DREAMers Besiege ICE, Six Arrested for Acts of Civil Disobedience
To alter a line from the great Gil Scott-Heron, the revolution will be UStreamed.
In a demonstration Wednesday at the Phoenix Field Office for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, DREAMers, undocumented moms, and U.S. citizens laid siege to the facility, in one instance blocking a bus filled with ICE detainees.
Six protesters, all members of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition and the national umbrella group United We DREAM, were taken into custody by Federal Protective Services, the security force that guards federal government properties.
They were cited for misdemeanors and released shortly thereafter.
The demonstration and the civil disobedience that unfolded during it was documented by the DREAMers themselves via social media, particularly UWD's UStream account, where viewers were able to watch the action live as it unfolded.
(Those broadcasts are archived on UStream.tv, and are riveting.)
Wednesday afternoon, four DREAMers chained themselves to an entryway/exit. Authorities cut the chains and arrested them for obstructing an entrance to a federal building. About an hour later, according to ADAC's Facebook timeline, they were set free.
ADAC spokeswoman Jhannyn Rivera explained that the demonstration involved two DREAMers, one undocumented mom, and one citizen.
"They chained themselves to the building, symbolizing that our community is tired, and we will no longer tolerate ICE separating families and deporting them," she told me.
Later that night, more activists stopped a bus carrying people on their way either to be deported or detained further at another ICE facility.
"Four people got in the front, two people got in the back," said Rivera. "The two in the back were arrested."
The pair were cited and released by FPS after FPS determined that these demonstrators, like the four before them, did not have criminal histories.
"It's part of our call to Congress," Rivera stated. "We want Congress to pass immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people in the country."
Rivera said the action was part of a nationwide push by activists for immigration reform and was not a direct response to ICE's raid on the Danny's Family Car Wash Chain of a few days ago.
After a press conference in front of ICE this morning, the DREAMers will be at a town hall in Mesa, featuring Arizona's four Republican U.S. House members: Paul Gosar, Trent Franks, David Schweikert, and Matt Salmon.
The U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform package in June, but far-right nativist GOPers in the House so far have successfully blocked consideration of a CIR bill.
Earlier, ADAC released a statement hailing those arrested as heroes.
The release identified the first four arrested Wednesday as "DREAMer leaders" Yadira Garcia and Francisco Luna, Maria Castro of UWD's National Coordinating Committee and Alejandra Sanchez, a mom of DREAMers and of U.S. citizens.
The two arrested for blocking the bus were identified as Arizona DREAMer Jose Patino, and United We Dream leader Ray Jose, a DACA-recipient from Maryland.
"I am doing this because I am so fed up with people playing games with our lives," Patino says in the press release. "My mom and my dad are getting tired. My dad cannot do physical labor any more. It is for the sake of my family, who sacrificed so much for me, that I am ready to do this."
There are many in the pro-immigration movement who see brave acts of civil disobedience such as these as inimical to the goal of passing immigration reform.
These voices have been particularly critical of the so-called "DREAM 9," who were arrested in July as they attempted to re-enter the country illegally at a port of entry in Nogales, Mexico.
The nine were detained, and released two weeks later, but the controversy continues.
Respectfully, I would argue that impatience on the part of those being oppressed is a good thing and should be encouraged. I am reminded of a similar debate that was the subject of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail."
In fact, if you replace the word "Negro" in the following passage from that letter with "DREAMer" or "undocumented immigrant," and maybe the word "segregation" with "deportation," it could easily apply to this debate in the pro-immigrant community:
"We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was `well timed' in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation.
"For years now I have heard the word `Wait!' It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This `Wait' has almost always meant `Never.' We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that `justice too long delayed is justice denied.'"
The analogy to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s is not perfect. No analogy is. But it is a lot closer than skeptics will concede.
In the spirit of King's letter, I congratulate the DREAMers and urge them not to stop until the deportations cease and their community is free from fear.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.