Tag: Valeria Fernandez


Drama About Immigration Raids and their Human Consequences in Arizona Is No Fiction for Many

Dulce Juarez plays the role of a school counselor who has to decide whether she will help an immigrant family. (Photo: Charles Dee Rice/cdricephotography.com)

Dulce Juarez plays a school counselor who has to decide whether to help an immigrant family. (Photo: Charles Dee Rice/cdricephotography.com)

PHOENIX, Arizona — When the school counselor gave her the news, it broke Olivia’s heart. Her father had been detained by deputies from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. In the worst case scenario, he might have already been deported.

Olivia is a fictional character in The Tears of Lives, a play produced by Phoenix’s New Carpa Theater Company and written by James Garcia. But stories like hers are common in Arizona.

The play — a fundraising effort to keep Phoenix’s sole day laborer center from shutting down — is holding up a mirror to audiences, challenging them to acknowledge the situation faced by immigrant families torn apart in raids by local sheriff’s deputies who are authorized to act as immigration agents.

“We wanted to expose audiences to stories they might never see — said Garcia — put a third dimension to the immigrant story. Because most Americans’ image of immigrants is of people coming over a (border) wall, or being handcuffed on a sidewalk.”

Watch a segment of the play/Video by Valeria Fernández


Farewell to a Compañero: Former Guest Workers From Mexico Mourn the Loss of One of Their Own

Catalino Díaz Villa. (Courtesy of La Voz-David Kadlubowski)

Catalino Díaz Villa. (Courtesy of La Voz-David Kadlubowski)

PHOENIX, Arizona — Flowers in hand, day or night, visitors have been coming to the little house of Catalino Díaz Villa‘s widow to pay their respects after his death. Some never met him, but to them he is a brother. They share a common bond: they all were farmworkers in the American countryside as part of the Bracero Program over 50 years ago.

Díaz Villa, 84, died in a traffic accident when a vehicle struck him while crossing the street. It was the Fourth of July, but he was working as usual. He made a living by selling cans and metal scraps he picked up on the streets of central Phoenix.

He was part of a generation of aging braceros struggling to survive without a pension, hoping to win a fight to recover wages withheld from them decades ago as part of a controversial guest-worker program between Mexico and the U.S. The money that was supposed to be given to the workers to encourage them to return to their country was instead kept by Mexico.


Questions Raised Over New Rules Governing Local Enforcement of U.S. Immigration Laws

PHOENIX, Arizona –The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office leads the nation when it comes to the number of local officers deputized by the federal government to enforce U.S. immigration laws. Now the program known as 287 (g) is about to change. But the impact of those changes, announced on Friday by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, is unclear here and around the country. Napolitano announced an expansion of the 287 (g) program while making apprehension of criminal immigrants its priority.


Salvador Reza leads a demonstration in Arizona for immigrant rights. Photo:Valeria Fernandez

The news brought mixed reaction in Arizona, where use of the program has raised concerns over alleged racial profiling and abuse by deputies under the command of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Some applauded the changes to the federal-local agreement as a positive step that would ensure civil rights protections for undocumented immigrants. Others argued the program should end because it has caused local law enforcement go after undocumented immigrants with no criminal record, a deviation from its traditional role of fighting crime.

“If she wants to show good faith she should have suspended the agreement (in Maricopa),” said Salvador Reza, a member of PUENTE a local pro-immigrant movement that opposes 287 (g). “Unless they implement immigration reform that works, what is going on right now is going to keep on dividing our families,” he added. (more…)

Anti-Immigrant Bills Fail in Arizona and Human Rights Activists Celebrate

PHOENIX, Arizona — A wave of bills aimed at criminalizing undocumented immigrants in Arizona have failed in the state legislature. Divisive budget discussions and a split in the Republican Party, which holds the majority in the legislature, have been cited as reasons for the defeats. But local human rights activists, who organized opposition to the bills, are taking some of the credit as well.

Day Laborer Arrested by Phoenix PD

Day Laborer Arrested by Phoenix PD. (Photo: A.J. Alexander)

Arizona has been called a “laboratory for anti-immigrant laws” for the rest of the nation. In 2007, the state adopted one of the country’s toughest employer sanctions laws for companies that knowingly hire undocumented labor.

But this year saw the failure of some 27 bills aimed at clamping down on immigrants. “We did extremely well this year, dealing with the anti-immigrant legislation, it’s the most successful year we had,” said Democratic legislator Ben Miranda, who voted against the proposals.

He credits the defeat, in part, to the split between Republican legislators and Gov. Jan Brewer over budget issues.

As divisive budget discussions were coming to an end a flood of anti-immigration bills were introduced, with Republican State Sen. Russell Pearce at the helm of the effort.

Pearce introduced 17 of the bills, ranging from a proposal to eliminate what he called “sanctuary policies” that keep local police from inquiring about a person’s immigration status to a measure requiring school districts to ask their students about their immigration status.


Sharpton in Arizona Evokes Civil Rights Struggle in Fight for Immigration Reform

Activists plan “freedom rides” to monitor alleged civil rights abuses by Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office

PHOENIX, Arizona — In a visit that drew heavily on the tactics and symbolism of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Rev. Al Sharpton came to Phoenix on Friday to call for unity between African-Americans and Hispanics in a national effort for immigration reform, and to confront Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a leading anti-immigrant crusader.

Watch highlights from Sharpton’s visit to Arizona.

In an emotional speech, Sharpton denounced the alleged persecution of Latino citizens and the raids in Hispanic neighborhoods organized by Sheriff Arpaio under the the 287 (g) federal program, which allows local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws.

“Let me make this clear, we’re not here about Sheriff Joe as much as we are here about Citizen Jose,” said Sharpton at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in downtown Phoenix, in front of a diverse audience that included Latinos, Anglos and African-Americans. Sharpton had called for Arpaio’s resignation last April.

Sharpton: "Don’t make me a suspect because of the color of my skin or because of my language” - Photo: Feet in 2 Worlds

Sharpton: "Don’t make me a suspect because of the color of my skin or because of my language.” (Photo: Feet in 2 Worlds)

“You cannot have law enforcement that is based on skin color rather than private deeds,” he added. “If we break the law, arrest me. But don’t make me a suspect because of the color of my skin or because of my language.”



Immigrant Family Torn Apart in Arizona Raid

Sheriff Arpaio has arrested 248 immigrants in raids allegedly aimed at unlawful hiring, but no employer has been penalized.

PHOENIX, Arizona — Katherine Figueroa was playing outside her home Saturday morning when she overheard the news coming from a nearby TV. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office had just raided the car wash where her father and mother worked.

She rushed to see her dad’s image on television. His expression looked worried, his hands were tied with plastic cuffs.

Her eyes filled with tears, the 9-year-old made a plea to President Barack Obama to return her parents home in a video produced by Arizona activists and reports on the Univision network.

“I want my parents back, is not fair for me to be alone,” said Katherine who was born in the U.S. and is a U. S. citizen.

Katherine Figueroa saw her father's immigration arrest on TV. (Photo: Valeria Fernández)

Katherine Figueroa saw her father's immigration arrest on TV. (Photos: Valeria Fernández)

Listen to Katherine in an interview with Feet in 2 Worlds:


Although the federal government has announced changes to its policies regarding work-site immigration raids, not much has changed in the Phoenix area, where Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is implementing what critics call “his own brand of law.”


Arizona Bill Would Criminalize the Presence of Undocumented Immigrants in the State

By Valeria Fernández, FI2W contributor

PHOENIX, Arizona — Undocumented immigrants in Arizona could face jail terms for simply being in the state under a series of bills gathering momentum in the state legislature.

Sen. Pearce, author of the bill

Sen. Pearce, author of the SB 1175 bill

A bill approved Wednesday by a Senate committee (SB 1175) would allow any police officer to arrest an undocumented immigrant under charges of trespassing on state land. Those jailed would have to pay the cost of their own incarceration.

“If this bill passes, it would be the first state in the nation making illegal presence a crime,” said Alessandra Soler-Meetze, Executive Director of the Arizona Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “The implications are tremendous. What it means is that anyone who is in this country without proper documentation is going to be charged and arrested.”


Volunteer is Convicted of Littering for Leaving Water Jugs in the Desert to Save Migrants' Lives

By Valeria Fernández, FI2W contributor
José Lopez, 22, a migrant from Chiapas, Mexico got lost in the Sonoran desert in Arizona during three days and he survived on the water he found on water stations set in place by humanitarian groups. (Photo: Valeria Fernández)

José Lopez, 22, a migrant from Chiapas, Mexico, got lost in the Sonoran desert in Arizona for three days and survived on the water he found at water stations set in place by humanitarian groups. (Photo: Valeria Fernández)

AJO, Arizona — José López, 22, injured his left leg while jumping the border fence in the middle of the night as Border Patrol agents chased him. At daylight, he found himself lost and alone in the middle of the Sonoran desert. Three days later he ran out of water and food. He survived by refilling his jug at water tank stations he happened to find across the desert, until he found a road and, in desperation, turned himself in to the Border Patrol.

As three-digit summer temperatures loom, human rights activists are stepping up their efforts to provide humanitarian aid in the form of water and food to immigrants who cross the Mexican border into Arizona. The state is a principal gateway for unauthorized migration to the U.S.

Humanitarian groups argue their goal is to save lives. Border crossers are often abandoned by human smugglers and get lost in the arid terrain without water. But sometimes those involved in efforts to aid the migrants encounter roadblocks and even prosecution. A volunteer was convicted Wednesday of littering for leaving water jugs in a national refuge.

“We have a humanitarian crisis on our borders, it is a disaster and very little if anything is being done to address it in a humanitarian way,” said Laura Ilardo, coordinator of the Phoenix chapter of No More Deaths.