The No Papers, No Fear campaign got off to a pretty fearless start this week. On July 24, while Sheriff Joe Arpaio went on trial for his outrageously discriminatory policing tactics, several undocumented activists underscored the warped priorities of the criminal justice system by getting arrested. The stage was set for a confrontation when about 100 people rallied outside the Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse, protesting against the aggressive racial profiling tactics of the Maricopa County police force–the subject of the landmark lawsuit Melendres v. Arpaio.
According to The Pheonix New Times, four protesters, representing Puente Arizona, came out as undocumented and “challenged Arpaio to come out of the courtroom and arrest them.” Turns out that some of his colleagues outside the courtroom could take care of that:
“We have to come out of the shadows . . . We have to let people know that we are tired of being stepped on,” 24-year-old undocumented immigrant Natally Cruz told New Times before she was arrested. “We are not scared anymore.”
Police warned the demonstrators for about a half-hour that they’d be arrested if they didn’t get off the street. The protesters ignored the warnings, and one by one, were snatched up and arrested.
“I’m doing this for my parents. For the sacrifice they made bringing me here [illegally],” said 28-year-old Isela Meraz, one of those taken into custody. “To let them know that the obstacles I have encountered are the system’s fault and not theirs.”
Now the court will decide whether the system will be held accountable. The lawsuit is one of many legal actions, accompanied by a national grassroots mobilization, that seeks to expose the individuals and policies behind the suffering and brutality of Arpaio’s Arizona. But the lawsuit is just a start. New evidence of systemic racial bias in Arizona law enforcement adds more fuel to the growing resistance in many communities against vicious anti-immigrant policies.
The group (Miguel Guerra, 37; Natally Cruz, 24, Leticia Ramirez, 27; and Isela Maraz, 28) released a statement explaining their actions:
We have marched and we have protested. Today we are taking civil disobedience to ensure that our voices are heard. 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 arrest of the protesters will help push forward the Undocubus, which will travel across the country to speak out on immigrants’ rights on behalf of those who are silenced, locked up, or deported. The campaign announced on its website, “Their action was the first of a series of events as part of the No Papers No Fear Ride for Justice. 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.”
For those who’ve confronted police barricades, challenged school segregation, broken the silence of being undocumented, or simply refused to be torn from their communities and pushed back across the border, there’s no turning back. So from here on, it’s full speed ahead.