LOS ANGELES (CN) – Police arrested priests, reverends, rabbis and other members of the faith community outside a California courthouse in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday over a show of civil disobedience against the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
They locked hands, blocked traffic and then sat in the middle of a street and waited for officers from the Los Angeles Police Department to arrest them.
The morning protest outside the courthouse preceded U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ visit to LA later in the day for a planned speech to a nonprofit litigation group on criminal justice.
Last week, the Trump administration temporarily stopped its “zero-tolerance” immigration policy to separate families at the border.
Trump’s executive order reversing the policy came after an outcry by politicians and religious leaders as images of children in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities went public. The images showed children wrapped in Mylar blankets and surrounded by chain link fences.
Recently, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association said the federal policy has created a humanitarian crisis as more than 2,300 children have been separated from their families at the border in less than two months.
Sessions quoted the Bible when promoting the administration’s hardline stance on immigration, which is one of the reasons why members of the clergy attended Tuesday morning’s protest in Los Angeles.
The United States has several policies and laws that prosecute and hurt immigrants, said Rev. Richard Estrada. He called Sessions hypocritical for citing scripture to justify separating families.
“We’re resisting laws and policies that divide people, hurt people and that’s why I’m here with brothers and sisters,” Estrada said before he was arrested and escorted to an LAPD squad car.
Coalition for Humane Rights of Los Angeles policy director Joseph Villela said seeing people of faith arrested brings morality to the debate on immigration and the federal government’s policies.
“These are the type of actions that are needed for the public to understand the urgency of the matter,” said Villela, who helped organize the protest.
Rev. Krista Gibbons smiled and sang just before the officers arrived.
“We’ve chosen this action because we believe that all people need to get out of their comfort zones,” said Gibbons. “People need to stand up and say we’re not going to take this. This is a step too far – putting kids in cages.”
Also on Monday, 17 states and the District of Columbia sued Sessions and various other Trump administration officials over the refusal to allow asylum-seekers to enter the United States and the “cruel and unlawful policy of forcibly separating families who enter the country along our Southwestern border.”
The action is the first by states, though several have been filed by individuals in recent weeks.
On Tuesday afternoon, Sessions said too many loopholes have been exploited in the United States’ immigration system. He told the lunch crowd at the annual Criminal Justice Legal Foundation’s in a downtown hotel ballroom that the Trump administration is upholding the law.
“This is the Trump era. We are enforcing the law again,” said Sessions. “We know whose side we’re on: We’re on the side of the police and we’re on the side of the American people.”
He added that immigration is one of the reasons why Trump won the presidency.
And he dubbed critics of the administration’s immigration policies the “radical open border crowd.”
Sessions thanked the foundation for filing an amicus brief in support of the federal government’s lawsuit against the state of California over its sanctuary policies, which include blocking local law enforcement from helping immigration agents in collecting and deporting undocumented immigrants.