Undocumented Protesters Kick Off ‘Ride for Justice’ at Discrimination Trial of Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Cristina Kladis

As the discrimination trial of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio continued in Arizona yesterday, four protestors were arrested outside as they revealed their status as undocumented immigrants. The four shouted “no papers, no fear, dignity is finally here” outside of the Sandra Day O’Connor Courthouse in downtown Phoenix before they were arrested by the Phoenix Police Department. The protest, in which an estimated 60 people participated, was part of No Papers, No Fear’s first event in their No Papers, No Fear Ride for Justice.  Undocumented protestors will travel on what they call the “UndocuBus” from Arizona to the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina in September to publicly show the constant threat of deportation that undocumented people in America continue to face.
The four arrested protestors, Leticia Ramirez, Isela Meraz, Natally Cruz and Miguel Guerra, released a statement about their demonstration: We are no longer afraid.  Today, we confront publicly what we risk every day, being arrested by the police, and separated from our families, only because we are undocumented.  We’re confronting fear itself.  We are undocumented and unafraid. We hope to inspire others in our own community to lose their fear, to come out of the shadows, and to organize. The class action Arpaio is distinct from, but may have an impact on, the Justice Department’s comprehensive federal civil rights lawsuit against the Maricopa County sheriff.  A group of Hispanics, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and other attorneys, claim they were racially discriminated by Arpaio and his deputies.  The plaintiffs are not seeking fiscal compensation but a review of Maricopa County’s policies.  The center of the civil lawsuit revolves around Maricopa County’s so-called “crime suppression sweeps,” which plaintiffs say unduly targeted Hispanic areas. The sheriff’s office found that 57% of 1,500 people arrested in a total of 20 sweeps since 2008 were undocumented immigrants.      County Sheriff Arpaio is standing by his policies and his deputies.  His attorney, Tim Casey, stated that “there is no evidence that race or ethnicity played a factor” in Maricopa County’s actions against the plaintiffs.  But many of Arpaio’s own words were questioned in court.   Arpaio has called himself America’s “toughest sheriff” in one of his books, from which the plaintiffs’ attorneys read portions:  “My parents, like all other immigrants exclusive of those from Mexico, held to certain hopes and truths.”  Sheriff Arpaio said that this viewpoint is not his but Len Sherman’s, the co-author of “Joe’s Law:  America’s Toughest Sheriff Takes on Illegal Immigration, Drugs, and Everything Else That Threatens America.”  Sherman denied Arpaio’s testimony, refuting that these are his words.  Arpaio’s trial is scheduled to conclude next week.
Cristina Kladis is an In These Times summer 2012 intern.
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