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Catholics arrested at immigration protest outside US Capitol

US Capitol Police arrest members of the Catholic community and supporters of DACA recipients (Getty Images)

On Tuesday, a group of Catholics rallied inside the US Capitol Building in support of amnesty for “Dreamers”: illegal immigrants who entered the United States as minors.

Among those present was Bishop John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky. “We stand with the Dreamers, we are one with the Dreamers. And now I ask God’s blessing upon those who are acting in civil disobedience, part of a long-standing tradition of not supporting unjust laws,” Bishop Stowe told the crowd.

House Speaker Paul Ryan appeared in the Capitol while the protest was underway.

Ryan’s Republican Party, which holds a majority in both chambers of Congress, have made amnesty for Dreamers contingent on certain reforms to immigration policy. Democrats have so far refused their terms.

Around 30 to 40 demonstrators were arrested. These included including several women religious from the Sisters of Mercy.

“I have never been arrested in my life, but with the blessing of my community, I am joining with two dozen other Catholic sisters and Catholic allies to risk arrest today as an act of solidarity with our nation’s wonderful, beautiful Dreamers,” Sister Elise Garcia told Catholic News Service. “To our leaders in Congress and in the White House, I say ‘arrest a nun, not a Dreamer’.”

The confrontation with police was not unexpected, however. Fr Thomas Reese, a Jesuit and columnist for Religion News Service, wrote an article the day before titled “Tomorrow I Plan to Get Arrested”. (The title and article have since been updated to reflect the fact that he was indeed arrested.)

Like Stowe’s speech, Reese’s article drew on the history of civil disobedience in American politics. “Many of my Jesuit colleagues were arrested during the 1960s and ’70s when demonstrations about Vietnam, civil rights and farmworkers were common. As part of these demonstrations, peaceful civil disobedience was not uncommon,” he wrote.

All those arrested at the protest were released by 4pm.