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Immigration Activists Occupy KY Senators' Offices

PHOTO: Immigration reform activists occupied dozens of U.S. congressional offices over what they call the "moral crisis" of a broken immigration system. Photo credit: Julie Karant.
PHOTO: Immigration reform activists occupied dozens of U.S. congressional offices over what they call the "moral crisis" of a broken immigration system. Photo credit: Julie Karant.
February 13, 2015

WASHINGTON - Calling the nation's broken immigration system a "moral crisis," activists occupied scores of congressional offices Wednesday - including those of Kentucky's Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul.

A press release from one of the many groups taking part said it was targeting 35 "hard-line" Republican representatives and senators. Julie Karant, a spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union, was with a group occupying one of the offices and spoke by cell phone as a migrant from El Salvador sang a psalm about justice for the poor in the background.

"Hundreds of people flooding through Capitol Hill offices right now as we speak," she said. "They can no longer ignore it. It's hurting our economy and it's tearing hard-working families apart."

Some of the protest leaders were arrested by Capitol police, but most of the protesters were removed without incident.

Opponents of immigration reform say amnesty would reward people who break the law. Congress has been unable to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and Republican hardliners now also are threatening to block funding for the Department of Homeland Security over a presidential executive order. That order would remove the threat of deportation from many law-abiding migrants who are here without permission.

Some of the immigration activists say the opposition to that is rooted in part in resentment.

"We're not going anywhere," said Jaime Contreras, area director for the Service Employees International Union. "We're going to see this fight through, whether it's today, tomorrow or next year, or to fight until they do the right thing."

Contreras says the idea of refusing to fund the DHS is profoundly wrong.

"We're outraged that they're trying to undo this executive or passing a clean funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security," he said. "It's just un-American."

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY