Police in the U.S. Capitol arrested some 100 Jewish activists, many of them clergy, who protested in a Senate office building on behalf of a bill that would protect illegal immigrants who arrived as children.
Several dozen of the activists from the Reform movement, the Anti-Defamation League, Bend the Arc, T’ruah and other Jewish groups sat in concentric circles in the Rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building on Jan. 17 until police removed them. They sang protest songs in Hebrew and English.
There were at least six Jews from the Bay Area Jews present, five of whom were arrested, according to Jewish social justice organization Bend the Arc, the group that organized the protest.
The demonstrators demanded the passage of a bill that would protect the so-called Dreamers. President Donald Trump removed executive orders put in place by his predecessor, Barack Obama, to protect the Dreamers from deportation.
The Bay Area contingent included Rabbi Sheldon Lewis, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto.
“We spoke up for compassion for the Dreamers, especially out of our own core values and experience,” he said. “Caring for the marginalized is central for our people.”
Lewis is a long-time political activist and no stranger to being arrested for it. “And this action of civil disobedience and arrest was not taken lightly,” he said of this week’s protest. “It is the result of frustration that a compassionate remedy has not been found.”
Nicoll Mischel, 26, of San Francisco, a volunteer leader with Bend the Arc was also arrested in the protest. She cited the experiences of her Mexican-born mother (now a U.S. citizen) as a personal inspiration for her involvement with the issue. “I witnessed her struggle back and forth with this country,” Mischel said. “She has gotten the health care she needed, better opportunities to live a life here — and most importantly, dignity.”
Trump said he is ready to endorse a measure that restores the Obama-era protections as long as it includes new restrictions on legal immigration. Democrats are ready to countenance some restrictions, including money for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, but are resisting others — for instance, an end to “chain migration,” which allows new immigrants to sponsor immediate family for immigration.
Senators who back the “Dreamers” who stopped by the protest included Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who posted film of the Jewish protesters on his Facebook page; Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the second-ranked Democrat, who is leading negotiations with Republicans and the White House on the issue; and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. Also greeting the protesters were Jewish Reps. Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, both Florida Democrats. Deutch posted photos of the protesters on his Twitter feed.
“For all of the activists today, this is a matter of principle and a matter of core Jewish identity and core American identity,” Barbara Weinstein, the associate director of the Religious Action Center, said in an interview. “We shall not be moved.”