Fifteen protesters, including four DACA recipients, were arrested outside the Texas state capitol while staging a demonstration asking legislators to extend citizenship to illegal immigrants.
The protest, organized by immigration advocacy group Cosecha, took place Wednesday. Nonviolent demonstrators raised signs, shouted slogans, and blocked traffic near the capitol as well as the office of Texas’ attorney general.
Men and women – some citizens, others not – chanted “undocumented and unafraid” and “si se puede” as they moved to stop vehicles.
The temporary obstruction of traffic led to at least fifteen arrests. Among those detained were four beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides individuals who arrived to the United States illegally as minors a means to secure their right to residency.
While nearly 800,000 young adults have been approved for membership in DACA since the program began under the Obama administration, there remain an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
Current President Donald Trump has been an outspoken critic of DACA, frequently linking its existence to incidences of violent and organized crime.
Despite aggressive posturing during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump hasn’t yet issued any directive or ultimatum for the program’s future.
“It’s a decision that’s very, very hard to make,” said Trump early in July. “There are two sides of a story. It’s always tough.”
Reporters from al-Jazeera spoke to some of the protesters present in Austin, many of whom felt unsettled by the President’s rhetoric regarding young immigrants. A spokeswoman for Cosecha commented on the ‘high risk’ faced by DACA recipients who chose to rally on Wednesday.
“It’s a very high risk to get arrested as a beneficiary of DACA,” said Cosecha spokeswoman Maria Fernanda Cabello. Referring to legislation introduced at the state and federal level, she continued to say, “We’ve been getting hit from every angle.”
Some of the protesters, including DACA beneficiary Catalina Santiago, said in a statement that she wants her “community to know that politicians do not get to decide who is deserving of dignity and who is not.”
“DACA is under attack while my parents, who are farm workers, were never even given the temporary protection DACA provides,” she said.
“I am getting arrested today to tell my parents, my community, and the rest of the 11 million that no matter what politicians say, you are worthy, and we will not settle for the crumbs they offer us in exchange for being the economic and labor force that sustains this country day in and day out,” Santiago concluded.
All of the 15 activists detained are being charged with obstructing a highway, which is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas.
Police reported the ages of those taken in custody ranged from 20 to 42.
“After repeated requests by DPS officials to leave the roadway were ignored, the suspects were arrested without incident,” relayed DPS staff sergeant Victor Taylor in a statement.
The demonstration lasted for about an hour before drawing to a close as Texas police officers led away protesters in handcuffs.
“I benefited from DACA, but I knew that was always temporary and didn’t benefit everyone in our community such as my parents,” said activist Catalina Adorno to reporters, hands bound behind her back. “There are some serious risks [to getting arrested] but… I know that all the small victories the immigrant community has [sic] had were the result of people taking risks.”