A group of immigration rights activists staged a protest Wednesday at the Bakersfield office of House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy, eventually meeting with the Congressman after being locked inside his office for much of the night.
The protestors from the group Women Demand Immigration Reform called for the Bakersfield Republican to bring a comprehensive immigration reform bill to a vote in the House. Last week three House Republicans became co-sponsors of a Democratic-backed immigration reform bill, including San Joaquin Valley representatives David Valadao and Jeff Denham. The bill is similar to one passed by the Senate earlier this year and includes enhanced border security, a guest worker program, and a pathway to citizenship for those currently in the country illegally.
Late Wednesday afternoon a crowd of demonstrators gathered outside McCarthy's office, leading pro-immigrant chants. Around a dozen women from the group eventually made their way into the lobby of McCarthy's office, demanding to speak with the Congressman. In a statement released by the group, the women said they were willing to risk arrest in an act of civil disobedience.
With police and security on the scene, officials eventually closed the office doors, locking the women inside. Activists from the group streamed the protest live on the digital tv service UStream.
At around the same time across town, the Congressman was speaking to a capacity crowd at Cal State University Bakersfield's Doré Theatre, introducing technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, who was visiting the campus for a guest lecture.
Late Wednesday night, McCarthy and his wife appeared at the office and met with the women, effectively ending the lockout. The UFW Foundation released the following statement about the meeting on its Facebook page early Thursday morning:
A little past 11 pm, Kevin McCarthy himself, his wife, and a small entourage of police officers and staffers, walks in the door, visibly upset but willing to chat with the women. Although the meeting was held inside the office and most of us could not hear exactly what was said, we can tell you the meeting was “spirited.” Mr. McCarthy was upset the women had caused such raucous for something he said he supports. He is serious about solving the problem, he emphasized. How serious: he only smiled once during the hour-long session with the women, and that happened while he heard a testimony from one of the CHIRLA members, Miriam. Mrs. McCarthy also interacted with the women.