Doral

Immigration activist gets arrested during demonstration outside Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart's office in Doral

 

mcaputo@MiamiHerald.com

A national union organizer and immigration activist was arrested after refusing repeated police requests to demonstrate farther away from a Doral building that houses U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s office.

The Friday arrest of 68-year-old Eliseo Medina is the latest sign of the increasing pressure from Democrats and their allies to get U.S. House Republicans to schedule an election-year vote on immigration reform.

“This is brilliant. This is brilliant,” one activist, whose identity is unclear from a YouTube video, said after Doral police busted Medina, a Los Angeles resident who’s the international secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union.

Medina’s arrest and subsequent release from jail — on trespassing and nonviolent resisting of arrest charges — made local English- and Spanish-language television.

The office of Diaz-Balart — a pro-immigration-reform Republican — said it had nothing to do with Medina’s incarceration. Security at the building, which holds multiple tenants, called police of its own accord when a crowd appeared, and an officer then arrested Medina, who repeatedly refused to step away, Diaz-Balart’s office said, pointing to a police report.

Medina and the activists appeared at Diaz-Balart’s office after an immigration-reform press conference held at Florida International University with Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. She described her Miami colleague as “a patriotic Floridian, a great member of Congress, relentless, persistent, determined, dissatisfied.”

One organizer, Kathy Bird of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, said the event and the arrest was not planned.

Bird said she’s not sure who called the police, but she said that treatment of peaceful activists is “the worst at Mario Diaz-Balart’s office.”

“We go to congressmen in tea party country — Bartow, Lakeland, some areas in Orlando — and we don’t get treated as badly as we do here,” Bird said. “He’s our congressman. He should face us.”

Activists are targeting House Republicans because it’s their caucus stalling immigration reform, Bird said. So Diaz-Balart is facing more pressure than Garcia.

Garcia and Diaz-Balart, both from Miami, occupy top roles in their respective party’s efforts to bring about a vote for bipartisan immigration reform. Election opponents in 2008 — when Diaz-Balart won — the two don’t work closely together on the issue.

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