About a dozen young people dressed in blue valedictory caps and gowns were arrested Tuesday afternoon in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building.
The group appears to be part of a larger group of students who were on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to lobby for passage of the DREAM Act, an immigration reform bill that would allow undocumented residents to apply to U.S. colleges.
At about 4 p.m. the group sat down on the floor in the center of the atrium, around a 6-foot sign that said "Undocumented and Unafraid," and "Dream Act Now." They sat for about 15 minutes before being handcuffed in plastic cuffs and escorted away by Capitol Police.
Earlier in the day, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), author of the Dream Act, addressed the larger group, which was staging a mock graduation ceremony.
Reached for comment following the arrests, a Durbin spokesman said, "Today's demonstrations by some DREAM Act supporters ... crossed the line from passionate advocacy to inappropriate behavior. The tide of public opinion has long been on the side of the DREAM Act — it has broad bipartisan support in Congress, and poll after poll shows that people of all political persuasion believe in its goals. Sen. Durbin believes that we will win this fight on the merits, not through public demonstrations or publicity stunts."
Representatives of the Dream group's protest were not available for comment.
Passage of the act would make it possible for children of undocumented immigrants who have grown up in the United States to earn legal status through college education or military service.
According to Durbin's spokesman, "For nearly a decade, Sen. Durbin has sponsored the DREAM Act, a narrowly tailored, bipartisan bill that would provide immigration relief to a select group of students who grew up in the U.S. but are prevented from pursuing their dreams by current immigration law.
"The Dream Act would give these students a chance to earn legal status if they came here as children, are long-term U.S. residents, have good moral character and attend college or enlist in the military for at least two years."