WASHINGTON — Reps. Luis Gutierrez and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois were among several members of Congress arrested Tuesday outside the Capitol in a protest that called for the House to take up immigration reform, which stalled after passing the Senate.
Throngs of demonstrators marched to the Capitol after a rally and concert on the National Mall, and many then stood or sat in the street in what organizers called a campaign of civil disobedience. Gutierrez, Schakowsky and two New York congressmen, Charles Rangel and Joseph Crowley, were among the first to be loaded into police vans.
About 200 labor leaders and immigration advocates also were arrested.
U.S. Capitol Police said those arrested would be charged with “crowding, obstructing, and incommoding,” which is a misdemeanor.
“Rep. Schakowsky stood in solidarity with her colleagues and immigrant rights advocates to demand a House vote on comprehensive immigration reform,” her spokeswoman, Sabrina Singh, said in a statement.
The National Mall was technically closed along with other sites managed by the National Park Service because of the partial government shutdown. Organizers were allowed to hold the rally, named Camino Americano, on First Amendment grounds. The same exception was granted to veterans visiting the World War II Memorial last week.
Advocates held signs reading “Unite” and “Keep families together -- immigration reform now.” Three young boys wore shirts bearing the words, “Don't deport my dad.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), joined on stage by about 15 lawmakers, told the rally that immigrants “make America more American.” She was interrupted by chants of “Si se puede” -- Spanish for “Yes we can” -- and “We need a vote.”
Pelosi praised an immigration bill proposed by House Democrats last week, which she said would be good for the economy and help reduce the deficit.
The Democrat-controlled Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill in July, but the bill failed to gain traction in the GOP-led House and is unlikely to pass in the current session.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala), one of the strongest opponents of the Senate bill, criticized the rally and the proposed legislation.
“There’s something odd about House leaders like Nancy Pelosi protesting on the Mall to get jobs for illegal aliens and pushing legislation to reduce job opportunities for U.S. citizens,” he said in a statement.