their tactics, saying the group had secretly recorded a private conversation he had with parents of detained immigrants.

The protests Monday came following a "day of action" in Washington on Saturday, with immigrant rights activists and members of church and labor groups calling on the Obama administration to suspend deportations.

This story has been updated to reflect confirmed arrests.