US congressmen arrested in immigration demo

2013-10-09 12:58

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Washington - Eight US lawmakers were among dozens of people arrested for civil disobedience Tuesday in a demonstration for reform of immigration laws in the capital.

Among them was civil rights leader John Lewis, aged 73, a member of the House of Representatives who helped teach passive resistance to activists of the 1950s and '60s and was well prepared for the arrests.

He was a confidante of the late Martin Luther King Jr and helped organise the August 1963 march on Washington that pressured Congress to enact a raft of civil rights legislation.

Lewis, Luis Gutierrez, one of the most active Democrats in the fight for immigration reform, and six other Democratic lawmakers were among the more than 100 people arrested after their sit-in blocked traffic on a major street in front of the Capitol.

"Our communities and our families do not have the luxury to rest or relax," Gutierrez said according to prepared remarks. "1 100 people will be deported today, 1 100 people will be deported tomorrow, and the next day."

Several thousand protesters flooded into the National Mall in front of the Capitol to push for passage of an immigration bill adopted by the Democratic-controlled Senate but blocked in the House.

In an echo of the massive sit-ins at lunch counters and public facilities across the US South in the fight for civil rights, fellow marchers cheered and applauded as police led each person away in handcuffs to waiting vans and busses.

"Yes we can," the protestors chanted.

Gutierrez said he would "go to jail today" for the deported parents whose children were being put into US foster care.

The protest was planned by a coalition of action groups, including Casa in Action and the Alliance for Citizenship. It followed last Saturday's nationwide protests across dozens of states.

Nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States, and US President Barack Obama, also a Democrat, has issued some easements for them to get around the legislative blockade. But they apply mostly to younger people.

The majority in the 432-member House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans, who are in turn dominated by a small group of about 40 far-right Tea Party activists.

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