More than 100 religious, immigration activists arrested at White House

Bishop Minerva Carcano addresses the crowd. She was later arrested. Photo by Religious News Service

Bishop Minerva Carcano addresses the crowd. She was later arrested. Photo by Religious News Service

WASHINGTON (RNS) More than 100 religious leaders and activists were arrested Thursday (July 31) in a White House protest aimed at halting deportations and aiding immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

The direct action sponsored by Church World Service and Casa de Maryland, an immigration advocacy group, brought leaders from New England to Hawaii to the nation’s capital.

The U.S. Park Police completed the arrests of 112 people by 3 p.m., charging each with “blocking passage” on the sidewalk outside the White House, a misdemeanor, said Sidney Traynham, a spokesman for Church World Service.

Each went through a “post and forfeit” process, paying $50 in cash and forfeiting their right to a trial.

By 5:15 p.m., all of the people who had been arrested had been released from a processing center in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington.

“We are here because we are not hearing a moral voice coming from the White House,” said United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcano of Los Angeles. “This is a day of justice. Let us be that moral voice.”

Sister Eileen Campbell, whose Sisters of Mercy order has a mission to help the vulnerable, took a step she’d never taken in her 67 years — joining others in the act of civil disobedience to protest 1,100 deportations a day and seek relief for 11 million immigrants living illegally in the country.

With Congress failing to act on immigration, she said, and children massing at the nation’s Southern borders, it was time to do something.

“We have exhausted every other means to do this and so now we really have to rely on the executive authority of our president,” said Campbell, who has sisters in her order affected by the violence in Central American countries from which the children are fleeing.

Photo by Religious News Service

Photo by Religious News Service

“I think standing outside the White House will make a difference,” she said as she rode in a van with other leaders past the Capitol and toward the White House.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest criticized congressional leaders for failing to pass immigration reform and “instead driving an approach that is about rounding up and deporting 11 million people, separating families and undermining (the Department of Homeland Security’s) ability to secure the border.”

Other first-time arrestees voiced a mix of hope and desperation.

“I’m ashamed of the way some of our lawmakers are refusing to grant people the opportunity to live and work and contribute to our society,” said the Rev. Thomas Bain, a retired United Methodist minister and community activist from Kailua, Hawaii, as he sought a cup of coffee before leaving for the protest.

The Rev. Hector J. Hernandez, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) minister from Indianapolis, said he was taking part for the first time for one reason: the children.

“I have seen firsthand how destructive this is,” said Hernandez, a marriage and family counselor who knows families separated by immigration mandates. “Children are innocent — period.”

The Rev. Susan Frederick, a Unitarian Universalist minister from Phoenix, joined a group of 10 that traveled via subway to the White House.

“Faith calls us to love, not to fear,” she said. “Crossing a border to protect and love your family is not a crime. Undocumented immigrants should not be treated as criminals.”

In the morning before their protest, the activists were reminded to eat lunch, use the bathroom and wear their white armbands. Clergy were told to bring their stoles and wear their collars. And everyone was warned not to lay hands on arresting officers.

“Just remember that the target of our demonstration today is inside the White House,” advised Gustavo Andrade of Casa de Maryand. “That’s the person that can give us what we want.”

After a rally in Lafayette Park across from the White House, the protesters willing to be arrested sat and stood in three rows. They sang “We Shall Overcome” and chanted “Si Se Puede” (“Yes We Can”) while holding signs declaring “Pray for Relief” and “Stop the Deportations.”

A police officer warned them three times by bullhorn that they were violating the law when they did not move from the sidewalk.

“You are now under arrest,” an officer said. “You may not leave the secure area.”

As the protesters were put in plastic handcuffs one at a time, hundreds more who were fenced off across the street in the park cheered them on.

Antino Aleman, an undocumented man from El Salvador, said before joining the arrestees he was there “to ask the president for him to do what is better for all of us.”

His son, Erick Aleman, 17, joined the protest, but from across the street in the park.

“It’s difficult and it’s not,” he said of protesting at his age. “But you gotta fight for what you want.”

Religion News Service

RNS is owned by Religion News LLC, a non-profit, limited liability corporation based at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Its mission is to provide in-depth, non-sectarian coverage of religion, spirituality and ideas.

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8 Comments on "More than 100 religious, immigration activists arrested at White House"

The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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Where in the world is the umc in regard to the burning of the middle east? Where in the world is the umc in regard to ISIS and the murdering of multitudes of Christians? Where is the umc in regard to Israel/Hama? Where…………………………………………………………..


What you are really saying, Russ, is that the umc as a denomination hopes and prays that Israel will blow up and go away–is that correct? Replacement theology not withstanding and all of that stuff……………………………………….


Had an interesting conversation this morning with a real good pastor friend. Asked the individual how she would like to have Ms. Carcano as her boss. Answer: “I would probably have to change conferences.” Doubt if that individual is the only one who feels that way…………………….

When our church makes a stand like this, I return to my Bible reading lessons and find: Leviticus 19:34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God. Exodus 23:9 “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a foreigner and you invited me in…… Read more »

Jenny: Most probably the agents in Artesia NM will welcome your helping presence………

The House of Representatives just passed a bill that would provide some relief and still maintain a modicum of fiscal sanity. These incoherent, attention-seeking protestors would do themselves and the issue a favor if they would protest against those who have said they will not support or sign the bill. That would be Senate majority leader Harry Reid and President Barack Obama. Barack Obama, via executive fiat, unconsitutionally implemented a policy (DACA) that has served as an incentive for these young people to come to the US under false pretenses. Along the way they have been beaten, raped and killed.… Read more »

I wonder if any of these folks have tuned into the news story from a south east New Mexico town? Four hundred–that’s 400–illegals are quarantined in a Border Patrol facility because of CHICKEN POX and a parasite called SCABIES. Check this out, activists and bishops.

I wonder how these folks would relate to going to that town and taking over the care of these illegals so that the Border Patrol and do their particular jobs…………………………………..

Tim C.

Another example of heart in right spot, wasted effort. Outcome from this “get together”, zero impact on the issue. Unless going back to your congregation and gaining self affirmation by “being willing to get arrested for the cause” has any bearing on the greater good. Crickets.

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