White-Supremacist Activity Is on the Rise in Sand Land, and One Latino-American Family Is the Victim of a Vicious Hate Crime in North Phoenix

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The folks who put thousands in Phoenix's streets February 28 to protest Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the 287(g) program are ready to do it again May 2, with Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha slated to participate, as he did before.

The difference this time is that the anti-Arpaio march will start at the Wells Fargo Building downtown, where the sheriff keeps two pricey floors of executive offices. It will end with stops at Joe's Estrella and Durango jails.

"It's to highlight the 287(g) agreement," says Phoenix civil rights leader Salvador Reza of the decision to march to Joe's gulags. "And how 287(g) is being used in the jails. It's also to highlight all the abuses that are going on in there, like with the broken-arm lady, the broken-jaw lady, and anyone else who has been abused in there."

Reza's referring to the fact that the 287(g) program has deputized 160 of Arpaio's men to enforce federal immigration law. Arpaio uses these men not only in his anti-immigrant hunting sweeps and in his worksite raids, but in the jails, where they often coerce and sometimes physically injure undocumented immigrants held pending their transfer to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.

Examples include undocumented immigrant Maria del Carmen Garcia-Martinez, whose arm was broken while in ICE custody, and undocumented immigrant Alejandra Alvarez, whose jaw and arm were wounded as she was arrested by the MCSO during a worksite raid.

Families of jail inmates have asked for help, said Reza, which is another reason for the march to Estrella and Durango. However, Reza fears Arpaio will take out his anger toward the marchers on the inmates. He explained that a liaison from the Phoenix PD has informed the activists that the MCSO will place the jails in lockdown the day of the march, allowing no visitors, and canceling all outside work details.

"I can see Arpaio trying to make us look like the bad guys," said Reza, whose group PUENTE is spearheading the march along with the L.A.-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network. "They'll claim they have to do it for security reasons, like we're trying to incite a riot or something. We have to send a message to the prisoners that we're doing it for them."

The march will also have some competition. Currently, Radio Campesina and the United Farm Workers have an action planned for April 19, a march to the state Capitol for immigration reform. And on May 1, there will be demonstrations across the country demanding "reform not raids." The worry among some is that the other marches might eat into the total numbers for the march Reza's fronting. But Reza insists he's not worried about turnout.

"Our action is very focused on 287(g) and Arpaio," said Reza, who noted that the demo on April 19 will have a broader message. Also, having De la Rocha return to Phoenix should assist in drawing demonstrators to the May 2 event.

Marchers will begin gathering about 8 a.m. on May 2 at César Chávez Plaza downtown, according to Reza. The march itself will begin at 9 a.m. from the Wells Fargo Building at 100 West Washington Street.

Reza hopes to see ya there, amigos.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons