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WASHINGTON -- More than 180 demonstrators, including five from Arkansas, were arrested Wednesday on the steps of the U.S. Capitol while protesting Congress' inaction on immigration legislation.

Maria Meneses, 19, of Little Rock; Diana Pacheco, 20, of Little Rock; Xiomara Caldera, 20, of Springdale; Armando Reyes, 22, of Rogers; and Michel Rangel, 24, of Rogers were briefly detained.

Meneses and Pacheco, beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, were brought to the United States as children and are here illegally. They fear deportation.

A spokesman for the U.S. Capitol Police said the protesters were charged with violating D.C. code Section 22-1307, which prohibits crowding, obstructing or incommoding.

The Washington, D.C., code makes it illegal to block the entrance to any public place once law enforcement personnel have instructed people to move.

The code also makes it illegal "to engage in a demonstration in an area where it is otherwise unlawful to demonstrate and to continue or resume engaging in a demonstration after being instructed by a law enforcement officer to cease engaging in a demonstration."

Uniformed police officers stood on the stairs above the sitting protesters, gently leading them away.

"They were warned to cease and desist their unlawful demonstration activities," a police spokesman said.

Those wishing to be arrested wore green armbands and portrayed their protests as acts of civil disobedience.

Rather than having them stand trial, law enforcement officials allowed the protesters to "post and forfeit collateral."

By paying a $50 penalty, protesters obtained "a full and final resolution of the criminal charge." Under the law, each walked away without a criminal conviction.

While their protest charges have been resolved, the long-term status of Meneses and Pacheco is uncertain.

Legislation has repeatedly been introduced that would allow young adults raised in the U.S. and here illegally, to remain in this country. But the proposals have stalled over the years.

President Barack Obama, by executive order, created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012, allowing people like Meneses and Pacheco to live and work in the U.S. without fear of sudden deportation.

President Donald Trump announced in September that he is ending the 5-year-old program, but he delayed its shutdown for six months so that Congress could pass legislation addressing the issue. Thus far, Congress has declined to take action.

In addition to Trump, a coalition of business executives and a large group of religious leaders have urged Congress to find a solution for so-called "Dreamers."

Meneses, who left Guatemala when she was 2 years old, said she was in Washington to deliver a message to lawmakers.

"I'm here to push our congressmen to pass a clean DREAM Act," she said, referring to legislation that would allow people like her to stay in the U.S. (DREAM stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors). "I just simply wouldn't understand if they can't come together to actually pass something for people that are valuable to this country."

Meneses, a biology premedical student at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, said she has big plans for the future.

"I expect to go to medical school and then I plan, when I get my citizenship, to run for the Arkansas Legislature," she said.

Pacheco, who left Mexico City when she was 6 years old, said her family headed north in search of the American dream.

"My mom decided to come here to give us a better life," she said. "[I've been in] Arkansas almost my whole life."

Pacheco, who also attends Philander Smith College, said she fears being returned to a land that she barely remembers.

"I was born in Mexico. I understand that. But I was raised here, and I'm more American than anything else," she said. "This is my home. There is no way I can leave. And if Donald Trump decides to take DACA away, just know that I'm not leaving without a fight."

Metro on 12/07/2017

Print Headline: At DACA demonstration in D.C., arrestees include 5 from Arkansas

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  • RBear
    December 7, 2017 at 6:29 a.m.

    This was a peaceful protest to help raise the awareness of the need for DACA to be resolved once and for all. These young people are a part of our American society and their status needs to be resolved WITHOUT sending them back to a country many don't even know. Many are on a path to success and deporting them would not only create an undue hardship on their lives, but also rob our nation of talented young people.

  • wildblueyonder
    December 7, 2017 at 9:17 a.m.

    Real proud of 5 of our Arkansas DACA residents who got arrested in D.C. They're on their way of being the kind of "citizens" we want, aren't they? Why would one of them go to med school just to be running for the Arkansas legislature anyway? That is when (and if) she gets her citizenship of course. Great role models, I'm sure.

  • RBear
    December 7, 2017 at 9:39 a.m.

    Actually they are good role models. They peacefully demonstrated and were arrested under a law in DC that allows for such demonstrations. Why would one go to med school, then eventually run for public office? I don’t know. Ask Ben Carson or Tom Price.

  • drs01
    December 7, 2017 at 9:49 a.m.

    I wonder why these two arrested Arkansan women are not citizens. They both claim to have been here for most of their lives. Maybe it's because no one until Trump has called their hand. If they get deported, whose fault is it? THEIR OWN.
    I hope no medical school, especially the UofA, will waste a valuable slot on a person who wants a boutique med practice so she can spend time politicking.
    So let's sort this out...give a medical degree to an illegal who has been breaking our immigration laws, and then allow her to run for a political office in a country where she has shown a total disregard for our laws. Yes, let's do that!!!!!

  • GeneralMac
    December 7, 2017 at 10:41 a.m.

    RBear..............using "peaceful" and "arrested" in the same sentence is an oxymoron.

    We are a country of laws.

  • RBear
    December 7, 2017 at 11:23 a.m.

    GeneralMac, why is that an oxymoron? Peaceful means no harm was done. Your statement is pretty idiotic if you parse it accurately.
    drs, as is usually the case you miss the issue here and run to some stupid right wing. To start with, do you understand the situation for DACA recipients? Before we go much further, prove to me that you actually understand this issue fully. I'm not looking for rhetoric from either side. Just a basic understanding of DACA recipients and why this is an issue.

  • PopMom
    December 7, 2017 at 11:36 a.m.


    Many members of Congress have been arrested protesting. It's like getting a parking ticket or jaywalking; the protests were peaceful.

  • GeneralMac
    December 7, 2017 at 11:38 a.m.

    RBear...........nothing "peaceful" about obstructing access.

    ( or blocking streets and freeways "

  • GeneralMac
    December 7, 2017 at 11:40 a.m. you say the same if pro-life protesters block access to an abortion clinic and get arrested ?

  • Jfish
    December 7, 2017 at 11:53 a.m.

    People want the laws that are on the books to be enforced especially in light of the recent Kate Steinle court decision. The immigration reform has been kicked down the road for years and it is time to do something.