Arizona representative, DACA recipient arrested at immigration march

Arizona state Rep. Isela Blanc, holding yellow sign, sits with Phoenix resident Karen Ibarra, a DACA recipient, to block Independence Avenue as part of a Dream Act protest in Washington. (Photo by Austen Bundy/Cronkite News)

Phoenix resident Karen Ibarra, left, and Arizona state Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, join hundreds of protesters at the Capitol on what was supposed to be the last day for the DACA program. (Photo by Austen Bundy/Cronkite News)

Arizona state Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, is led off by U.S. Capitol Police after her arrest for blocking the street as part of a protest urging Congress to pass a “clean” Dream Act. (Photo by Austen Bundy/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – An Arizona state lawmaker and a Phoenix Dreamer were among 68 people arrested Monday during a Washington protest on what was supposed to be the last day of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

State Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, and DACA recipient Karen Ibarra were arrested by U.S. Capitol Police along with scores of others who were charged with crowding and obstructing after they sat down in Independence Avenue and locked arms.

They were just some of the hundreds of Dreamers and immigration reform advocates who marched from the National Mall to the Capitol to demand that Congress pass a clean Dream Act, giving a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children.

Blanc, who was once undocumented herself, said she had “a moral obligation” to be at the march.

“I still have constituents, friends, people that I know who are uncertain about their future,” she said before her arrest.

The rally came on what would have been the last day for DACA, the Obama-era program that has deferred deportation for as many as 800,000 Dreamers since 2012. President Donald Trump announced on Sept. 5 that the program would end Monday, but two federal court rulings since then have extended DACA indefinitely.

Trump said he set a six-month “wind down” of the program to give lawmakers time to come up with a replacement, but Congress has so far missed repeated deadlines to act, angering advocates who say their futures hang in the balance.

“Today, we’re here simply to send a message that we are here to stay and we are here to fight,” Phoenix DACA recipient Abril Gallardo said at Monday’s march in Washington. “We will continue until we win protection for not only us but for our families.”

Among the many proposals that have failed to gain traction is a bill co-sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, that would grant citizenship to young undocumented immigrants who entered the country prior to 2013. A White House plan that would have expanded the number of people eligible for DACA protection, while funding a border wall and severely curtailing family migration among other measures, has also stalled.

After the Senate deadlocked in February, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, promised a “three-for-three” bill to extend DACA protections for three years while providing three years of funding for the president’s border security. That measure has yet to be introduced.

But Marchers said Monday said their lives should not be used as bargaining chips.

“We need Democrats to be incredibly brave and to stand up,” Blanc said. “We have to stop compromising the lives of people.”

The Washington march was one of several around the country Monday protesting the lack of action on DACA by Congress, according to a press release from United We Dream, which organized the events.

A Capitol Police spokeswoman said that in addition to the crowding and obstructing charges filed against all those arrested in the Washington march, 28 were also charged with resisting arrest. A separate group of 19 protesters was later arrested for unlawful demonstrations in the Longworth House Office Building.

Blanc and Ibarra were released from police custody about four hours after their arrest, Gallardo said.

The last immigration reform similar to DACA passed in 1986, when President Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which granted citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants who entered the country before 1982.

“It’s so frustrating,” Blanc said. “I cannot believe that almost 32 years ago we actually had a Congress – both Republican and Democrat – that maybe didn’t necessarily agree but could actually come together and work on some level of a pathway to citizenship.”