Undocumented Protesters Guilty In Civil Disobedience

By Jude Joffe-Block
September 07, 2012

PHOENIX -- Two undocumented activists were found guilty in Phoenix Municipal Court Friday for blocking an intersection during a protest of local immigration enforcement. They are part of a growing movement that is using civil disobedience – and risking deportation - to call for immigration reform.

The incident occurred last March, when a group blocked a busy Phoenix intersection to protest Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration enforcement tactics.

“It was to say stop Arpaio, stop doing your raids,” said activist Daniela Cruz, 21, who was brought to this country without papers as a child. “We are going to stand up and say we are undocumented and unafraid and we are going to stop you from separating our families.”

Cruz was part of a group that was arrested and jailed that day.

She said up until that protest, activists had been wary to risk arrest in Maricopa County, which has a reputation for rigorously identifying undocumented arrestees for deportation.

The federal government declined to deport the activists, but four of them faced local misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing a thoroughfare.

Cruz and one other protester, Viridiana Hernandez, 21, wouldn't plead guilty. Both women are students.

“We felt like we weren't guilty of standing up for our community, standing up for our rights,” Cruz said before their bench trial Friday morning.

Judge Louis Frank Dominguez found the two guilty on both charges, though did not give them more jail time.

Earlier this week, 10 undocumented activists were arrested outside of the Democratic National Convention. They were part of a caravan that rode from Phoenix to Charlotte with the slogan "No Papers, No Fear," in protest of deportations.

In July, four undocumented immigrants were arrested during an act of civil disobedience at the federal courthouse in downtown Phoenix while Arpaio testified in a racial profiling suit against him and his office.

"Sometimes measures have to be to that extent to where we have to do something like break a different law in order for a fair process," Cruz said of using civil disobedience as a tactic. "We are saying that we are this tired that we went through the risk of being deported by getting arrested there to change [immigration] law."