Immigration Activists Look To Deportees For Help

October 24, 2013
Michel Marizco
Protesters stopped an ICE bus in Tucson in October.

TUCSON, Ariz. — A group of protesters arrested for stopping two buses of immigrant defendants on their way to court are now asking for those defendants to help the protesters in their defense case. But those defendants were deported and the protesters will have to find them.

In early October, 18 people were arrested for chaining themselves to the wheels of two buses carrying immigrants caught crossing the border illegally. Those on board the bus were headed for a hearing under Operation Streamline. That’s a mass hearing that fast tracks immigration violations.

Police charged the protesters with hindering the prosecution of those on the bus. That’s a felony.

Margo Cowan is an activist and she’s a legal public defender here. She says those on the bus were quickly deported without a Streamline hearing. If her clients are formally charged, she says she’ll need those people on the bus to testify on her clients' behalf.

"We do need to find them because we need to understand who they are, what their stories were and why they were poised to be prosecuted in order to defend against the claim of hindering prosecution," Cowan said.

Ethan Beasley was one of those arrested. He says the activists have set up a hotline for those people who were on the bus that day to call.

"We are inquiring to our contacts among the various shelters, community and faith organizations and human rights groups along the border," he said.

Immigration is a federal issue but the hindering prosecution charge could end up in state court. A spokeswoman for the county attorney’s office says it is still deciding whether to charge the 18 with the felony. The public defender’s office will defend the case.