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Update: Protestors Arrested At Rep. Faso’s District Office Over DREAM Act

Nine people were arrested Monday during a pro-DREAMer demonstration at Congressman John Faso’s Kinderhook office. 

On Monday, activists occupied 19th district Republican Congressman John Faso's Kinderhook office, demanding that he withhold his budget vote in exchange for passing what they call a “clean DREAM Act.” DREAMers are defined as undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children; the DREAM Act extends protections to law-abiding students and workers.

Protestors had been on the scene all day long, but overstayed their welcome when they staged a sit-in, refusing to leave the premises at 5 p.m. closing time.

Credit Columbia County Sanctuary Movement
Sheriff's deputies arrive at Congressman Faso's office to escort demonstrators out of the building after closing time.

Co-founder of the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement Gloria Martinez  says arrests began around 6 p.m. One demonstrator had to be carried out of the building.    "We were just processed. We were given an appearance ticket. We have to go back to court in February."

Columbia County Sanctuary Movement member Jenifer Benn says there were nine arrests altogether. Benn says she and and three other protestors were arrested by State Police early in the afternoon, charged with violating the local building occupancy code.   "Yes, it's a public building and they do encourage constituents to come in, express their concerns. There was a lot of questions about the number of occupancy that can occupy the waiting area. It's a pretty large room." 

Benn insists there were enough chairs in the room to accommodate those gathered.

Credit Columbia County Sanctuary Movement
Jenifer Benn of the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement

Columbia County Sheriff’s deputies handled five evening arrests. According to a release issued by the sheriff's office, "Four individuals taken into custody are local residents of Columbia County and a fifth individual is a resident of Kingston... The five protestors arrested were each charged with one count of Trespass, which is a violation.  Appearance tickets were issued returnable to the Village of Kinderhook Court on February 5th."

For his part, Faso says he supports DREAMers, with a caveat:  "Well I support taking care of the DACA problem and the DACA issue, but it has to be done in conjunction with enhanced security measures so that we don't have to deal with this issue in the future. So I'm a co-sponsor of the bill to deal with the DACA issue. I also lament the fact that we're not getting it done before the first of the year. But I anticipate that this will be one of the first items of business in 2018."

Faso told WAMC that the notion that the House or Senate will pass a DREAM Act bill that doesn’t contain border wall and security funding is “not possible.”

Again, Gloria Martinez:    "He keeps talking about compromising and trying to negotiate when it comes to the money that's gonna go toward increased ICE activity in our community. The border wall, militarization of the border, and we already took a stance yesterday, and other people around the United States have taken a stance saying no, that is not acceptable. And our stance with Faso is to step up and vote for the clean DREAM Act. I mean the Clean DREAM Act needs 218 votes to pass. Where it's over 200 already. If he just steps up and puts his foot down and just co-sponsors it and votes for it, we're just another less vote away from what is needed for it to pass."

Jenifer Benn feels Monday's action made its intended mark. As for the future?  "We don't have another event on the table. We will decide that as a group as to what would be our next step or action and how we're going to get there."

Thousands have mobilized on the issue in recent weeks, organizing more than 30 sit-ins and rallies across the country. Faso, along with 33 other Republicans, signed a letter sent to speaker Paul Ryan requesting a resolution for Dreamers before the year's end.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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