UPDATED: 104 women arrested in immigration reform protest

Lisa Neff, Staff writer

UPDATED: More than 100 women, including a young Racine activist and her grandmother, were arrested earlier on Sept. 12 after blockading an intersection outside the U.S. Capitol to protest the House of Representative’s inaction on comprehensive immigration reform.

The House has voted more than 40 times against the already passed Affordable Care Act but has failed to take up comprehensive immigration reform, which passed the U.S. Senate earlier this year.

Organizers described the demonstration on Sept. 12 as a civil disobedience action. Many of the women who participated in the protest are undocumented immigrants.

A report from the activist group GetEQUAL said those arrested traveled to D.C. from 20 states, including Wisconsin, to draw attention to the fact that women and children make up about three-quarters of immigrants to the United States and “disproportionately bear the burden of the failed immigration system.”

Among those arrested were Luz Maria Hernandez, 75, and granddaughter Cecilia Anguiano, 25, who reside in U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s district in Racine. Anguiano is an organizer with the Wisconsin-based civil rights group Voces de la Frontera.

Voces de la Frontera’s Facebook page, which contained reports from the demonstration, said the two women had traveled from Wisconsin “to stand up for our state’s immigrant families.”

Anguiano, in a news release from Voces de la Frontera, said, “The only thing that separated my parents from those that live in the shadows was timing. Our family in Mexico has been waiting 17 years for their visas to be approved.”  

She added, “Now we’ve changed – from the quiet family that comments around the dinner table, to the family that you can now find rallying and marching – to be reunited with our loved ones, and for fairer legalization‬ process for all.”

About 200 other demonstrators who did not risk arrest rallied in support of the women.

“Immigration reform is not a policy issue or a political issue – there are millions of immigrants in this country who bear the brunt every day of an unjust, inhumane, and broken immigration system” said Heather Cronk of GetEQUAL. She was one of the demonstrators who was arrested. “While Speaker Boehner sits idly by, families are being torn apart and people in this country are suffering – progress on immigration reform rests squarely at the Speaker’s feet, and he is directly responsible for each life destroyed as deportations rise and suffering increases.”

Rea Carey, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, also was arrested.

Carey said, “Immigration reform is not just good for women and their families — its good for our democracy, good for our economy and good for America. Our broken system has a clear fix that most Americans — and women voters — want action on now. As women we know all too well that life at times demands us to do several important things at the same time. Now we need this House of Representative to follow our lead — to pass fair, inclusive and comprehensive immigration reform while doing other important things simultaneously.”

Before the demonstration, activists held a press conference outside the Capitol, where U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, ranking minority member on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, spoke. Pramila Jayapal of We Belong Together, Bertha Lewis of the Black Institute, Terry O’Neill of NOW and Rocio Inclan of National Education Association also spoke, along with three immigrants.

“Each one of us here today understands what incredibly high stakes we are talking about – immigration reform is not just a piece of legislation but the ability for us to take care of our families,” said Jayapal. “Women contribute every day to our families, our economy and our country. Immigration reform is about being able to live, breathe free, and remember the values that brought us all here in the first place: democracy, freedom and justice.”

The protesters were demanding House action on immigration reform, and calling for legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

“We cannot build a strong country when children and families do not even know what tomorrow will bring,” said Inclan. “The time is now for fair immigration reform that treats women, children and families fairly.”

Carey said, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. The House must act now and do the right thing for the 11 million undocumented immigrants, over a quarter of a million of whom are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. These people need a real pathway to citizenship and the American Dream now — not the nightmare of gridlock.”

PHOTO: Luz Maria Hernandez, 75, and granddaughter Cecilia Anguiano, 25, an organizer with Voces de la Frontera, are outside U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s office in Washington, D.C. The Racine residents went to D.C. to demand House action on immigration reform.