THE BLOG

Immigration Leaders Take a Stand...In Handcuffs

10/21/2013 01:49 pm ET | Updated Dec 21, 2013

Immigrants are increasingly putting their bodies on the line, hoping to move immigration reform.

On Oct. 8, a Chicago activist was one of roughly 200 protesters arrested outside the nation's capital in a rally for immigration reform. Capitol police said that 5,000 more people rallied behind those arrested making the demonstration one of the largest in Washington, D.C. this year.

Juan F. Soto, the director of Gamaliel of Metro Chicago, (GMC), a grassroots network of non-partisan, faith-based organizations in 17 U.S. states, was arrested. A member of another Gamaliel affiliate, Michael Okinczyc of VOICE-Buffalo was also arrested, along with union officials, representatives of groups like CASA de Maryland and Asamblea de Derechos Civiles (ADDC), as well as eight members of Congress, including the venerable Rep. John Lewis of Georgia

"The current immigration environment divides families and keeps loved ones apart for years and even decades," Soto said. "Real reform includes a path to citizenship. Liberty should be the norm for everyone. If getting arrested is what it takes to show the House we're serious, then it's worth it."

But will this extreme tactic actually work?

It is being used increasingly by immigrant women in D.C. and around the country. For Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Oct 8 was his second arrest. For Congressman Gutierrez of Illinois, it was one of many times he has stood up for immigration reform, and it's a tactic he says he intends to keep using.

Soto, who oversees Fiesta del Sol, the largest Latino festival in the Midwest drawing over 1.3 million people annually, explains his motivation:

"In February, we launched the campaign, "A Dream for All" a national immigration reform campaign, involving 15 states across the U.S. that included press actions, prayer vigils and meetings with Members of Congress in efforts to provide a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people in the country," Soto said. "Everyone should have the right to pursue their dreams. It's time for Congress to act."