The Slatest

Democrats Block Street Near White House to Protest Trump Family Separation Policy

A crowd of seated protesters shouts while some hold signs.
From left to right in front row: Rep. Joe Crowley, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, Rep. Judy Chu. (Actor John Cusack and civil rights hero John Lewis are visible behind them.) Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

A group of legislators and activists that included several Democratic members of the House of Representatives (and John Cusack!) staged a sit-in Wednesday outside the headquarters of the Customs and Border Protection agency in Washington, D.C. before moving to block a street at the edge of the White House security perimeter. The group—whose non-Cusack protesters included Georgia Rep. John Lewis, Washington Rep. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Illinois Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, Texas Rep. Al Green, California Rep. Judy Chu, and Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky—was protesting the Trump administration’s policy of separating undocumented children from their parents when they cross the border.

The administration’s official line on family separation is that it is forced by law to separate adults and children when the adults are being prosecuted criminally for undocumented entry; what this explanation elides is the administration itself is responsible for the recent decision to subject all border crossers to criminal charges rather than civil proceedings in which families could be kept together. There have also been documented reports that border authorities are separating families that have presented themselves at ports of entry to apply for asylum, which is a legal practice.

Per Vox’s Ella Nilsen, the organizers of the protest had expected to be arrested during the sit-in at CBP’s offices; when that didn’t happen, possibly because CBP didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of an arrest photo op, they moved to block traffic, but didn’t get arrested there either. Said Illinois’ Gutiérrez (in Spanish; apologies if my translation is inelegant): “They abuse women and children at the border who have no protection, but here in the light of day, in front of the public, they don’t dare arrest those of us who are clearly violating the law.” Gutiérrez says further protests are planned.