Eight members of Congress were arrested yesterday in an act of civil disobedience.
The arrests occurred at a rally in favor of immigration reform near the Capitol building.
I would imagine that most of the other protestors had to come from a distance — probably some of them a great distance — to participate in this rally. But Reps John Lewis (D-GA), Luis Guiterrez (D-Ill), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz), Keith Ellison (D-Mn), Joseph Crowley and Charles Rangel (both D-NY) were able to walk over from their offices.
The immigration reform bill in question is in the House of Representatives’ intensive care unit, awaiting its final dispatch. The Republican leadership of the House has refused to allow the bill to come to a vote. I have no idea if it would pass if it was voted on. I do know that Hispanics voted pretty much as a block for President Obama in 2012, and by doing so swung some major electoral states to his column.
Based informally on the many Hispanic voters I know in my district, I can say that the reason for this — at least among the people I know — was the hostility toward them exhibited by the Republican party. I am speaking of Oklahoma when I say that.
Anti-Hispanic demagoguery masquerading as a concern for immigration reform was a basis of the GOP electoral campaigning here in Oklahoma for much of the first decade of this century. This has pushed Hispanic people to the Democrats. The irony is, that, as small business owners and traditional Christians with a strong family orientation, they have a lot in common with the populist wing of the Republican Party.
However, when people attack you directly, as the Rs have attacked Hispanics here in Oklahoma, it tends to focus your attention.
Based on the 2012 election results, I would say that this Oklahoma situation has a national echo. If that’s true, then it explains the House leadership reasoning for not allowing this bill to come to a vote. Any vote at all will put Republican House members on record on what is a difficult issue for them. If they vote for the bill, they will alienate the voters who have supported them because of their prior positions. If they vote against it, they risk entrenching the feeling among a large and growing segment of the electorate that thinks they hate them.
So … the smart political move is to deep-six the bill. That way, the leadership takes the heat and the membership is shielded.
I believe that is what has happened to this bill.
As for the Congressmen who were arrested yesterday, I can’t look into their hearts to say whether they were making a political statement, a moral statement, or both. It is a statement — and a strong one — either way.
What is interesting is the situation we are in where the government is shut down and members of Congress — who should have the power to speak out in other ways — take to the streets over legislation. Is the minority that hamstrung in the House of Representatives? If the leadership has pushed things to the point that minority members feel called to do something like this to make their point, then there is something rotten in the House. I would say that no matter which party was in control. It’s a matter of democracy.
Were they just demagoguing, or is the House that over-controlled and partisan?
I hope you discuss this question, but please, no name-calling or ugliness. Let’s leave the partisan hatred that is scarring and damaging our country in DC.
From the Journal Star:
At least eight Democratic members of the House were among about 200 people arrested Tuesday after they blocked a main street near the Capitol during a massive rally seeking to push Republicans to hold a vote on a stalled immigration reform bill.
Police would not identify those arrested. Representatives of the social policy organization Center for Community Change and The Associated Press witnessed the arrests of Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga.; Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill.; Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz.; Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; Joseph Crowley and Charles Rangel, both D-N.Y.; Al Green, D-Texas; and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.,
Representatives of other groups whose members attended the rally, such as United Farm Workers and Farmworker Justice, confirmed that several of their members were arrested as well.
Those arrested will be charged with “crowding, obstructing and incommoding” under the local laws of the District of Columbia, the Capitol Police said. The arrests began about 4 p.m. EDT and had ended two hours later, police said in a statement.
Before being arrested, Gutiérrez said he planned the act of civil disobedience “so the speaker of the House can free Congress and finally pass immigration reform.”