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Pt 2. In 2012, undocumented immigrants launched the “Undocubus” campaign and used civil disobedience to challenge deportations

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OSCAR LEÓN, TRNN PRODUCER: This is the second part of a report about a group of activists from Phoenix, Arizona, who organized UndocuBus, a bus trip for undocumented voluntaries, as a 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.

On part one we reviewed their trip, starting from Phoenix, crossing Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama on their way to Charleston, North Carolina.

FERNANDO LOPEZ, COMMUNITY RIGHTS ACTIVIST: But it’s just to show, like, the power that an organized community has, and then also to build a network. We have all this technology these days. You know, we have internet, we have Facebook, we have cell phones. We can all use that to organize.

The other purpose was showing what an organized community can do. You know. Like, we were, like, so many and we had so much support that it didn’t really matter that we were saying we were undocumented, traveling in a bus that said that we had no papers on the outside.

LEÓN: One of the main stops was on August 22 in Atlanta, a city with a big Latino population and a powerhouse for the economy among southern states. There the UndocuBus “riders”, supported by numbers of local activists, demonstrated outside Atlanta City Detention Center, one of the jails where undocumented individuals are detained under Georgia’s HB87 law, sometimes for long periods of time before being deported.

ERIKA OVALLE, COMMUNITY RIGHTS ACTIVIST: When we went to different stops, people did–they were very interested in Arizona. So when we got to Atlanta, it was like, wow, Arizona’s here, you guys are the leaders in this fight, we look up to you. And, you know, we more or less were like, well, we’re all in it together. But they see a lot of our actions, so they were really inspired by it.

LEÓN: In Atlanta, like the other cities, the “riders” visited a rally on Latino markets and communities spreading their message of strength in community organizing.

After leaving Georgia and crossing into Tennessee, they visited the National Museum of Civil Rights. Many riders blogged that they became inspired by the tactics and beliefs of the community organizers who changed history and society by relying precisely on what the “riders” have been preaching from day one–community strength.

Tennessee is one of the many states that followed Arizona’s SB 1070 and passed a similar bill, HB 670.

OVALLE: —Arizonification. So there were checkpoints, there where sheriffs who didn’t want to talk to the people. It was very, very similar to here, but still really, really backward. Like, here at least we will fight, we’ll get to the media, we’ll do what we have to do. But in a small town like Knoxville, it was a lot more difficult.

CROWD: Undocumented! [incompr.]

OVALLE: In Knoxville, Tennessee, actually, it was very, very interesting there, because that was the first time I had ever done civil disobedience where they tried to actually kill us. They wanted to run us over. And that was unlike anything I had ever experienced, even here in Arizona. I mean, they get–people get angry. But in Tennessee they wanted to run us over. As soon as we took that street, they were ready. And so that was a little bit interesting and scary to me. We stopped at a four-corner, and we were in the middle of the intersection, and we blocked off traffic so bad that it was really backed up. And we had a forum, like, a body of chain to protect the people in the middle, because they wanted to run us over. They didn’t care. They were like, get out of the street, and if you don’t go–they were, like, gearing up, like rrrngh. Like, they were just ready for us.

LEÓN: The riders made their way to nightly newscasts after a very tense action of civil disobedience, where four of them were arrested and later released.

Many of the UndocuBus activists who took part of that action were people that back in Arizona were afraid of any contact with the police. Now they were here, voluntarily risking arrest and maybe deportation.

LOPEZ: I don’t know. You just think about every time people were doing civil disobedience. You know, like, they were undocumented people that at some time they were afraid of even, like, engage–any kind of engagement with the cops, then seeing that they were, you know, shutting down streets and saying–being willing to get arrested for the cause. So I think that’s something really, like, that caused a lot of impact, you know, like, seeing how just education, just knowing about basic laws and or basic rights, it could give you, like, so much empowerment, you know, even though the system is telling you that you’re undocumented, you don’t have a voice, you can’t vote. You still have a voice, you know, if you organize with the community.

LEÓN: On Sylva, North Carolina, the activists visited the local police station trying to confront Sheriff Jimmy Ashe, who regularly set up checkpoints in Latino neighborhoods where many workers of the numerous local plantations live. A group of local activists and “riders” walked in and showed no fear inside the police station.


REPRESENTATIVE OF SHERIFF JIMMY ASHE: The sheriff’s not here. Would you like to speak with a deputy or–?

PARTICIPANT, NO PAPERS, NO FEAR CAMPAIGN: Do you have an idea when he’ll be returning?

REPRESENTATIVE OF SHERIFF JIMMY ASHE: What you have to do is make an appointment, ’cause I don’t know.


KITZIA ESTEVA, BUS RIDER UNION MEMBER: Hello, Sheriff Jimmy Ashe. This is Kitzia Esteva from the No Papers, No Fear right for justice. And I’m calling you because we’re trying to have a meeting with you and we’re waiting for you here. So we want to talk to you about why you should do that.

PARTICIPANT, NO PAPERS, NO FEAR CAMPAIGN: And we are here in your office. We want to meet with you in order to talk about some issues that are happening here in the community, in the country.


PARTICIPANT, NO PAPERS, NO FEAR CAMPAIGN: We’re here to talk to the sheriff if that’s at all possible.

LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL: He’s not available. Is there anything else I can help you with? Or–.

PARTICIPANT, NO PAPERS, NO FEAR CAMPAIGN: Well, we’d like to speak to someone, because there’s some concerns here in the local community and the sheriff hasn’t been willing to speak to folks.

LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL: Okay. Put the camera down. That’s–.


LEÓN: The trip ended in North Carolina. After traveling for over a month, on September 2 the UndocuBus arrived to Charleston and closed it’s journey protesting the Democratic National Convention. There they received the support of a number of local activists.

ESTEVA: –my mother. [incompr.] doesn’t help my mother. If we are arrested today and she gets arrested, she’s receiving deportation. But we’re here because we want to stop that, exactly that, the separation of families. And we have faith that our action is going to have ripple effect in all of our communities, that they’re going to organize to get us out and to continue fighting.

CROWD: Undocumented! [incompr.]

UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): I need for President Obama to hear our message. What side is he on? Does he want to be remembered as one who deported undocumented people? Or does he want to be on the side of immigrants and their civil rights?


ROSARIO DAWSON, ACTRESS: For all of you who just got arrested, I just want to commend your bravery in making sure that your voices, your stories, your situation is exposed and shown, that it’s not just about what people, big people with a lot of money and Super PACs get to say out in the media and the press, but that real people step forward and share their stories unafraid. You should not be afraid, even though you’re undocumented. Things will change. We are here with you. Si se puede!

CROWD: Si se puede!


OVALLE: I think we’re living in extreme times. And since we’re living in extreme times, we need extreme measures. We’re dealing with mass incarceration and a mass amount of criminalization. And we’re a society that punishes and tortures one another because we feel like we can judge. And that’s not the truth. You know, as long as the government goes around and starts saying, well, you’re a criminal, you’re not, you’re not, you know we can’t allow that to happen. Our community is broken, our families are broken, and it’s breaking us as individuals.

LEÓN: UndocuBus is one of many initiatives by the immigrant, mainly Latino advocates to bring their daily drama of racial profiling and separation of families to the public eye. Other initiatives, like Immigration Is Beautiful and Coming Out of the Shadows add to this No Papers, No Fear campaign. The idea behind them is to empower individuals through community organizing.

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.

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Oscar León is an experienced international press correspondent and documentary filmmaker based in Arizona. His work has reached continental TV broadcast in many occasions on Telesur, ECTV, Ecuavisa, Radio Canada, Canal Uno and even Fox Sports Latin America and El Garaje TV; he has been a TRNN correspondent since 2010. Oscar has reported from as many as 9 countries and more than 12 cities in US; his coverage includes TV reports, special reports and TV specials, not only covering social movements, politics and economics but environmental issues, culture and sports as well. This includes the series "Reportero del Sur", "Occupy USA - El Otoño Americano", "Habia una vez en Arizona", "Motor X" all TV mini series broadcasted to all Americas and "Once upon a time in Arizona" finalist in Radio Canada's "Migration" 2010 contest.