On Thursday, December 12th, 32BJ members from New York City, Philadelphia, Connecticut and New Jersey joined members from the Capital Area District and other activists in Washington DC in a surprise occupation of nearly 200 Congressional offices of US Representatives who continue to block immigration reform. At precisely 1:00 pm, the groups entered the offices and broke into chants, prayers and storytelling to send a message loud and clear that we will continue to fight for immigration reform in 2014. After singing “We Shall Overcome” throughout the halls of Congress, the coalition rallied in front of the Capitol. Pro-reform Congressmen held a press conference on the Capitol steps, demanding that their Republican counterparts stop blocking commonsense immigration reform. The day concluded with a march to the National Mall where activists helped immigration fasters at Fast4Families break their fast. There were rousing speeches from the fasters, including SEIU’s Eliseo Medina, clergy and Congressman Luis Gutierrez. We followed 32BJ CAD office cleaners Willie Lucas, Judith Howell and Ana Gomez on their journey from beginning to end.
Breakfast and discussion of creative activism and the minute-by-minute plans with our 32BJ brothers and sisters from all over the region. “It’s important to involve yourself for other people. At first I was afraid but I know it will all be okay,” said Ana Gomez.
Brainstorming with Vice President Jaime Contreras to come up with chants and prayers for our visit to Congressman Randy Forbes’ office: “WE PRAY: Every day 1100 people are deported because Congress has not addressed the immigration crisis, because you have not addressed the immigration crisis. WE PRAY: Get to work in 2014! WE PRAY: We will fight to win in congress and at the voting booth.”
Heading out on our mission via metro to Capitol Hill. Ana Gomez said, “I’m excited; I feel joy and good about myself that I have the opportunity to help others.”
Judith Howell shared a newspaper article she wanted to show the Congressmen that featured an 11-year old boy who testified on the Hill about the impact of deportation.
Inside the office of Congressman Forbes (R-VA), 32BJ member Guadalupe Guzman Ayala sheds tears recounting how she was unable to contact her brother during his deportation and how he said he was isolated in a dark cell and food was thrown at him through a hole.
Inside the office of Congressman Forbes (R-VA), Judith Howell announces, “We’re here to take over your office because we’re tired of your inaction on immigration reform.”
We all sang “We Shall Overcome” through the halls of Congress for nearly 30 minutes in a peaceful and moving tribute with many other activists.
“We made history today, but this is just the beginning. The cold doesn’t matter because I’m all in,” proclaimed Willie Lucas.
As Congressional leaders held their own press conference pushing for reform nearby on the U.S. Capitol steps, Judith tells rally-goers, “My relatives came to this country as slaves so we are united in the movement for immigration reform.”
SEIU’s Eliseo Medina, clergy and Congressman Luis Gutierrez close the Fast4Families fast with prayers and speeches.