OSCAR LEON, PRODUCER, TRNN: Many Latino rights organizations have declared the month of March as the month of action for real immigration reform across the United States. In cities around the country, families and activists have taken to the streets to show support and solidarity with the many families of these broken homes. In Flagstaff, Arizona, on Saturday, people defied the snow and low temperatures to bring attention to this daily drama.
In Chicago on Sunday, a march called “Coming Out of the Shadows” took place. A couple of hundred of activists gathered downtown. Around 100 people marched on Monday, 11 March, in downtown Phoenix to demand the end of deportations and separations of families with undocumented members. This march takes place in a month that has been declared a month of action for real immigration reform by many Latino rights organizations across the United States. Erika Andiola felt the pain and fear herself when ICE agents broke in her house, detaining her mom and her brother. Fortunately for her, the community’s support and phone calls got her family released.
ERIKA ANDIOLA, DREAM ACTION COALITION: People that are detained in jail for years, that their–the only crime (which I don’t think is a crime) committed was really providing for their family, going to work. You know, sometimes you have to find ways to work if your family’s going through a rough time. And so Arizona’s one of the harshest–or Maricopa County’s one of the harshest places to just work. And, you know, people are in jail for years just for doing that. And, you know, we want to be able to avoid that. And if Arizona can be a starting place for people to realize that this is wrong, then hopefully that can be a blueprint; that fact, that they stopped that, can be a blueprint for the rest of the country.
LEON: The reunification of people that has been detained and put in deportation process is being used lately as some other families were successful in their effort to recover their loved ones by putting public pressure on local elected and public officials. That is why in this little theater montage, the activists try to teach the use of a cellular phone and social media as an effective tool for garnering community support and defend their neighbors and family in case of a raid by ICE or the feared Maricopa sheriff, Joe Arpaio.
ACTIVIST (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Bring out your cellular phones so we can call ICE and free this friend. She needs our help.
UNIDENTIFIED: Inside this building, a terrible–while I was in there, they keep you in a room with 40-plus other males. It’s really cold. They try to keep the temperatures as low as possible to prevent bacteria and infections and, you know, diseases. But while I was in there–they usually give blankets to cover up ’cause it’s so cold. But while I was in there, there was a bedbug breakout. So I was then exposed to that. There was a bedbug breakout. We didn’t receive any blankets.
JORGE MARTINEZ (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We are tired of all that is happening here in Arizona and all across the U.S. We want them to stop deporting people. We have so many of us being deported day after day after day. I myself am in a deportation process. I don’t know what is going to happen. My son is detained and on deportation process. We are trying to get him out. But you know lawyers charge high prices to defend immigration cases here in Arizona.
I was sent for 30 days to a detaining center, which in reality is a prison, a private prison rented by ICE where they treat you really bad. There I observed very unfair treatment. The county sheriff maltreated the prisoners, and especially with the services, like food. We were fed really horrible food: raw rice and raw beans. It was horrible. Many people got sick. I was one of them.
Some people got arrested while crossing the border. Many of them arrived to jail badly beaten. They said it was the agents who did it. None of them got a chance to defend themselves or undergo any sort of procedure. They were deported right away. The incident that especially got my attention was of this guy who was beaten. He had a badly injured eye. He got taken away without any medical help or lawful procedure. He got deported to Guatemala.
LEON: After walking for miles under the hot desert sun, the march came to an end outside Maricopa County attorney’s–Bill Montgomery’s office.
MIGUEL GUERRA (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We are against these new lawsthat are being passed here in Arizona. We want them to change the kind of charges made against people that are being detained in Arpaio’s raids. We want to tell Bill Montgomery to redraw all the harsh sentences (on immigrants). I think it is unfair the way they separate families. Inside the ICE jail I saw how they do it. They intimidate them into signing their deportation papers, saying that if they don’t sign, they’ll remain from six to 12 months in jail.
LEON: Montgomery’s hard sentences on Latinos either with fake IDs or working without legal documents are a major factor in the separation of families.
JULIA OJEDA (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): There was an Arpaio raid, and they took my husband. His name is Miguel Venegas. And we are here to demand our rights as human beings. We are not criminals. We are hardworking people that come to this country to fight for a better life, and our children belong here. We want them to stop deportations and to drop the charges no all the raided workers that were detained (with my husband).
JHONTE VENEGAS, 15-YEAR-OLD: And I’m here to tell Montgomery to drop the charges, ’cause we don’t like it to–Montgomery to part the families. And we want all the families together, to be happy. And I fear Arpaio took my dad when he was at work, and I was devastated that he took my dad. And it’s been hard that my dad’s not here. He was working hard to put food on the table for my family. And I just want him back home.
LEON: The demonstration was carried out on Monday morning, a day that’s normally not known to attract big crowds because everybody’s working or studying. However, they did it this way ’cause they wanted the public officers inside the buildings to feel the pressure by themself, since on Saturday they’re not working.
After making a lot of noise both outside the county’s building and in the TV news, these families and activists went back to their lives. Many of them, however, went back to homes that are lacking one or more members.
More marches and events are set up to happen all across the country in this month of action for immigration rights.
For The Real News, this is Oscar Leon.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.