Immigrants strap themselves to wheels of deportation buses

TUCSON, Ariz. – Frustrated by lack of action on immigration reform in Congress, Tucson immigrant rights activists took matters into their own hands Oct. 11. A dozen protesters locked themselves to the wheels of two deportation buses full of detainees headed to Operation Streamline at a federal courthouse in downtown Tucson where six additional activists had chained themselves to the entrance to protest the proceeding they say is criminalizing immigrants and destroying core principles of the justice system.

By blocking a freeway exit with two vehicles the protesters slowed two Border Patrol prison buses to a stop as they came off the freeway. A dozen activists ran out and chained themselves to the front wheels of the buses full of detainees while supporters cautioned the drivers not to proceed.  It took the police four hours to cut through the “dragon sleeve” cylinders and make arrests.    

The peaceful blockade succeeded in halting the day’s proceedings where detainees were to have been hauled before a judge and sentenced as a group.

The dehumanizing procedure is business as usual in the treatment of impoverished immigrants in Arizona whose only crime is seeking work to support their families. Up to 70 people a day are processed in Tucson every weekday, charged with “illegal entry,” or the felony charge of “reentry.  They invariably plead to a lesser charge, which can result in up to six months in jail.

The protest was part of the national #Not1More Deportation campaign calling on the president to use his authority to keep families together and provide immediate relief from deportations for those who could benefit from a permanent solution.  

The ongoing attacks on immigrant workers by the federal authorities and the draconian racist actions mandated by Arizona’s HB1070 law have forced communities to take action. 

Just three days prior to this action about 80 protesters mobilized on moments notice when the Border Patrol was called by Tucson police who had stopped a car for an unlighted license plate. The protesters surrounded the police in a human chain in an attempt to prevent the detention of the car’s occupants.  Four poor working people were detained after the police used pepper spray on the protesters.  

These actions have been fueled by people’s perception that Congress is playing budget games while working people, especially immigrant workers are waiting for justice and dignity.

Photo: AP


Joe Bernick
Joe Bernick

Joe Bernick is the Director of Salt of the Earth Labor College, Tucson, Arizona.