Therese Patricia Okoumou is facing up to six months behind bars on each count of trespassing, interference with government agency functions, and disorderly conduct. The 44-year-old naturalized citizen who immigrated from the Republic of Congo in 1994, was arrested afteron the Fourth of July in a protest of the who entered the country illegally.
Authorities say Okoumou endangered her own life and the lives of the NYPD officers who responded when she refused to come down during a three-hour standoff. Major Pamela Smith of the U.S. Park Police told reporters that the incident “caused disruption to thousands of visitors on one of the busiest days of the year at the Statue of Liberty.” More than 4,000 visitors to Liberty Island were evacuated, police say, “out of an abundance of caution.”
Okoumou’s decision to climb the statue was spur of the moment. She had no ropes or other climbing gear. She later told the crowd that gathered after she was released that “I climbed as high as I could.” Her action focused attention on the plight of Latinos and Hispanics whose children were taken from them and shipped around the country, but it has also brought attention to the fact, as reported by Pew Research, that immigration from Africa also has picked up significantly during the last 5 years.
The U.S. has detained” more than 2,000 children while criminally prosecuting their parents or guardians on illegal immigration charges.