With an immigration reform bill stalled in the US House of Representatives, 33 women in the Seattle area staged a sit-in at the state’s Republican Party headquarters in Bellevue.
The women – including Peggy Lynch, the wife of outgoing Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn – sat in the lobby with their arms linked and their message clear: They wanted their representatives to take action on immigration reform. Outside, another 150 people rallied in support.
Lynne Dodson, of the Washington State Labor Council, said they were there to call on Republicans “who know that immigrants contribute greatly to the economy here.”
The women sang and shared personal stories about loved ones who have been deported and the struggles here for undocumented workers. As they did, Caleb Heimlich, executive director of the state GOP, stepped out of his office with a smile.
"Republicans across the country and here in Washington state are concerned about the immigration reform issue and would like to push something," Heimlich said. "Today, it’s important to have our voices heard but I think we have to understand that we can’t hijack a process just because we’re standing in an office."
Police were called, and about 95 officers from a dozen agencies arrived on scene. The women sang in unison: “We shall not be moved.”
But they were, one by one, arrested for criminal trespassing in the first degree and escorted to police cars with their hands zip-tied behind their backs. As the doors opened, the women were greeted to the cheering from supporters: “Si se puede.”
They were later processed and released through the Bellevue Police Department.
In a statement, Susan Hutchison, who heads the state Republican Party, said the women were arrested for not heeding the landlord’s request to leave.
Hutchison, who was out of town, said she agrees the immigration system should be reformed but that “you cannot fix a broken law by breaking the law.”
The sit-in was one of 10 actions across the country focused on women and children, who organizers said make up three-quarters of all immigrants to the United States.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.