POLITICS
17/01/2018 19:42 GMT | Updated 17/01/2018 23:41 GMT

82 Rabbis, Activists Arrested On Capitol Hill Over DACA Protest

“This is no time for business as usual,” said one rabbi who was among those arrested Wednesday.

Courtesy of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Protesters gathered in Russell Senate Office Building on Wednesday to show support for Dreamers.

More than 80 Jewish clergy members and activists were arrested on Capitol Hill on Wednesday for protesting President Donald Trump’s plan to end a program that protects hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

More than a hundred rabbis and activists, some wearing prayer shawls and yarmulkes, gathered in the center of the rotunda in the Russell Senate Office Building on Wednesday morning. They sang songs, shouted cheers and made statements of support for the young undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers, a group of whom were watching the action from a balcony one floor up.

Police arrested 82 protesters, U.S. Capitol Police communications director Eva Malecki told HuffPost. The protesters were charged for “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding” in a public building. 

Activists from Jewish groups, including the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Bend the Arc Jewish Action and the Anti-Defamation League, were there to demand immediate passage of the Dream Act, legislation that could protect nearly 800,000 Dreamers from imminent deportation and provide them with a pathway to citizenship. 

Courtesy of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Over a hundred clergy members and activists participated in Wednesday's action to call for passage of the Dream Act.

“It really speaks to who we are as a Jewish community, and specifically as an American Jewish community,” Barbara Weinstein, associate director of the Religious Action Center, told HuffPost. “We as Jews know the experience of being immigrants. And as Americans, we’re deeply aware of our history as a nation of immigrants, and that throughout that history immigrants have been a source of strength for this country.”

Weinstein, who was at Wednesday’s action, said the peaceful protest was intended to bring awareness to the Dreamers’ plight and urge Congress to act on legislation that would protect them from deportation.

“This is an issue that has bipartisan support ― Republicans and Democrats know this is the right thing to do,” she said. “Now it’s Congress’s responsibility to pass a clean Dream Act.”

The Dream Act, a longstanding wish of immigration reformers, has found renewed support since the Trump administration announced in September it would terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA has shielded hundreds of thousands of Dreamers from deportation.

Courtesy of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Protesters continued to sing and chant as they were arrested by Capitol Police.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department said it would ask the Supreme Court to overturn a judge’s ruling last week that blocked the president’s move to end DACA.

Religious leaders of many faiths and denominations have been among the most vehement opponents of Trump’s decision to end DACA. In November, some 15 Christian leaders and activists were arrested at the Senate building for calling for the passage of the Dream Act.

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, was among the clergy members arrested Wednesday.

“This is no time for business as usual,” Pesner said in a statement ahead of the protest. “In the Torah, we are called 36 different ways to love the stranger, the orphan, and the widow. We were strangers in the land of Egypt, and know what it means to be turned away from places we thought of as home.”

The rabbi added: “Today, we say there is no more time to waste. We insist that Dreamers be recognized as the Americans that they are.”

Elise Foley contributed to this report.