Stop the Deportation of René Meza Huertha!
by George Shriver, Tucson
René Meza Huertha, a hard-working Tucson father of six, received national and international attention after Sunday, February 17, when he and his family were pulled over by the Tucson Police Department (TPD), on an alleged traffic violation.
Citing the notorious Arizona racial-profiling law, SB 1070, the TPD officers claimed there was “reasonable suspicion” to check René’s immigration status. TPD called the Border Patrol to detain René. At that point community organizer Raúl Alcaraz Ochoa intervened, placing himself beneath the Border Patrol vehicle.
Raúl later explained that the TPD had options. Only a traffic violation was involved, and there was no need to go into the question of immigration status. Even under SB 1070, the TPD was not obliged to do that. When Raúl asked on what basis the TPD officers claimed “reasonable suspicion” about René’s immigration status, they refused to answer.
To protest the Border Patrol’s being called in, and the handcuffing of René in front of his wife and children, Raúl tried to prevent the Border Patrol from taking René away. This family was being torn apart cold-bloodedly by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).
Raúl was also arrested by the Border Patrol, after being pepper-sprayed, and was charged with interfering with justice. In fact he was trying to prevent an injustice!
Raúl was released on Monday February 18, 2013, and was able to attend a colorful, diverse, and widely representative rally of nearly 400 community members in front of TPD headquarters on Stone Avenue south of Broadway. They demanded an end to local police collaboration with the Border Patrol and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).
The community has also flooded ICE phone lines, demanding that the deportation of René Meza Huertha be halted.
Supporters are being asked to call Janet Napolitano, head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), at 202-282-8495. This is an answering machine, and can be called 24 hours a day.
Also call John Morton, head of ICE, at 202-732-3100.
Fill up these answering machines with calls for René.
A sample message would be: “I am requesting that René Meza Huertha’s deportation be immediately deferred. René is currently being held in Tucson, Arizona, away from his wife and six children. His case number as a detainee is A# 098429796. Don’t deport René.”
At a time when Congress is considering an “immigration reform” bill promoted by the Obama administration, and when there is nationwide discussion around the fact that an estimated 11 million immigrants have been part of the U.S. workforce for years, even for decades, without always having “proper papers,” the Tucson community is demanding that SB 1070 be revoked, that detentions and deportations be stopped, and that no more families be torn apart, as in the case of René Meza Huertha.
As Alma Hernández of Tucson, who herself experienced detention and separation from her three young children, commented: “We must end this attack on families. Detentions and deportations are destroying our community. We want dignity, equality, family unity, and freedom from criminalization.”
Stop making migration a crime. Instead, we must look at the root causes of migration, a worldwide phenomenon. People come here because they are in desperate circumstances—usually the result of U.S. foreign policies such as NAFTA and CAFTA and support for military dictatorships such as in Honduras. They come in search of a better life. They contribute the great wealth of their labor power to the U.S. economy. The vast majority of such migrants, worldwide, are only looking for work, for their own and their families’ livelihood.
On Tuesday, February 19, the day after the rally in front of TPD headquarters, another demonstration was held—this time in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Tucson. It was to protest against Operation Streamline, which uses speeded-up court procedures to impose criminal sentences on approximately 75 migrants every weekday—resulting in gains to private prisons-for-profit of about a million dollars or more every week. One sign at the rally summed the situation up quite well: “Capital Crosses Borders—Why Not Labor?”