Lawmakers arrested at Washington rally for immigration reform

Rep. Keith Ellison was one of several legislators arrested in a planned act of civil disobedience Tuesday

U.S. Representative Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., is arrested after protesting outside the front of the U.S. Capitol for comprehensive immigration reform in Washington, Tuesday.
Jason Reed/Reuters

At least eight Democratic lawmakers were arrested Tuesday at an immigration rally on the National Mall in Washington.

The staff of Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., confirmed to Al Jazeera that Ellison, who sat in the middle of Independence Avenue together with other House Democrats, had planned his act of civil disobedience to push for a law that, among other things, would allow millions of undocumented immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship.

Ellison is expected to release a formal statement on his protest after his release.

Representatives of the social policy organization Center for Community Change and The Associated Press witnessed the arrests of House Democrats John Lewis of Georgia; Luis Gutiérrez and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois; Raúl Grijalva of Arizona; Ellison; John Crowley and Charles Rangel of New York; and Al Green of Texas.

The White House commended the demonstration. 

"The enthusiastic demonstration of support for immigration reform this week has proven to Congress that the broad coalition behind commonsense solutions to our nation's broken immigration laws is as strong as it has ever been," the White House press secretary said in a release.

In total, about 200 demonstrators were lined up to be arrested. Representatives of other groups whose members attended the Tuesday rally, such as United Farm Workers and Farmworker Justice, confirm that several of their members have been arrested.

Several thousand protesters in total took to the Mall — officially closed by the government shutdown. The Washington rallies followed demonstrations in more than 150 cities across the nation Saturday, in which protesters attempted to revive the push for comprehensive immigration reform.

In July, the Senate passed an immigration bill that would have offered millions of undocumented U.S. residents a path to citizenship that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, refused to put to a vote.

House Democrats introduced a similar proposal Thursday, which is likely to face opposition from the chamber's Republican majority.

"More than 100 days ago, the Senate passed a strong bipartisan immigration reform bill that would reduce the deficit by over $800 billion and create jobs. House Democrats introduced a similar bill last week," the White House said in its statement Tuesday.

"It is time for House Republicans to put politics aside and join Democrats to fix our broken immigration system and make the economy stronger."

Al Jazeera's Massoud Hayoun contributed to this report. With wire services

Watch: Millions in limbo

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