Immigration protesters returned in force to Capitol HIll Wednesday, staging sit-ins in dozens of House and Senate members' offices as the congressional stalemate over a Department of Homeland Security funding bill continued.
The protests coincided with a House subcommittee hearing on several enforcement bills and targeted Republicans opposed to President Barack Obama's immigration executive action.
The House passed a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security that includes amendments ending deportation deferrals for young immigrants who arrived or stayed here illegally and blocking expansions of those deferrals. It has failed in the Senate and if a solution is not reached, DHS will not be funded, although the administration said key enforcement personnel will work without pay.
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At the hearing, Rep. Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who chairs an immigration subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, expressed support for local law officers to enforce immigration laws and for fixing broken parts of the immigration system that contribute to illegal immigration.
“If those same women and men who we call when we hear noises outside our home in the middle of the night, or when something terrible happens to us when we’re in our district, why cannot we give them the option, just the option, of helping to enforce our country’s immigration laws,” Gowdy said.
Several immigration reform supporters, including law enforcement, have argued that involving local officials in immigration enforcement hurts relations between immigrants and police.
Activists sent photos and video of their demonstrations at members' offices on Twitter under #GOPMoveOver.
Some of the protesters had been among the hundreds of activists and community groups that converged in Vienna, Va. to talk about how they’ll help immigrants apply to be legally present in the U.S.
They came from 240 different organizations in 35 states for “Ready America,” a three-day event of speakers, workshops and panels, to share ideas on how to go about signing up people who are eligible for the immigration executive action benefits authorized by Obama.
The first big implementation date is a week away. Next Wednesday, hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have been in the country since they were young children will be able to start submitting applications for expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. If they meet eligibility requirements, the immigrants will be considered legally present, shielded from deportation and eligible for work permits.
Attendees tweeted from event under the hashtag #RA15 about ideas mentioned, ideas they’ve brought to the event, speakers and challenges they face in a population with many complex circumstances.