TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Rep. Raul Grijalva said it was his intention to be arrested when he protested President Donald Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program outside Trump Tower in New York City.
The southern Arizona congressman sat down for an interview with Tucson News Now, two days after his arrest, booking, and release from jail on a charge of civil disobedience on Tuesday, Sept. 19.
When asked if the protest went as planned, Grijalva said, "Absolutely."
"We planned to get arrested. We told people we were going to do that," Grijalva said. He noted that law enforcement in New York City was also aware of his plan for civil disobedience.
According to the Associated Press, Rep. Grijalva, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, of Illinois; and Rep. Adriano Espaillat, of New York, were among a small group of demonstrators who sat down in the street outside Trump Tower, on Fifth Avenue, and refused to move. New York's City Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, also was handcuffed and led away.
When asked if the protest was effective, Grijalva told Tucson News Now that remains to be seen.
"We won't know. I think it was effective in letting the community know, particularly the DREAMer community, that they have people standing with them," he said. "And not just the three of us that were there, but many members of Congress wanting a clean, straight, quick decision on the DREAM Act."
The protesters were demanding that Congress pass legislation protecting thousands of young immigrants from deportation.
Grijalva said there is support in Congress, to pass DACA legislation, from both Democrat and Republican leaders.
A Monmouth University poll released Thursday, Sept. 21, showed that more than 60 percent of Americans support allowing DACA recipients to stay; 33 percent want them to be deported back to their native countries.
Seventy percent were reported as saying they would support citizenship for DACA recipients, as long as they don't have a criminal history.
"This was something that I, with the two other colleagues, decided was an effective way to keep it going, and an effective way to go in front of Trump Tower and do it - where the president is. Not just to communicate to him, but to Congress and the leadership that this is a serious issue that members of Congress and others are willing to go that extra step," he said.
The congressman said this was a more forceful way to "push the issue to the front-burner."
The Democrat from Tucson is a well-known critic of President Trump and has led protests and marches in the past.
Grijalva said President Trump was at Trump Tower during the protest. He has not heard from the president, but hopes President Trump heard him. He said President Trump reportedly left Trump Tower about 15 to 20 minutes after he and the other protesters were arrested.
Grijalva said his goal is to get the DREAM Act signed before Dec. 9 and have some security for roughly 800,000 DACA recipients in the United States moving forward.
When news of Grijalva's arrest broke on Tuesday, many of his constituents questioned the civil disobedience arrest.
When asked if he understood where his constituents were coming from, that they'd rather see him in the House working on DACA legislation than out in the New York City streets in protest, Grijalva said he hopes people can see both sides.
"I would explain to them that they can see both - that I've been doing both," he said. "The fact that they don't know about what we've been doing in the House is something that maybe I need to explain more to them. The fact that I'm doing this in a community base, in the street, in a civil disobedience, I think is perfectly consistent with every effort I've taken legislatively."
The congressman returned home to southern Arizona late Wednesday night, Sept, 20, after spending roughly six hours in the New York City jail for the booking process, he said.
Grijalva said he used personal funds to pay for the train ride to New York City from Washington, D.C., and that it was not paid for by his office.
He was booked and released from jail, and ordered to appear in court Nov. 13 or pay a fine. He says he'll plead guilty and pay the civil violation.
The purpose of the forum is "to discuss the rights that immigrants and DACA recipients have in the United States. This will be an opportunity for Tucson's immigrant community to come learn more about their rights as immigrants," according to a news release.
It will be held from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the El Pueblo Neighborhood Center on 101 W. Irvington Road, in Building 1.