Undocumented Activists Arrested Outside DNC After Cross-Country Journey for Immigration Reform

Democracy Now*

HAVANA TIMES —  One of the first acts of civil disobedience at the Democratic National Convention took place Tuesday just outside the Time Warner Cable Center when a group of 10 undocumented activists rode into uptown Charlotte aboard the “No Papers, No Fear–Ride for Justice” bus and blocked traffic.

The activists have been riding aboard the “UndocuBus” protesting the Obama administration’s immigration policies for the past six weeks. They took part in Tuesday’s protest knowing they could face deportation if arrested.

Democracy Now! was there when the activists left the bus and marched to the site of the Democratic National Convention. We then spoke to Tania Unzueta, whose father, mother and sister were arrested during the action and possibly face deportation.

AMY GOODMAN: David Rovics, here on Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. We’re “Breaking With Convention.” This is “War, Peace and the Presidency,” covering the Democratic National Convention, inside and out, each day this week two hours of coverage. If your station is only running one, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman.

One of the first acts of civil disobedience at the Democratic National Convention took place on Tuesday just outside the Time Warner Cable Center. Shortly after 4:00 p.m., a group of 10 undocumented activists rode into uptown Charlotte aboard the “No Papers, No Fear” bus. The activists have been riding aboard the bus protesting the Obama administration’s immigration policies. The bus left Arizona six weeks ago. The activists took part in Tuesday’s protest knowing they could face deportation if arrested. They’re undocumented. Democracy Now! was there when the activists left the bus and marched to the site of the Democratic National Convention.

ACTIVISTS: No papers, no fear! No papers, no fear!

ROSI CARRASCO: Good afternoon. We are here to ask President Obama what his legacy will be. Will he be the president that has deported the most people in U.S. history? Or will he recognize our dignity and our right to organize? For that, we are risking arrest.

ACTIVISTS: Follow us!

KITZIA ESTEVA: My name is Kitzia Esteva. I’m undocumented and unafraid. We’re risking arrest right now to tell President Obama that he needs to have a position on our side, on the side of immigrants, to stop deportations, to stop—to stop deportations, to stop the collaboration between the police and ICE, and to recognize our civil rights and to defend them.

ACTIVISTS: No papers, no fear! Dignity is marching here! No papers, no fear! Dignity is marching here! No papers, no fear! Dignity is marching here! No papers, no fear! Dignity is marching here!

ROSI CARRASCO: My name is Rosi Carrasco. I’m here with my two daughters and my husband. We have been in this ride for dignity, and we believe that we have the right to fight for our dignity. We are here because we want to make sure to send a message to President Obama. We know that we are risking arrest, but we know that it’s up to the sheriff to turn us in to immigration. And we know that it’s up to immigration to turn us in to deportation proceedings. And we know that we are facing this because the policies of the President Obama. We want to know—we want to ask him to stop the deportations, to stop the collaboration within the police and ICE. And we will continuing organizing ourselves. We want to let families know that if you are organized, if you are unafraid, and if you have the support of the community, you will be able to fight for your civil rights and for your right to belong and to stay here. Thank you.

IRERI UNZUETA CARRASCO: My name is Ireri Unzueta. I am 25. I’m undocumented. I’m queer. And I’m standing here next to my parents, with my sister in the crowd, because we want to send the message to President Obama to ask him which side he is on. It’s time for him to choose whether he’s going to keep deporting people or he’s going to support families like mine and mixed-status families who are here trying to make a better life for themselves and for all of us. This is for every family in the United States, whether they are documented or not, to continue fighting for our rights and organizing.

MARTÍN UNZUETA: My name is Martín Unzueta. I am undocumented. I’ve been living in this here for 18 years. I pay taxes, and I’m paying more taxes than Citibank. I’m here because we are against the separation of the families, against the [287(g)] and against all the discrimination that this society is making against our community.

JULIO SANCHEZ: My name is Julio Sanchez. I came to this country when I was 15. Undocumented, I crossed the border. And now I’m here, and I’m not afraid. I’m doing this for all of my community, for all my undocumented community, because I’m tired to live every day in fear. I’m tired to not able to drive, not to have a driver’s license, not go to school. Only why? Because I don’t have a legal status. And that’s not right. Everybody use—for being human, I have rights, and I need everybody to respect my civil rights. Right now we are in this North Carolina at the DNC, and we’re just trying to do a civil disobedience, like close the streets. And we are here in front of the DNC, where all the Democratic are, and we want to tell them that they need to hear—they need to know what we need, and they need to do something about it. This is a—we’re doing this just to show them that we’re not scared anymore, we’re not afraid, and we’re here, and we don’t got papers, and we don’t—we’re not afraid.

MIKE BURKE: Now, if you got arrested today, would you face deportation?


ACTIVISTS: Education, not deportation! Education, not deportation! Education, not deportation! Education, not deportation!

MAJOR DALE GREENE: I’m Major Greene with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department. Can I have your attention please? You’re impeding traffic here at Fifth and College. I’m instructing you that you need to leave this intersection. You need to remove yourself from this intersection. If you do not leave, you will be arrested. You have five minutes to leave this intersection.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you fearful your mother could be deported from this demonstration?

KITZIA ESTEVA: I don’t fear my mother will be deported. I think the community will—will know what to do, will organize. And not only with us, but all other people that are fighting will be safe, because an organized community is a safe community.

MAJOR DALE GREENE: I need you to leave this intersection, or you will be arrested for impeding traffic. If you choose to leave, you can leave by Fifth Street or Tryon Street, that way west on Fifth Street.

PROTESTERS: Whose streets? Our streets! Whose streets? Our streets! Whose streets? Our streets! Whose streets? Our streets! Whose streets? Our streets!

AMY GOODMAN: The police have cleared the street. The 10 immigrants people, the 10 people who decided to take a stand today outside the Democratic National Convention, we asked each, as they were going into the police wagon, as they were being handcuffed by the police, why they’re doing what they’re doing today.

IRERI UNZUETA CARRASCO: I’m tired of being undocumented. I’m tired of losing opportunity.

MIKE BURKE: What does it mean that you’re getting arrested right now, for you?

IRERI UNZUETA CARRASCO: Because the police and ICE collaborate every day, we’re making this public. We’re hoping to show the community that they can organize themselves and to bring this message to President Obama for him to actually listen.

MIKE BURKE: Could you face deportation now that you’re getting arrested?

IRERI UNZUETA CARRASCO: I don’t know yet. That’s going to be up to immigration and the sheriff. But I’m willing to risk it.

MIKE BURKE: Anything else you’d like to add?

IRERI UNZUETA CARRASCO: I am proud to be doing this with my parents.

ROSI CARRASCO: We’re risking arrest because we are fighting for our rights, our right to organize, our right to be with our families. We want President Obama to stop deportation.

YOVANI DIAZ: We are being arrested because we did a civil disobedience, because we were trying to defend our families. And this is what happens every day in our community. When we don’t have a license, we get stopped, and we get detained.

ACTIVISTS: ¡Sí, se puede! ¡Sí, se puede!

GLORIA ESTEVA: [translated] We want them to respect our dignity, to respect our civil rights, and to stop separating our families.

JULIO SANCHEZ: No papers, no fear! Dignity is standing here! No papers, no fear! Dignity is standing here!

AMY GOODMAN: “No papers, no fear!” That’s the last of the chants of those immigrants who are being arrested today, undocumented immigrants all, here just outside the Democratic National Convention. They were a daughter with her mother. They were a mother with her daughter and her husband. They were young people, and they were older people, many here for 15, 12, 10 years. One young woman, who could have applied under President Obama’s executive order to not be deported, said if her mother is deported, the whole family is deported. And they all sat around a banner, before they were arrested, of a butterfly, because, they said, a butterfly knows no borders. A butterfly is free. It’s the opening day of the Democratic National Convention, and they are asking President Obama to listen to their message. They say no person is illegal.

ACTIVISTS: [singing] We’re gonna let nobody turn us around, turn us around, turn us around! We’re gonna let nobody turn us around, turn us around!

AMY GOODMAN: The 10 undocumented immigrants who were arrested have been released, but as they got arrested, they knew they could face deportation. Democracy Now!’s Mike Burke spoke to Tania Unzueta. Her father, mother and sister were arrested during the action.

TANIA UNZUETA: It’s called the “No Papers, No Fear–Ride for Justice.” It began on July 29th in Phoenix, Arizona. About 30-some riders started there, including myself, about six weeks ago. And towards the end, we were some 40 people, from Phoenix, Tennessee, North Carolina, Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, most of us undocumented and trying to talk to community members about what it’s like to come out of the shadows, what it’s like to start losing fear in order to organize, and how to organize so that when you come out as undocumented, you have power behind you.

We went mostly through the South of the United States. We started in Phoenix, went on to New Mexico, Texas—and I’m sorry these are not all in order, but Phoenix, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. These are some of the states where some of the harshest anti-immigrant laws have been passed, where a lot of community members, particularly those who are undocumented, don’t have support, and where we felt the message of having no papers and having no fear hasn’t reached all of the community.

MIKE BURKE: I saw you kissing some of the protesters—


MIKE BURKE: —just before they were arrested. Can you talk about your relationship with some of them?

TANIA UNZUETA: Sure. Actually, my entire family, except for myself, are in there. My father, Martín Unzueta; my mother, Rosi Carrasco; and my sister, Ireri Unzueta Carrasco, were all arrested today. They’re all undocumented.

MIKE BURKE: What does this mean, as undocumented immigrants, to be arrested? What could this mean for them?

TANIA UNZUETA: Yeah, so, we’re in a county that collaborates with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We read an article right before we came here that said that the sheriff would do his job, as he said it, and turn anyone who is undocumented over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. From there, it’s up to ICE whether they pick them up or not, depending on their various categories and criteria.

From what we know, political pressure and community pressure affects the way that immigration and that the sheriffs work. Every single disobedience that we have had, starting from two years ago, when undocumented youth started taking the streets and started taking political offices, no one has been deported. And then, we know that deportations continue, regardless of whether it’s low-priority or high-priority immigrants. We know that our own communities’ families keep being broken apart—except when we do it publicly, except when we do civil disobedience publicly.

And so, for here, I think it’s also a test to see what happens when undocumented people get arrested in front of the Democratic National Convention. I think it’s important to highlight that if it wasn’t for the policies that allow collaboration between police and immigration enforcement, this kind of act, peaceful protest, would not risk people being put into deportation proceedings. And, to me, it’s a symbol of how little sometimes it takes for someone to be placed in a position where they could potentially be deported.

MIKE BURKE: And can you tell us a little bit about your parents and their story?

TANIA UNZUETA: My parents, my sister and I came to the United States when I was 10 years old and my sister was six. This was about 18 years ago. We came because my dad was offered a job and offered the opportunity to regularize his status eventually. We didn’t know very much about the laws. And we—I mean, I know that my visa expired without even me knowing it, right, and suddenly I was undocumented.

They have tried several, several times to regularize their status. My dad tried to adjust his status through his work. But he started organizing a union at the same time, and he ended up getting fired from that job place. My mom has started that process. I, myself, have tried in the past to return to Mexico and come back with a visa, which was denied to me in 2001.

And so, you know, meanwhile, we’re students, we’re workers. I just graduated from graduate school. My sister is a college graduate, as well. My dad works organizing workers who have been unfairly fired. And my mother works with social services informing people about what access they have to services in the city of Chicago.

MIKE BURKE: Now, considering Mitt Romney’s stance on self-deportation, why did you choose not to go to Tampa?

TANIA UNZUETA: To me, the difference is that the Republicans, particularly Mitt Romney, has chosen what side of history he’s on. He’s on the side that says that people should self-deport, without consideration of what our history is, what are ties to the community are. I think Obama still has a chance to pick whether he’s going to be the president who has deported the most people in U.S. history or whether he’s going to give someone like me, like my family, the opportunity to regularize their status.

AMY GOODMAN: Tania Unzueta, speaking to Democracy Now!’s Mike Burke. Tania’s mother, busloadof”>Rosi Carrasco, who was on Democracy Now! yesterday, her father and her sister were among those who were arrested. Of the 10 undocumented immigrants arrested in the rain just outside the Democratic convention yesterday, they’ve all been released. If you’d like to see our interview with Rosi yesterday here on the broadcast, you can go to democracynow.org.

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