More than 100 women demanding immigration legislation were arrested outside the U.S. Capitol Thursday after blocking traffic to protest inaction by Congress.
The women, wearing white arm bands and red T-shirts that read, "Women for Fair Immigration Reform," held a rally and then joined hands and sat down in a circle on Independence Ave., which runs between the Capitol and House members' offices.
They chanted slogans including "Yes we can!" and "Si se puede" as police began handcuffing them and loading them into vans. Organizers said some two dozen of the women are in the U.S. illegally.
The protest came as immigration legislation remains stalled in the GOP-led House months after the Democratic-controlled Senate passed a sweeping bill in June with billions for border security and a path to citizenship for millions. Lawmakers returned to Washington this week after a five-week summer recess with no clear way forward on the issue.
One participant in the protest, Maria Galban of Los Angeles, who said she is a Mexican citizen in the U.S. illegally, said she wanted to send a message to Congress that immigration reform is needed to keep families like hers together. She said that while she and her husband are here illegally, their two daughters have gained legal status under a program by President Barack Obama to stop deportations of immigrants brought to the country as youths.
"We need immigration reform. We want to contribute economically to this country," said Galban, 43, who said she can't get the license she needs to work as a hairdresser because she doesn't have legal status.
Organizers with the group We Belong Together and other organizations said the protest was meant to spotlight the impact of the nation's faulty immigration system on women and families. They said House Republicans need to act.
"They should show the same courage as these women," said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, who was among those being arrested.
U.S. Capitol Police said the women arrested were being processed on charges of crowding, obstructing or incommoding.