Playwright Responds to Trump's Immigration Policies With Free Reading at AZ Capitol

click to enlarge James Garcia (left) and Arturo Martinez in a Garcia play titled American Dreamer: The Life & Times of Raul H. Castro. - PHIL SOTO
James Garcia (left) and Arturo Martinez in a Garcia play titled American Dreamer: The Life & Times of Raul H. Castro.
Phil Soto

Phoenix playwright James Garcia will be spending Friday, July 6, writing inside a brown tent at the Arizona Capitol. He's pitching his tent on a lawn just east of the Capitol, as a visual reminder that undocumented immigrants are being housed in tents as part of President Donald Trump's anti-immigrant policies.

Garcia will spend the day writing short plays and monologues that reflect the current immigration crisis in our country, which includes thousands of children being separated from their parents after they cross the border from Mexico into the United States.

He's using real stories, but creating composites that highlight the experiences of immigrant families.

At 6 p.m., local actors and poets will be reading those plays on the Capitol lawn, for whoever gathers to hear them. It's a free event, but donations for Florence Project will be accepted. Based in Florence, Arizona, the nonprofit provides free legal and social services to immigrants detained in Arizona.

Garcia conceived the project while working with Promise Arizona, a nonprofit that works to build immigrant and Latino political power, and they helped with the logistics of making the Friday event happen. He's given it this name, based on a popular question among Trump critics: Where Are the Children?

"Our people are being hunted," Garcia says. "I believe we may be living through the most destructive presidency of my lifetime." It's a reference to Trump's immigration polices, including attempts to end protections for Dreamers, ramping up of raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and separating children from their undocumented parents.

"Just when you think that it can't get more scary, something even more terrifying comes along," he says.

But Garcia is also motivated by a sense of optimism.

"There are enough people in America responding to this in different ways, that together we can send the message that this needs to stop," he says.

It's not the first time Garcia has tackled immigration through his New Carpa Theater Company.

In 2006, he premiered The Crossing, which imagines an encounter between an undocumented immigrant and a border agent who crossed the border as a child. His 2008 play Dream Act explored the obstacles faced by immigrant children seeking citizenship.

Garcia's 2009 play Tears of Lives addressed immigrant children fending for themselves after their father's deportation. He's also written a play about former Arizona Governor Raul H. Castro, who entered the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant in 1918, during the Mexican Revolution.

Last year, he put Arizona's SB 1070 saga with Joe Arpaio center stage, with 1070 (We Were Strangers Once Too). Next month, he'll premiere My Beloved World at Herberger Theater Center. It's inspired by Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic person to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

But now, Garcia's focus is helping families facing separation, detention, and deportation.

"If artists have even a small platform, they can't sit by and let this happen."

Where Are the Children takes place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 6, on the Arizona Capitol lawn. The event is free and open to the public. Learn more on the New Carpa Theater Company website.