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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