Taking a page straight out of American history books, undocumented immigrants are launching a bus ride for freedom, across the Southern states, to focus attention on their plight. Their movement is called ‘No Papers, No Fear.’ Facing possible arrest and deportation, the activists are willing to risk the consequences in order to force immigration reform out of its current political stalemate
The original Freedom Riders in the 60′s were protesting the lack of civil rights for black Americans in the Southern states. The ride ultimately accomplished its goals because the images of protesters under attack by authorities galvanized the sympathies of the nation. The infamous Bull Connor, of Birmingham, Alabama, gave the civil rights movement a great boost toward victory when the nightly news broadcast footage of his lawmen attacking protesters, including children, with police dogs and fire hoses.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Phoenix, Arizona, has often been compared to Connor due to the brutality he uses against the undocumented. Coupled with Arizona’s passage of an aggressive and inhumane immigration law, SB1070, it’s no mistake that the launching point for the ride is in Phoenix. Those who have joined the Undocubus event are tired of being ruled by fear. Twenty-four-year-old Natally Cruz is among them. She came to this country with her family when she was seven but after years of avoiding notice, the violations by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office have encouraged her to draw attention to the abuses against undocumented immigrants. “If he [Sheriff Arpaio] sees our community scared, he has the motivation to keep doing what he’s doing, to keep us in the shadows. If we show him we’re not scared, he kind of loses his power.
The ‘Undocubus’ will leave Phoenix Sunday evening or Monday morning, after a week of protests against Arpaio, which have resulted in the arrests of four people. The sheriff is currently in federal court, defending himself against a lawsuit brought by the ACLU and other human rights groups over civil rights violations that concern the larger Latino community–especially racial profiling. The bus will continue across the following states–Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina–until it arrives in early September at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. There the protestors hope to confront the Democratic party with the urgent need for immigration reform.
The activists’ website makes this statement, “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 no “Undocumented riders will come out publicly, support local people to build barrio defense, and perform peaceful civil disobedience to challenge the promoters of hate and set an example of love and fearlessness from Arizona to the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina..
The present may feel heavy, but the future is bright. Marginalized people taking brave action has always been the key to driving history forward, we just need to put our shoulders to its gears and push.”
The riders are fully aware of the dangers they face–racial profiling and checkpoints–but they are tired of waiting for promised reforms. In their own words, “We have overcome our fears and are ready to set a new example of courage. We hope this country and its officials will be brave enough to follow.”
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