August 02, 2012
“This summer, we are coming out of the shadows and getting on the bus. Our rights and our families are under attack and we’ve come too far to go back now.”
On July 29, 2012, a special kind of bus tour across the American Southwest departed from Phoenix, Arizona. The passengers aren’t going to be relaxing in luxury resort spas or sightseeing majestic landmarks in the desert. There are no rock stars on board, at least, not in the way we’re used to thinking.
The people riding on this bus have embarked on a precarious mission to show Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, along with the United States federal government, that they will no longer live in the shadows. They want to let them know that they are no longer afraid, and that they have begun organizing to take a public stand for the rights of undocumented people in the U.S.
Four days earlier, on July 25, a group of protestors gathered outside the U.S. District Court, where Sheriff Arpaio was testifying in a class action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund on behalf of all Arizona residents (documented and undocumented alike) who have been victims of racial profiling. Arpaio’s own words were used against him during the trial, and he spent six hours responding to racist comments he made in media interviews.
The protestors that Tuesday included four undocumented individuals – Miguel Guerra, Natally Cruz, Leticia Ramirez, and Isela Meraz – who were arrested outside the courthouse for blocking an intersection and had immigration holds placed on them in jail. Everyone but Guerra has been released.
Leticia Ramirez came to the United States with her parents when she was nine years old, and she has been living on this side of the border for eighteen years. Her children were born in Arizona. She does what she can to help others, including volunteering at a neighborhood food program where children get the breakfast and lunch they need every day.
“Life in Arizona has gotten complicated since they passed their anti-immigrant laws,” says Ramirez, who worries daily about her husband while he’s at work. “Now we can’t go out of the house or enjoy time with our children. We’re afraid to leave because of the police who harass us. Because they want to arrest us.”
Miguel Guerra, who has been here for fourteen years and has a wife and three children, works in construction and has been a volunteer with the Puente Human Rights Movement since shortly after the passage of SB1070.
Guerra says, “We want President Obama to see that we are no longer afraid and that that we are demanding that he take action to solve our community’s problems.”
Natally Cruz, who has been in the United States for sixteen years, also volunteers for Puente; she has a seven-year-old son. Isela Meraz came here with her parents at the age of eight and has lived in Phoenix for twenty-one years. She has participated in hunger strikes and has organized art shows for 3rd Space’s Queer Cultura.
These four protestors, along with many other undocumented residents, have made their lives in the United States. For them it’s not a viable option to return to Mexico. They’ve planted solid roots in Phoenix, where they work hard and contribute to the community in any way they can.
Ramirez, Cruz, and Meraz, who were released the day after they were arrested, have been riding on the UndocuBus, along with Carlos Garcia, an organizer with the “Arrest Arpaio Not the People” campaign and with Puente Arizona. So far, they have been through New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas.
UndocuBus will be in Austin on Friday, August 3, at noon at the Travis County Sherriff’s office. The gathering includes the support of Austin Immigrants Rights Coalition, the University Leadership Initiative, Grassroots Leadership, Proyecto Defensa Laboral and other immigrant advocates in Austin. Undocumented riders will come out publicly, support local people to build barrio defense, and perform peaceful civil disobedience.
After leaving Austin, they will continue through Texas to Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. The tour will end in North Carolina at the Democratic National Convention (September 3-6, 2012), where the party that promises reform but has so far produced record deportations, will decide whether to include or exclude the undocumented leaders who have put themselves at great legal risk.
Would you put yourself at risk by riding on UndocuBus if you were undocumented? Do you think these protestors are doing the right thing?
Originally Published at http://latinometro.com/undocubus-austin-papers-fear-ride-justice/