Palestine solidarity activists protest US deportation policies in Arizona

Gabriel Schivone (left) and other activists locked themselves to buses protesting the criminalization and mass deportations of migrant persons in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo courtesy of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network)

In a direct action today in Tucson, Arizona, a group of immigrant rights activists, including members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), have locked themselves to the entrance of a courthouse where buses carrying migrant detainees are taken for court proceedings. Some of the activists also locked their bodies to the buses themselves.

The Electronic Intifada contributor Gabriel Schivone is one of the activists who is taking part in the action. Schivone is a member of the University of Arizona’s SJP chapter, and is a campaigner for justice for undocumented persons. He locked himself to one of the buses.

The coordinated action was called to stop Operation Streamline — “the mass prosecution program that criminalizes, en masse, on average eighty (mostly Mexican and Central American) migrant detainees each day in Tucson,” Students for Justice in Palestine has stated.

President Barack Obama has refused to halt the mass arrests and deportations of undocumented persons. The Washington Post reported last month that the Obama administration “has been deporting more than 1,000 people a day, and nearly 410,000 last year, a record number.”

“An injustice”

Danya Mustafa of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of New Mexico told The Electronic Intifada by phone that “this is an important action to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are struggling here, whose families are being torn apart, whose livelihoods are being taken away from them.”

What is happening to immigrants and undocumented persons in the US by the Obama administration and the Arizona state government “is an injustice,” Mustafa added. “As SJP we know that injustice all too well, especially as Palestinians. We need to keep our families together. Community suppot is important. This is a direct action based on the needs of the community, and mothers, brothers, sisters and fathers are coming out to support this action. We support it 100 percent. We want to show solidarity with those who have shown solidarity with us.”

There is strong cross-movement solidarity between activists working for justice for Palestinians and activists working for the rights of undocumented and migrant persons in the US — particularly near the US-Mexico border. Gabriel Schivone has documented much of this growing movement for The Electronic Intifada himself.

There are also symbolic and literal parallels to the wall at the US-Mexico border and Israel’s wall in the occupied West Bank, as some of the same companies provide equipment and building materials to both walls.

The SJP press release adds:

Gabriel M. Schivone and Ryan Tombleson — both part of the University of Arizona’s SJP chapter — are participants in the action, which is organized into two groups. Ryan and other activists have locked themselves to the entrance of the courthouse where the Streamline buses carrying migrant detainees are taken for court proceedings. Meanwhile, Schivone’s group stopped two prison buses off the local I-10 freeway and locked themselves under and around the buses.

The activists aim to hold their positions indefinitely, stopping Streamline proceedings for the day. As federal and local authorities descend on the scene, today’s activists shout “Ni uno mas/Not one more!” aligning themselves with the national campaign to end President Obama’s mass deportation policy.

Operation Streamline is all about besmirching migrants with criminal records instead of processing their cases through civil or administrative immigration courts, as has been done in the past. Much thanks to Streamline, now Latin@s represent more than half of all those sentenced to federal prisons. More than 200,000 people have been prosecuted through Streamline-related enforcement throughout the Southwest and interior since its onset in 2005 — with 74,000 prosecutions in Tucson alone since it started here in January 2008. The current “security” package of the latest immigration reform proposal intends to expand Streamline by 300 percent.

Schivone and Tombleson’s protests extend beyond the issue of US immigration law and border enforcement policies. They would like to make it clear that a strike at such repressive US immigration and border enforcement policies, and their corporate sponsors, is also a strike at the US security relationship with Israel. Just take if from Arizona state legislators themselves, who affirmed in their unanimous February 2012 resolution “Supporting the Nation of Israel”: “Israel receives vital military and security assistance from the United States, much of which, in turn, is spent here in Arizona with its defense contractors.”

The SJPers locked down in Tucson today wish to remind activists throughout the country that more traumatic and direct political action will be needed to stop government programs of death and suffering in the Mexico-US borderlands and beyond, resulting from US immigration and border enforcement policies. They call on SJP individuals, groups and supporters to join those in their local communities to resist these policies directly.

Breaking updates on Twitter

Activists are using the hashtags #Not1More and #ShutdownICE on Twitter. Below are some tweets that have been posted about the direct action this morning. As of 11am Pacific time, the direct action to shut down Operation Streamline is still in process.


Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).