Feathered Bastard

John McCain's Tucson Office Protested, Undocumented Activists Arrested (w/Updates, Video)

Note to readers: Please see updates and video below.

The Arizona Daily Star is reporting that four young pro-immigration demonstrators, three of them undocumented, were arrested during a protest at U.S. Senator John McCain's Tucson office today.

The Star reports that five students showed up at the office in support of the Dream Act, which would allow undocumented children brought to this country by their parents to remain if they meet certain requirements.

One, who had a weak immigration case, according to the Star, stepped outside to act as the group's spokesperson. Four ended up being taken away by day's end.

A demonstration in support of the students took place outside the senator's office. Videographer David Abie Morales captured some of the chaos. You can catch his full video on his Facebook page.

According to an e-mail from the advocacy group Derechos Humanos, a candlelight vigil for the kids is happening right now at the Pima County Jail.

I'm told a similar candlelight vigil is taking place at McCain's Phoenix office as well.

As with the nine students who chained themselves to the door of the Arizona state Capitol recently -- but particularly in the case of these Tucson Dream Act students, some of whom are risking deportation tonight -- I'm reminded of that line from Yeats' poem Easter 1916:

"A terrible beauty is born."

Update, 11 p.m.: Just came from the vigil being held by Dream Act supporters outside John McCain's Phoenix office for the four activists jailed in Tucson. About 20 to 30 persons participated. 

Danny Rodriguez, 24, of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition told me that his colleagues in Tucson will be spending the night in jail, and are expected to be released sometime Tuesday morning.

Rodriguez explained that there are sympathy demonstrations planned for several area high-schools Tuesday, including Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix. 

With school ending this week for most, Rodriguez says we can anticipate an increase in activism, with much of the energy focused on a massive anti-SB 1070 march in Phoenix coming up May 29

And Rodriguez promised that there will also be an increase in civil disobedience.

"We've tried everything else," he told me. "We need change now. So we're going to see a lot more of these actions."

Students from all over the nation are headed to Phoenix to participate in protests, marches and other activism. Just as the South in the 1960s became the focal point of the Civil Rights Movement, Arizona's become the place where pro-immigration activists converge to struggle for justice.

Update, May 18, 10 a.m.: Word from Tucson is that all four of the activists will be released in the next couple of hours. No ICE holds have been placed on the three undocumented activists, according to sources.

Correction: ICE PIO Vinnie Picard does not yet have word on whether or not there are ICE holds on the three undocumented students, or what their fate may be. I will follow-up once I get details from him.

Update, May 18, 11:48 a.m.: ICE spokesman Vinnie Picard says detainers have been placed on the three students who are believed to be undocumented. More as I get it.

Update, May 18, 3:46 p.m.: Picard confirms that the three students are in ICE custody. One of the Dream kids' lawyers, Pima County Legal Defender Isabel Garcia, said that sheriff's deputies assured the judge there were no holds on the three. The judge wanted them released. Later, ICE took custody of the three nonetheless.

Below is more video from David Abie Morales. It shows the activists being taken away around 8:28 in. Their press release is below the video.

DETAINED in Arizona: Four Student Immigrant Leaders

Peacefully Resist Current Immigration Law, Urge Passage of DREAM Act

As of 6:00 PM PST today, Mohammad, Yahaira, Lizbeth and Raul, an Arizona Resident, have been arrested and detained after their day long sit-in at Senator John McCains Office in Tucson, AZ. Tania, who was not detained, has been designated as spokesperson and will be relating the experiences/thoughts of the group during the action.

Senator John McCain offered the students a meeting in order to discuss the Dream Act, however, the students recognize that this is insufficient and that immediate action is needed to pass the DREAM Act!

Tucson, Arizona. May 17th, on the anniversary of landmark civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education, Arizona law enforcement arrested four undocumented leaders of the immigrant student movement in addition to Arizona native Raul Alcaraz. Lizbeth Mateo of Los Angeles, California; Tania Unzueta of Chicago, Illinois; Mohammad Abdollahi of Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Yahaira Carrillo of Kansas City, Missouri; were detained Tucson, Arizona, after staging a sit-in at Senator John McCain's office. With this challenge to local and federal law, these youth hope to highlight the urgency of legislative action in Congress, and catalyze mass grassroots mobilization to pass the DREAM Act before June 15th.

These four leaders are risking deportation from the United States in the hope that this action will make a significant contribution to the fight for immigrant rights. In response to the onslaught of enforcement-based immigration law, they staged a sit-in at Senator McCain's office, and urged congressional leadership to champion the DREAM Act and the values it represents: hard work, education, and fairness.

Lizbeth, 25, an organizer with DREAM Team Los Angeles, states, "There are already ten other states across the country considering immigration legislation similar to Arizona's: legislation that is anti-family, anti-democratic, and anti-freedom. Police states and enforcement are quickly becoming the standard, and we are running out of time. We are going to pass the DREAM Act because it is based on freedom and equality."

Mohammad, 24, co-founder of DreamActivist.Org, a resource web portal for undocumented students, said in a statement: "Never in our history has it been American to deny people their civil rights. We have decided to peacefully resist to encourage our leaders to pass the DREAM Act and create a new standard for immigration reform based on education, hard work, equality, and fairness."

At least 65,000 undocumented immigrant youth graduate from high schools every year, and many of them struggle to attend institutes of higher education and the military. The DREAM Act will grant youth who traveled to the United States before the age of 16 a path to citizenship contingent on continuous presence in the country, good behavior, and the attainment of at least a two-year university degree or a two-year commitment to the armed forces.

"During the civil rights movement, African-American students were arrested for sitting down at lunch counters. We've been detained for standing on a sidewalk. We can't wait any longer for the DREAM Act to pass," said Tania, 26, co-founder of the Immigrant Youth Justice League, and immigrant rights organizer in Chicago.

All four are leaders in their own communities and have dedicated years to work for immigrant rights, legalization for undocumented immigrants, and the DREAM Act. "Dr. King spoke of a dream of equality overcoming fear. Well, the fierce urgency of our dreams has overcome any kind of fear we may have had before. We can't wait," concluded Yahaira, 25, a founder of the Kansas Missouri Dream Alliance.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons