As Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was defending himself from racial-profiling allegations in federal court today, four people who said they are illegal immigrants were arrested during a public demonstration just outside the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse.
The protest took place in downtown Phoenix as the trial in the racial-profiling lawsuit Melendres v. Arpaio was under way. About 100 people from the local human-rights group Puente took to the streets and blocked traffic.
Before they started the tactic, the four people who eventually would be arrested made statements about being in the country illegally and challenged Arpaio to come out of the courtroom and arrest them.
"We have to come out of the shadows . . . We have to let people know that we are tired of being stepped on," 24-year-old undocumented immigrant Natally Cruz told New Times before she was arrested. "We are not scared anymore."
Police warned the demonstrators for about a half-hour that they'd be arrested if they didn't get off the street. The protesters ignored the warnings, and one by one, were snatched up and arrested.
"I'm doing this for my parents. For the sacrifice they made bringing me here [illegally]," said 28-year-old Isela Meraz, one of those taken into custody. "To let them know that the obstacles I have encountered are the system's fault and not theirs."
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Carlos Garcia, a Puente organizer, said the group planned this demonstration as a coming-out-of-the-shadows campaign for undocumented immigrants who no longer are afraid of Arpaio's anti-immigrant policies.
Puente plans to take similar demonstrations across the country and challenge states with anti-immigrant laws or sheriffs who practice anti-immigrant polices. They will drive in a bus the group has dubbed the "undocubus," Garcia said.
The bus will carry about 40 undocumented immigrants and will leave on the journey July 29. They will end their trip at the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina on September 4, with the purpose of showing the Democratic Party and President Obama that they want an end to all deportations.