Tears welling in her eyes, Maria Sotomayor explained to a staffer in the office of Rep. Lou Barletta how the Pennsylvania Republican put her family at risk by attempting to dismantle President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration.
"It's not about politics," chanted Sotomayor echoed by four other protesters. "But it's about the people that they're hurting. It's about our grandmothers, our grandfathers, our mothers and fathers." The 22-year-old, representing the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, was one of 300 protesters who descended Wednesday on Capitol Hill to stage sit-in demonstrations in the offices of Republican leaders and outspoken anti-immigration critics.
One floor above Barletta's quarters in the Cannon House Office Building, 10 protesters huddled in the midst of House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul's office, raising their voices to the Texas Republican's staff.
Chants also rang throughout Senate office buildings, where protesters dispersed, putting a strain on Capitol Police. The department responded to multiple reports of demonstration activity throughout the Hill, according to Capitol Police spokespeople.
Roughly a dozen protesters staged a sit-in at Sen. John Cornyn's office in the Hart Senate Office Building, chanting loudly. When officers arrived, the protesters agreed to leave the Texas Republican's office, but first joined hands in a circle to pray for the officers, Cornyn, and the families affected by the deportations.
Within minutes roughly three dozen Capitol Police officers gathered on the third floor, listening for where the chants were coming from and heading to offices where protesters were staged. Some officers were visibly frustrated by the scene, asking why they couldn't arrest the protesters. Another officer told a group heading for the exit that if they did not stop chanting he was going to lock them up for demonstrating.
Immigration activists enter the office of Sen. Ted Cruz. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Capitol Police spokesman Shennell Antrobus reported five arrests stemming from the demonstrations, including four males and one juvenile female. They are being charged with crowding, obstructing or incommoding.
Most protesters left voluntarily, and a group protesting in Sen. Rand Paul's office left without Capitol Police present. They, too, joined hands and prayed in Spanish before leaving the Kentucky Republican's area and the building.
Gustavo Ramos, the man who led the prayer and is part of the group CASA de Maryland, said the prayer was "asking that God touch the hearts of the people here."
The group of around a dozen protesters then left the office building, chanting loudly, and drawing some curious staffers out of their offices.
"Congresso, escucha, estamos en la lucha," they chanted, which translates to, "Congress, listen, we are engaged in the struggle."
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