Pt 1. In 2012, undocumented immigrants toured country on Undocubus, used civil disobedience campaign to mobilize support for just immigration reform
OSCAR LEÓN, TRNN PRODUCER: A group of activists from Phoenix, Arizona, organized a bus trip for undocumented voluntaries as part of a wider campaign called No Papers, No Fear, trying to bring the drama of undocumented people’s life to the public attention and trying to empower the Latino community. Last year they toured parts of the Midwest and the Southwest Coast on the way to Charleston, North Carolina, where after 20 cities on ten states, the first chapter of the trip ended. The bus is now headed to California, touring the West Coast.
FERNANDO LOPEZ, COMMUNITY RIGHTS ACTIVIST: The purpose was to, like, gather as many people possible, you know, that they have, like, open cases or, like, just regular people that, you know, they risk arrest every day just by going out on the street, you know, to drop off their kids or going to get groceries or whatever. So we just wanted to show that for a lot of people it was–they saw it as something really risky just to get on a bus and, you know, openly say they were undocumented and travel across country. But it’s something that we do every day. You know, we’re under that risk.
LEÓN: A positive outcome from the battle for undocumented people’s right here in Phoenix Arizona is a sizable Latino rights movement composed by people from different backgrounds.
Many of them gathered together to paint their bus and got it ready to go.
UNIDENTIFIED: This bus stands for not being afraid, and for being proud of who you are, and for seeing the beauty in the lives of the people who are told that they’re undocumented so they must be in the shadows. But the bus is supposed to carry that message that, no, you don’t have to be in the shadows.
LOPEZ: In reality there is nothing to fear to come out and say, you know, openly that you’re undocumented, because you’re still under the same risk, you know, of getting arrested or getting pulled over and not having an ID.
LEÓN: On August 1, 2012, under a full moon, they hit the road and drove north for about 12 hours from Phoenix to Denver. Once in Colorado, the first stop of the trip, the activists met with local Latino rights organizations and discussed strategies to unite and coordinate efforts.
ERIKA OVALLE, COMMUNITY RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I play a supportive role when they do civil disobedience. We do a lot of the chanting and stuff. So we get people’s energy up. And everybody did a great job. And I don’t have any children, but, you know, I see so many faces, I see so many kids out there who are–they’re hurting. Even today at our action, so many broken people. You know, they might arrest one person, but the family outside is suffering. You know, the person inside is suffering. People are committing suicide. And a lot of private prisons, people are investing in our incarceration. And to me that just blows my mind.
LEÓN: The next day, on August 3, they arrived to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and met with local Native American and Latino activists to interchange experience and widen the network of activists and local organizations.
After a night of travel, they demonstrated in Travis County, Texas, where 50 local activists show support for the Undocubus. They called on the local sheriff, Craig Hamilton, to stop participating in the program that detains and deports illegal immigrants.
SARAHI URIBE, NATIONAL DAY LABOR ORGANIZING NETWORK: They’re mothers, they’re fathers, they’re day laborers, they’re workers, they’re students, and they’re drawing inspiration from the undocumented youth movement that has led the country forward. And throughout the country, the purpose of the riders is not only to overcome their fear, but to also pose a moral dilemma to sheriffs like Sheriff Hamilton, who claims he has no choice. But he does have a choice. And the riders are coming to Austin to pose that moral dilemma and have the sheriffs stand on the right side of history, to have the sheriffs stand with the riders and stand with the community. And that’s why they’ve come so far.
LEÓN: Many miles and cities down the road, the Undocubus visited New Orleans to talk about and understand the natural and humanitarian disaster that was Hurricane Katrina.
ALFRED MARSHALL, STAND WITH DIGNITY: It knocked these buildings down.
LEÓN: There they learn about an agreement between the black Stand with Dignity and Latino Congress of the Jornaleros coalitions. This union of coalitions was created to heal tensions between the two communities.
MARSHALL: You was talking about the border from Mexico to the United States. Here’s a border from my street, from one side of of the street to the next street. That is the border right there. I can’t even cross the street.
ELEAZAR CASTELLANOS, CONRGRESO DE JORNALEROS: It’s hard to live in a neighborhood that is separated by a single street. It makes me feel I am at the border, where some are declared legal while others aren’t.
LEÓN: On August 18 in Alabama, they demonstrated outside the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. The Undocubus activists, or “riders”, as they call themselves, interrupted a testimony by Kris Kobach, one of the SB 1070 authors, who had been invited to speak about the impact of that law.
UNIDENTIFIED: The federal civil rights commission is having an audience, a hearing, and they’re inviting really racist people like Kris Kobach, like Dan Stein, like [incompr.] and people that hide behind the face of a business suit. But they’re still really racist people. They’re still the clan. It’s just that they’re wearing a suit.
LEÓN: He was invited because in 2012, Alabama followed the example of Arizona and enacted a very similar law, HB 56.
PROTESTER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Here I am raising my voice for my family, for my community and my children, for all the families that have been separated. I am doing this so you all see that I am a mother, a responsible mother. I am not a criminal. I am no criminal. I am here defending my rights.
PROTESTER: We love this country. We can share. We can share with you. But we can’t live with the lies. We are undocumented, but we are human, not animals.
LEÓN: In part two of this report we will ride with the Undocubus activists all the way to North Carolina in their quest to empower a community as a response to the criminalization of undocumented people.
Reporting for The Real News, this is Oscar León.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.