ASBURY PARK, N.J. — Four young immigrants were handcuffed and arrested Thursday afternoon while protesting on the streets of Washington, D.C., capping off a 250-march from New York City to the nation's capital.
Osvaldo Rodriguez, 26, of Red Bank, N.J., blocked an intersection near the U.S. Capitol holding a sign that read, "Build bridges, not walls," chanting that he was "undocumented and unafraid" before his arrest Thursday afternoon. Aldo Solano, Maria Duarte and Cinthia Garcia Benítez also were arrested, but they were released after paying a ticket.
"That's for the most part what keeps me going, that I'm on the right side of history," said Rodriguez, who crossed the U.S.-Mexican border at age 10 with his parents.
Rodriguez was among 11 young immigrants with temporary protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program who walked to Washington, D.C. Eleven "Dreamers," he said, made the trek on behalf of the estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States.
Their goal? To campaign for legislation that would not only offer DACA-eligible people a path to citizenship, but also reject the border wall, restrictions on family-based petitions and increased resources for Immigration and Customs enforcement.Congress has stalled on passing an immigration bill as Republicans pushed for a deal that would grant a pathway to citizenship to 1.8 million young immigrants without legal status in exchange for a border wall and President Trump's other demands to crack down on illegal immigration.
Some Democrats pushed back, but ultimately no deal has garnered enough support to pass. Trump insisted last week that he remained ready to make a deal.
The 11 "Dreamers" and allies who joined the march are part of the Seed Project and affiliated with advocacy group Cosecha. The advocacy group believes in grassroots change without relying on politicians to effect change. They spent two weeks walking through rain, snow and blisters through each leg of the 250-mile journey.
Some of the same DACA recipients, including Rodriguez, drove down to Washington, D.C., last year and staged protests in the U.S. Capitol, which are prohibited. They were arrested and released then as well.
News Rodriguez's previous arrest and his activism garnered mixed reactions on social media, from supporters who wished him well along the journey on Facebook Live to conservatives in Monmouth County who called for his deportation.
Rodriguez said he's fighting for human rights just like other groups have historically.
"Just like every other movement, we're resisting in a non-violent way," he said. "We're a non-violent movement, and we pride ourselves in that."
This was the first time they protested risking arrest since the Supreme Court ruled it's legal to detain non-citizens indefinitely if they're pending deportation.
Rodriguez plans to get a ride back to New Jersey Friday. When he does, he said, he'll focus on mobilizing locals to support immigrants without legal status, including in the statewide campaign for driver's licenses.
"We need a 'clean' Dream Act without any more harm into my community and without more separations of the family," he said. "This will only be accomplished by joining forces with the community who stands behind us."
Follow Steph Solis on Twitter: @stephmsolis