Statement of Juan Cartagena, President & General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF on the Arrest of 100 Women Engaging in Civil Disobedience to Demand Immigration Reform

Today 100 courageous women paid a price in their demand that Congress enact fair and comprehensive immigration reform: they were arrested as they blocked a major thoroughfare in front of the Capitol in Washington, DC. LatinoJustice PRLDEF applauds each and every one of them as they forced the country to draw attention to the injustices created by our broken immigration system.

Dissent is a quintessential American right. In this sense the 100 women who today engaged in civil disobedience followed in the footsteps of Harriet Tubman when she defied fugitive slave laws; Henry David Thoreau when he protested slavery and the Mexican War; Mahatma Gandhi when he led a revolution by doing it; Martin Luther King, Jr. as he forced a nation to abide by the promise of equality; Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta when they empowered a class of workers and to halt exploitation; and hundreds of the Vieques, Puerto Rico civilly disobedient who challenged the government and won by taking action that the state criminalized to foster principles of what, for them, was morally correct in the face of injustice.

Immigration reform in America today often loses sight of the people who are most impacted by the failure to fix this broken system. As Ai-je Poo and Terry O’Neill note, women and children constitute three-quarters of all immigrants to the United States, but the debate about immigration reform -- which has stalled in the House -- has largely ignored the disproportionate burden they bear in a system that is failing.

It is in the spirit of women resisting that today’s civil disobedience resonates throughout the country. Washington, DC may have well witnessed the largest all-women civil disobedience event representing women from 20 states and 15 organizations. Our Capitol may have also witnessed the largest act of defiance from undocumented immigrants with 28 undocumented women among the ranks of the civilly disobedient. And among the women was Jazmin Chavez from LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

We trust that today’s action by these women, some of whom faced the possibility of detention or deportation, will remind Congress that immigration reform is long overdue. The time for justice is now.

Watch a video of the event.

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