WASHINGTON About two dozen undocumented immigrants were among 115 women arrested Thursday outside the U.S. Capitol after blocking an intersection in a move to reignite an immigration debate sidelined by the crisis in Syria.
Leisha Carrasquillo Acosta, 35, of Charlotte, sat with her legs crossed in the middle of the street in the shadow of the Capitol dome. She linked arms with the women on each side of her and chanted, “Yes we can” in Spanish. And she waited for her turn to be arrested.
Carrasquillo said she was forcing her arrest to support her husband, an undocumented immigrant who has been held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement since June 30. He was arrested during a traffic stop in Mecklenburg County, she said, on his way home from a afternoon soccer game.
Carrasquillo, a U.S. citizen, said her family is an example of how the nation’s immigration system also hurts the lives of U.S. citizens like her and her children.
“I miss my husband,” she said.
She was one of two people from Charlotte, including the Latin American Coalition’s Lacey Williams, arrested.
Organizers said Thursday’s act of civil disobedience involved the largest number of undocumented immigrant women ever willing to submit to arrest.
The women, all dressed in red T-shirts that read “Women for Fair Immigration Reform,” sought to raise awareness of an immigration system that, they said, disproportionately impacts women. More than half of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants are believed to be women and children.
“You rarely think about immigration as a women’s issue,” said demonstration leader Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of We Belong Together, a New York-based coalition that advocates for immigration overhaul on behalf of women. “But in fact, women and children are the ones who are benefited the most by good immigration policy or burdened the most by failed immigration policy. And what we’ve seen in this country is failed immigration policy.”
Overhaul in limbo
Immigration was one of the top issues in Washington over the summer before Congress left on its summer recess. But things changed dramatically when the United States was dragged into an international crisis over an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed hundreds.
But even in the absence of the Syrian crisis, an immigration overhaul remains in limbo. The Senate passed its own comprehensive overhaul bill in June. But House leadership has no plans of taking up the bill. The Republican leadership has instead focused on separate provisions that, among other things, address border security and measures to help children who were brought to the country illegally.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a member of a bipartisan House team drafting a comprehensive immigration bill, addressed the group of women Thursday morning at the rally. She said a House bipartisan bill has been drafted and is ready to be introduced. But she said it’s unclear whether the Republican leadership would allow a vote on it.
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