Chanting slogans and standing atop bunk-bed frames, protesters temporarily blocked traffic near the federal building in Westwood Thursday as part of a series of demonstrations coinciding with the deadline for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients to renew their work permits.
The protesters are “fighting for our right to be human,” one demonstrator told reporters as he stood in the intersection around 10:30 a.m. “… We’re here as refugees from all different parts of the world.”
The group began gathering on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue around 9 a.m., and about an hour later, they spilled into the intersection. As traffic began backing up, police declared an unlawful assembly around 10:30 a.m., and officers began making arrests a short time later as demonstrators refused to leave the intersection.
Some motorists tried to wind their way through the demonstration while police were making arrests.
Police had the intersection cleared by about 10:45 a.m., with protesters on the sidewalk chanting, “Let them go,” calling on police to release the people who had been arrested. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, nine people were taken into custody on suspicion of failure to disperse.
LAPD Capt. Brian Wendling of the West Los Angeles Station said the demonstrators had not obtained a permit for their protest.
“It was very dangerous,” Wendling told Fox11 from the scene. “They had chains going across the street … and they were blocking all the traffic.”
Wendling said those taken into custody could be booked on suspicion of a variety of offenses, including unlawful assembly.
“We asked them about five times over the (public address system) and with the airship,” Wendling said. “We did not want to arrest anybody today. But when they are sitting on metal bunks in the middle of a very busy intersection, we had to take action; and so we did what we had to do. No force was used on anybody.”
Thursday was the deadline for work-permit renewals under the DACA program, which has protected an estimated 800,000 people who were brought to the country as children from deportation.
DACA, instituted in 2012 by President Barack Obama, DACA allows people who were brought into the United States illegally as children to work and study in the country without fear of being deported. DACA has been available to immigrants without criminal records who were brought to the country when they were younger than 16 years old. Work permits issued under DACA must be renewed every two years.
In September, President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the program would be effectively phased out, unless Congress can agree on immigration legislation addressing the issue of childhood arrivals in the next six months.
The government stopped accepting new DACA applications, but existing recipients were given until Thursday to renew their permits.
“In June of 2012, President Obama bypassed Congress to give work permits, Social Security numbers and federal benefits to approximately 800,000 illegal immigrants currently between the ages of 15 and 36,” Trump said last month. “The typical recipients of this executive amnesty, known as DACA, are in their 20s. Legislation offering these same benefits had been introduced in Congress on numerous occasions and rejected each time.
… Only by the reliable enforcement of immigration law can we produce safe communities, a robust middle class and economic fairness for all Americans.”
Immigration activists planned a series of demonstrations Thursday to protest the renewal deadline, and to call for continuation of the DACA program.
Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, said rescinding DACA amounts to a bait-and-switch by the government, which first urged illegal immigrants to come forward and register, and now threatens to deport those people for obeying the law and coming out of the shadows.
“DACA has shown us we cannot get comfortable with temporary solutions,” Salas said. “For too long the Congress has defied the American people and offered patched-up responses to what is clearly becoming a humanitarian crisis.”
On Wednesday, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles, joined with other legislators in asking the Department of Homeland Security to extend the renewal-application deadline to Jan. 5. According to Roybal-Allard, about 154,000 DACA recipients are eligible to apply for extensions, but only about 50,000 had done so. She cited the tight deadline, a lack of notification to eligible recipients an a “substantial” $495 renewal fee.
As a result, the legislators wrote in a letter to DHS, “tens of thousands of DACA recipients could lose their work authorization and DACA status.”