Four protesters, members of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, were arrested last week for chaining themselves to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in Phoenix, and two more were arrested for blocking a bus leaving the facility with undocumented workers. The following day 10 protesters were arrested in New York City while blocking a street outside a federal immigration facility.
"This is a way to say we have done everything and now we are putting our bodies on the line," said Cristina Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream, a national organization of immigration reform organizations.
The switch to civil disobedience by a movement supporting people brought to the United States illegally by their parents, and typically uses graduation caps and gowns as its signature emblem to advocate for legalization of undocumented immigrants, could threaten the delicate immigration debate in Congress, The Arizona Republic said Monday.
"I don't think House Republicans respond well to protests," said Tamar Jacoby, president of Immigration Works USA, a federation of pro-reform businesses. "They look at protesters and they say, you are making it easy for me to vote no" on immigration reform.
A shift toward civil disobedience could get more supporters involved and highlight the urgency of the situation, "what people perceive as a crisis," said Louis DeSipio, political science professor at the University of California-Irvine and a close follower of the immigration debate.
He said he doubts street action on behalf of immigration reform has any effect in Washington.
"People are pretty entrenched in their positions," De Sipio said. "At this point in Washington, if there is a compromise, it will be reached in deep dark rooms under the House and Senate, not based on mass action."
The immigration bill passed in the Senate with bipartisan support has stalled in the Republican-controlled House.