ROCKVILLE — U.S. Capitol Police arrested two local politicians last week in act of civil disobedience as the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday approved a resolution expressing support for the continuation of two federal immigration policies – Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
"We don't often do this, but I think under the Trump administration we wind up doing it more than customary," said Council member Marc Elrich (D-At-large).
Last Wednesday, Council President Hans Riemer (D-at large) and Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-18) participated in the act of civil disobedience outside the U.S. Capitol. Capitol police arrested Riemer and Gutierrez after a staged act of civil disobedience to raise awareness for DACA and TPS.
"These are civil disobedience actions that are planned very carefully," said Sol Gutierrez, who said she'd been arrested four or five times in civil disobedience protests.
Riemer and Gutierrez planned to be arrested Wednesday to raise awareness for TPS and DACA by violating the Capitol's trespassing ordinance. Given the advanced notice, Capitol police booked and processed the protestors on-site after peacefully arresting them.
The protest was prompted by a move by Trump to cancel two immigration programs. Last month the Trump Administration announced it was ending Temporary Protected Status – which has existed since the George H.W. Bush Administration – for some groups.
Bermans Bustos has lived in the United States since 1998, but the Silver Spring resident and building maintenance worker is one of many Nicaraguan refugees who may have to return home now that the Trump Administration has revoked his legal immigration status.
Bustos was one of the more than 200,000 TPS recipients who has used the opportunity to build lives in the U.S., but now he must either find a new path to legal status or leave within 12 months.
"I'm feeling bad because my future is in the United States, it is my country…I have family here," Bustos said.
The status of Bustos and more than 200,000 people like him has become a hot-button issue since President Donald Trump took the oath of office in January and began to implement campaign promises to expel undocumented immigrants, end illegal immigration, and severely curtail legal immigration.
In September Attorney General Jeff Session announced the Trump administration would repeal DACA, sparking numerous well-attended protests.
DACA began under then-President Barack Obama when he signed an executive order allowing undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children to apply for a temporary work visa.
The revocation of TPS has not only affected refugees from Nicaragua, but also those from Honduras. The status of persons from El Salvador – one of the largest countries of origin for TPS recipients – remains unclear, as does the status of many Haitian refugees who the Obama Administration offered TPS to following a major earthquake several years ago.
Outside of Southern California, Maryland is the largest home for TPS recipients from El Salvador with 19,800 living in the state. Before the council's resolution, Claudia Canjura, the Salvadorian ambassador to the United States thanked the Council for the resolution.
As part of a representative of the government of El Salvador, Canjura said that she had spent time lobbying members of the Department of Homeland Security, which manages the DACA and TPS programs as well as Congress to come up with a solution.
"We're talking about a project that takes a long time," Canjura told the Sentinel about her efforts lobbying Congress for a permanent solution for TPS.
In November Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin introduced a bill that would give a path to residency for the over 200,000 TPS recipients living in the United States. While Trump administration has started to roll back the program for some recipients, some Republican lawmakers support keeping the program such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who called for the Trump administration to extend the program for people from Venezuela and Haiti.