Dozens of U.S. Jewish Activists Stage Sit-in on Capitol Hill in Protest of Trump's Threat to Deport Dreamers

'Let my people go,' chant a group of Dreamers alongside coalition of Jewish groups and members of Congress

Jewish demonstrators protesting in support of dreamers are arrested by police on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on January 17, 2018.
TASOS KATOPODIS/AFP

WASHINGTON - Dozens of Jewish American activists demonstrated on Capitol Hill Wednesday calling on Congress to pass legislation in protection of "Dreamers," undocumented immigrants who arrived to the United States as children.

A coalition of Jewish groups organized the demonstration, including the Religious Action Center of the Reform movement, Bend the Arc, the Anti-Defamation League and others. 

A group of Dreamers also joined the demonstration, chanting "Let my people stay." Members of Congress Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), who are both Jewish, also arrived at the scene to express their support as activists were arrested.

A police officer stands guard while activists supporting dreamers protest before being taken into custody by police on Capitol Hill January 17, 2018 in Washington, DC.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP

The protesters demanded Congress take action to protect Dreamers from deportation, a threat looming over tens of thousands of them following President Trump's decision to dismantle the Obama-era legislation.

After handing a peititon signed by over 5,000 people thus far to members of Congress, the protesters sat on the floor of the Russel Senate Office Building and chanted "we will not be moved." 

"As Jews, we recognize the dangers of President Trump's inhumane policies and scapegoating of immigrants," the petition states. "We've seen this before. We stand with our immigrant neighbors on the side of justice, not oppression, of liberation, not deportation."

Over 100 American Jews and Dreamers stage a sit-in at Capitol Hill, January 17, 2018.

A number of protesters, including Reform rabbis, were arrested by Capitol Hill Police officers. 

Jewish demonstrators protesting in support of dreamers are arrested by police on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on January 17, 2018.
TASOS KATOPODIS/AFP

Barbara Weinstein of the Reform Movement's Religious Action Center told Haaretz that dozens of the protesters were arrested, but that most of them are being released. "It's long past time for Congress to pass legislation for the Dreamers," she stated. "We need this bill immediately. We had a lot of members of Congress, from the House and Senate side, who told us they were determined to solve the crisis. It's important to Democrats and Republicans alike."

Weinstein added that "welcoming the stranger is an important part of our identity. We are all descendants of immigrants. It's on all of us to support these Dreamers. They grew up here, this is the only country they've ever known, many of them serve in the military, this is their home. We're going to remain focused on this issue until we see a bill reach the president's desk and signed by him. This is not over today."

Rabbi Jonah Pesner, the head of the Religious Action Center, who was arrested during the protests, said that "this is no time for business as usual. 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." 

Rabbi Pesner added that "Dreamers are Americans in most ways that matter. The United States is the only home many of them have known. They are members of our communities who deserve nothing less than a secure future and the ability to continue to contribute to this nation."

The demonsration and number of arrests received national news coverage on MSNBC, which also featured an interview with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), a Dreamer advocate who called on Trump to "stop the tweeting" and work to solve the crisis. 

Activists supporting dreamers are taken into custody by police on Capitol Hill January 17, 2018 in Washington, DC.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP