U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, was arrested Thursday with hundreds of other women at a Capitol Hill protest of the Trump administration’s border and immigration policies.
Jayapal said she’d been asked to speak at a demonstration by women at the Hart Senate Office Building. The civil disobedience was a reaction to the Trump administration’s crackdown at the U.S.-Mexico border, including separation of thousands of children from their parents in recent months. Many of the demonstrators decided to refuse orders to leave or face arrest.
“I decided that I, too, would sit down with them and submit to arrest,” Jayapal said in an interview. “We chanted and sang and talked about the need to reunite these families and to end the president’s zero-tolerance policy.”
About 575 people were arrested and charged with unlawfully demonstrating in the Senate office atrium, said Eva Malecki, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Capitol Police.
Jayapal was issued a $50 fine for “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding,” according to a copy of the citation supplied by a spokesman. It was her third arrest at a protest, the other two occurring years before her 2016 election to Congress.
A longtime immigration-rights leader who founded OneAmerica before running for elected office, Jayapal said she has been outraged and unable to sleep over Trump’s “zero tolerance” prosecutions of people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I think that every American, Republican and Democrat, just has to try and imagine what that looks like — to have a 6-month-old baby taken from your breast,” she said.
Earlier this month, Jayapal met with 174 asylum-seeking women, many separated from their children, who have been held at a SeaTac federal detention center. Last Saturday she met with men detained at the prison, including a man from Honduras who displayed machete scars from what he said was a brutal attack by police in his home country.
Jayapal said the Trump administration’s treatment of asylum-seeking refugees is a violation of an international treaty the U.S. is signatory to, adding, “I felt it was critical to draw attention to this.”
Jayapal has helped organize “Families Belong Together” protests set for Saturday, with demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and across the nation.
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