Interview: Waging the Fight for Migrant Justice From Under a Border Patrol Truck

March 12, 2013

By Murphy Woodhouse, for Truthout  

As with many deportations, René Meza Huerta’s started with a traffic stop. The Tucson Police Department (TPD) had received a call about a suspected kidnapping of six children from a man who saw Huerta’s and his girlfriend’s children getting into the hatchback of their newly purchased 99 Mercury Cougar. TPD was searching for the car when they pulled Huerta over in the early afternoon of Sunday, February 17. After determining that no kidnapping had taken place, TPD officers asked Huerta for his driver’s license, a document he did not have. Deciding that they had probable cause to suspect Huerta was in the country without proper documentation, TPD called the Border Patrol (BP), which came to detain him.

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Raul Alcaraz Ochoa, Lydia Lopez, Rene Meza’s mother-in-law, and one of René Meza’s six children. (Photo: Murphy Joseph Woodhouse)

This is a scene that plays out constantly in communities within 100 air miles of the US-Mexico border, the so-called “constitution-free zone” where BP has expansive powers of search and seizure. In Arizona, this is compounded by Senate Bill 1070 (also called SB 1070), the state’s infamous 2010 “show me your papers” law that was partially upheld by the US Supreme Court in June of 2011. Section 2(b) of the law, which was not struck down, requires all state law enforcement officers, “when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person, except if the determination may hinder or obstruct an investigation,” when “reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien and is unlawfully present in the United States.”

There’s a lot about Huerta’s deportation that makes it totally unexceptional, most importantly that it resulted in the separation of yet another parent from his children. What sets it apart is that somebody tried to stop it: Raúl Alcaraz Ochoa, a day labor organizer with the Southside Worker Center and member of the migrant justice group Corazón de Tucson.

Ochoa’s decision to place himself under a BP truck to prevent the detention and likely deportation of Huerta was a bold act of civil disobedience and a tremendous personal risk. Ochoa, who was born in Mexico, is a legal permanent resident, meaning that he is subject to deportation if convicted of certain crimes. Ochoa’s and Huerta’s arrests sparked a 300-strong protest in front of TPD’s headquarters the next day, little more than 12 hours after the previous afternoon’s events. Attendees demanded the immediate release without charges of both men, an end to TPD/BP collaboration and a halt to all deportations.

Truthout interviews Raúl Ochoa below. The interview is followed by a video of René Huerta’s account of his arrest, incarceration, “trial” and deportation. The two men discuss the events of that February afternoon and, more broadly, their thoughts on what contemporary immigration enforcement means for undocumented communities and the role civil disobedience should play in the ongoing struggle for migrant justice.

Read the interview and watch the video at Truthout.

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This entry was posted by Border Journalism Network.

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