Six people who occupied the district office of Republican Congressman Leonard Lance as part of a protest of 100 DREAMers, clergy and supporters holding signs against injustice were arrested by Westfield Police on Monday for refusing to leave.
A group of activists and religious leaders gathered in front of Lance’s office calling on the Republican to vote for passage of a “clean Dream Act” in order to secure a budget deal before the Thursday deadline to avoid another government shutdown.
Lance was not in the office when the protest took place, but .
The demonstrators were protesting inaction on legislation that would end a crisis for immigrants who came to the United States as children but now face deportation because President Donald Trump arbitrarily plans to end the DACA program established by his predecessor.
DACA stands for “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” and it allows undocumented immigrants who were raised and educated in the US to register for permits that allow them to work, obtain drivers licenses and pay taxes.
The protesters arrested were Nedia Morsy, Kristin Peck, Ann Ralosky, Faith Dantowitz, Elliott Tepperman and John Rogers.
Morsy is youth organizer and college access coordinator at Make the Road New Jersey, an immigrant rights organization based in Elizabeth.
Ralosky is Senior Minister in the United Church of Christ (UCC) who leads the First Congregational Church of Montclair. Rogers is an Associate Pastor serving the same church for over five years and he recently graduated from Union Theological Seminary.
Peck is a psychologist and member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit.
Dantowitz is a rabbi at Temple B’nai Abraham who was involved in efforts for marriage equality and also is a member of NJ Together Against Gun Violence.
An outspoken activist on behalf of marriage equality, Tepperman is a rabbi at B’nai Keshet in Montclair, who participated in work on issues of environmental justice and community organizing.
The proposed ‘Dream Act’ would give legal status for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. They who would receive conditional residency, and upon fulfilling certain qualifications, permanent residency.
The Trump administration announced in September that it planned to end an Obama-era policy launched in 2012 known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which so far has offered work permits and protection from deportation to nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.
However, their status has been tied into Congress passing a short-term spending bill as the government is set to run out of money on Thursday.
Legislative proposals by Republicans to provide protections while approving a spending bill have come with such attachments as funding for a wall along the United States/Mexico border, and/or immigration enforcement measures like cutting the number of green cards issued.
Ralosky said that she and the others who were arrested read a letter to Lance’s staff calling on for a clean Dream Act.
“We let them know that we weren’t going to be leaving until we got a commitment from the congressman, whether they could phone him or whatever it was, and they were not willing to do that,” Ralosky said. “So, we stayed in the office, we sat down, we sang, we prayed, we chanted, and we made ourselves in their office.
“Their office closed at five and we said we are not going to move, so they called the police,” Ralosky said.
The protest is one of a series of actions this week collaboratively organized by Immigrant rights group Make the Road-NJ of Elizabeth, Faith in New Jersey, Wind of the Spirit, SEIU 32BJ, Bend the Arc, RWDSU, New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice and the Jewish Labor Committee.
“Not only do we need to hold these elected officials accountable but [we need] to defend the very soul of this nation, to demand that we land on the right side of history — on the side of justice, dignity and respect for all our communities,” said Make the Road-NJ organizer Nedia Morsy.
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