Thirteen people were arrested Thursday for blocking traffic on Capitol Hill outside the Hart Senate Office Building while protesting a federal appeals court ruling this week that said a program to protect young immigrants, known as “dreamers,” from deportation was unlawful.
Protesters demanded Democrats in Congress pass legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for young immigrants.
Many of the people protesting were recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), said Jossie Flor Sapunar, a spokeswoman for CASA, an immigrant rights group. The program, created during the Obama administration, has changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people whose immigrant parents brought them to the United States, but who were previously unable to afford college, work legally or get driver’s licenses.
Protesters disagreed with a ruling Wednesday by a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit that the DACA program was illegal. Those already enrolled in the program can renew their status — a requirement every two years — but new applications are halted.
This ruling was “the latest in a long limbo” that DACA recipients have been living, said Flor Sapunar, who estimated about 100 people joined the protest.
“Thank you for DACA, but the reality is that it’s never been enough,” said Flor Sapunar. “The only thing that can stop this roller coaster of emotions, is offering citizenship to the millions of immigrants who have had DACA and beyond.”
The group gathered at Columbus Circle on Thursday morning and marched to the Upper Senate Park, where DACA-recipients shared their stories, Flor Sapunar said. Afterward, the group headed toward the Hart Senate Office Building, where Capitol Police arrested 13 people for blocking traffic along the 100 block of Constitution Avenue NE shortly after 11 a.m., said Capitol Police spokesman Tim Barber.
Cindy Kolade, 29, a DACA recipient from Baltimore who joined the protest, came to the United States from the Ivory Coast with her mom when she was 12 and learned while applying to colleges that she was undocumented. Through DACA, she has been able to study cell and molecular biology at Towson University and is close to finishing her bachelor’s of science degree while also working as a clinical lab technician.
On Thursday, she felt sad, fearful and angry about the court ruling, saying it reinforced her belief that DACA is only “a temporary solution” to the need for a pathway to citizenship.
“With a permanent solution to citizenship, we will be able to not just apply every two years, but it’s going to take the fear out of us,” she said. “It’s going to make sure that we are able to participate in the country that we’ve lived in for so long.”