By Griselda Nevarez, VOXXI
For five weeks, a stay-at-home mom of three, a construction worker, a student who aspires to attend graduate school and more than 20 others risked deportation to travel on a “undocubus” across the country — for a cause.
Now they want their voices to be heard at the Democratic National Convention.
Their journey is called the “No Papers, No Fear Ride for Justice.” They say it is intended to call attention to the abuses that undocumented immigrants, like them, face due to tough state immigration laws and treatment by authorities.
They’ve been riding a 1972 bus dubbed “undocubus” that left from one of the worst battlegrounds, Arizona, in July and — after making stops in 10 states and more than 15 cities — arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina, this weekend. Their plan is to attend the Democratic National Convention Sept. 4-6. They chose that political powwow over the Republican National Convention because they want to have a voice at the convention. Tania Unzueta, one of the undocubus riders, told VOXXI last month that the Democratic Party is “a place where immigrants are supposed to be welcomed.”
“If they’re serious about protecting immigrant rights during the next presidency, we think there should be voices of undocumented immigrants at the convention,” she said referring to Democrats.
Throughout their trip, the bus riders have been publicly revealing their undocumented status and encouraging others to do the same.
In one protest last month, four of them were arrested in Birmingham, Alabama, while proclaiming they were “undocumented and unafraid” during a briefing on the impact of state-based immigration laws. The briefing was held by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and included the Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is the author of several Arizona-style immigration laws, as one of the panelists. The arrestees were released right away.
“I am here to lift up the voice of my community, of my children, all those families who have been separated. I am here and I want to present this so you can see it,” Mari Cruz Jimenez, one of the protesters, cried out in Spanish at the briefing as she held up a short banner that read “undocumented” with both hands. “I am a mother, a responsible mother … I am not a criminal, and I am here to defend my rights.”
The undocubus riders — some of whom are dreamers that qualify for deferred action and some of whom are not — have also visited several migrant communities that have been impacted by what they call “anti-immigrant laws and policies.” Together they’ve challenged the local authorities who have favored such laws and policies.
In Charlotte, it won’t be any different. They have two days before the Democratic National Convention begins, so in the meantime they have several protests planned including one against the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office for it’s 287 (g) program, a federal program allows local authorities to ask for a person’s immigration status during arrests.
The group will soon announce other events they have planned for the Democratic National Convention.
Related on HuffPost:
The Template: California Proposition 187 (1994)
California's Proposition 187 was submitted to the voters with the full support of then Republican governor Pete Wilson. It essentially blamed undocumented immigrants for the poor performance of the state economy in the early 1990s. The law called for cutting off benefits to undocumented immigrants: prohibiting their access to health care, public education, and other social services in California. It also required state authorities to report anyone who they suspected was undocumented. <strong>Status:</strong> The law passed with the support of 55 percent of the voters in 1994 but declared unconstitutional 1997. The law was killed in 1999 when a new governor, Democrat Gray Davis, refused to appeal a judicial decision that struck down most of the law. Even though short-lived, the legislation paved the way for harsher immigration laws to come. On the other hand, the strong reaction from the Hispanic community and immigration advocates propelled a drive for naturalization of legal residents and created as many as one million new voters.
The Worst: Arizona SB 1070
The Arizona Act made it a misdemeanor for an undocumented immigrant to be within the state lines of Arizona without legal documents allowing their presence in the U.S. The law was widely criticized as xenophobic and for encouraging racial profiling. It required state authorities to inquire about an individual's immigration status during an arrest when there was "reasonable suspicion" that the individual was undocumented. The law would allow police to detain anyone who they believed was in the country illegally. <strong>Status:</strong> The law was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010, immediately generating a swirl of controversy and questions about its constitutionality. In July 2010 and February 2012, federal judges blocked different provisions of SB 1070, setting the stage for the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/25/sb1070-ruling-supreme-court_n_1614119.html" target="_hplink">the Supreme Court decision of June 25, 2012</a> which struck down multiple provisions but upheld the controversial "papers please" provision, a centerpiece of the law which critics say will lead to racial profiling
Following Arizona's Footsteps: Georgia HB 87
The controversy over Arizona's immigration law was followed by heated debate over Georgia's own law. HB 87 required government agencies and private companies to check the immigration status of applicants. This law also limited some government benefits to people who could prove their legal status. <strong>Status:</strong> Although a federal judge temporarily blocked parts of the law considered too extreme, it went into effect on July 1st. 2011. House: 113-56 Senate: 39-17
Verifying Authorized Workers: Pennsylvania HB 1502
This bill, which was approved in 2010, bans contractors and subcontractors employ undocumented workers from having state construction contracts. The bill also protects employees who report construction sites that hire illegal workers. To ensure that contractors hire legal workers, the law requires employers to use the identification verification system E-verify, based on a compilation of legally issued Social Security numbers. <strong>Status:</strong> Approved on June 8th 2010. House: 188-6 (07/08/2010) <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by DonkeyHotey</a>
A Spin Off of Arizona: Utah HB 497
Many states tried to emulate Arizona's SB 1070 law. However, most state legislatures voted against the proposals. Utah's legislature managed to approve an immigration law based on a different argument. Taking into consideration the criticism of racial profiling in Arizona, Utah required ID cards for "guest workers" and their families. In order to get such a card workers must pay a fee and have clean records. The fees go up to $2,500 for immigrants who entered the country illegally and $1,000 for immigrants who entered the country legally but were not complying with federal immigration law, <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/06/nation/la-na-illegal-immigration-20110306" target="_hplink">according to the LA Times.</a> <strong>Status: </strong> Law went into effect on 03/15/2011 House: 59-15 (03/04/2011) Senate: 22-5 (03/04/2011)
The Most Comprehensive: Florida HB-1C
Florida's immigration law prohibits any restrictions on the enforcement of federal immigration law. It makes it unlawful for undocumented immigrants within the state to apply for work or work as an independent contractor. It forbids employers from hiring immigrants if they are aware of their illegal status and requires work applicants to go through the E-verify system in order to check their Social Security number. <strong>Status: </strong>effective since October 1st, 2010
The Hot Seat: Alabama HB 56
The new immigration law in Alabama is considered the toughest in the land, even harder than Arizona's SB 1070. It prohibits law enforcement officers from releasing an arrested person before his or her immigration status is determined. It does not allow undocumented immigrants to receive any state benefit, and prohibits them from enrolling in public colleges, applying for work or soliciting work in a public space. The law also prohibits landlords from renting property to undocumented immigrants, and employers from hiring them. It requires residents to prove they are citizens before they become eligible to vote. The law asked every school in the state to submit an annual report with the number of presumed undocumented students, but this part, along with others, were suspended by federal courts. <strong>Status:</strong> Approved June 2nd, 2011 House: 73-28 (04/05/2011) Senate: 23-11 (05/05/2011) <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/longislandwins/" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by longislandwins</a>