Not One More! A movement rallies around a simple demand...

Every Tuesday night, people with family members enmeshed in the deportation system come together at the Puente Movement office to provide each other moral support, tips for navigating the complicated immigration legal system, and to help strategize next steps in the fight to stop deportations.

One Tuesday in early February, Anselma Lopez, who cares for her son’s two young children, as he has been detained and facing deportation for nearly three years, was denied adequate healthcare for lingering medical concerns from an improperly treated wound. She said “enough was enough” and announced to the room of approximately 15 adults and a handful of kids with whom she had been gathering weekly for nearly a year, that she was going to go on a hunger strike to free her son. “If he gets deported, at least I want to be able to say I did everything in my power to get him free first,” she proclaimed.

Within two weeks, Anselma and four other members of the Puente Movement with loved ones in detention were camped in front of the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices in Central Phoenix. They, like Anselma, were willing to put their bodies on the take a stand against the system of mass detention and deportation that has grown as all forms of incarceration have reached record highs in the US. This action was part of a growing movement for “#Not-1More Deportation.” It grew out of one of the key local components of the campaign to call on President Obama to take administrative action to stop deportations: Uno por Uno, or One by One, a tactic that emerged out of direct community need.

About 1,100 immigrants are deported across the US every day. As more and more of our community were being swept up into the deportation dragnet, we realized the need to stop our community from hemorrhaging and to show the world that deportation is a humanitarian crisis by tackling inhumane enforcement and attrition policies that led to our suffering in the first place.

The tactic of fighting individual deof legal advocacy, storytelling by those impacted by deportation, political pressure, and grassroots action and organizing has been extremely effective. We have stopped the deportations of nearly 100 people since January 2013, through the strength of our Tuesday night meetings and the community of people impacted by deportation that have formed through this space.

The #Not1More campaign started in one of our weekly general meetings, as the push for congressional immigration reform was heating up in early 2013. We asked our members, the majority of whom are undocumented or who are a part of mixed status families, what they most wanted to see in terms of policy change at a national level. Everyone in the room agreed: the thing that would make the most concrete, immediate difference in their lives was to no longer have to live in fear of deportation.

Arizona is notorious for being a laboratory for anti-migrant policies and laws, from a 1996 law requiring proof of citizenship to get a driver’s license, through the current racial profiling and ever-widening deportation dragnet of notorious Sheriff Arpaio and SB1070. We live and work and care for our families in the belly of the anti-migrant beast, which has uniquely placed us to lead the way in terms of building a creative and resilient movement for dignity and inclusion that centers those of us most directly impacted by the hate and racism we are up against. What starts in Arizona soon spreads across the country, as we have seen with the President’s oversight of Arpaio-like national policies and the spreading of state anti-immigrant laws like SB1070, but also with our model of building a movement and community that is more powerful than the laws and hate directed our way.

The hunger strike in front of the Phoenix ICE Field office took many twists and turns. Our loved ones in immigrant detention stopped eating in protest as well, and were placed in solitary confinement for organizing others to hunger strike with them. Anselma was hospitalized after not eating for 12 days, facing permanent damage to her body for fighting for her son with everything she had. One of the strikers’ sons was deported in the middle of the night, with no notice, as retaliation for organizing inside. At the same time, the Phoenix police raided our encampment and destroyed all of our supplies, and unjustly arrested three community members there in support of the strikers. Even after that raid, without sleeping bags, tents, or chairs, and heartbroken by the deportation of one of the people we were fighting for, we continued a 24-hour-a-day presence in front of the Phoenix ICE office for four more days, until one of the strikers’  sons was finally released after several months in detention.

Our hunger strike, created by a mother’s profound love for her son, began a chain reaction that led to escalating actions for #Not1More here in Arizona and across the country. Some of our members led a 3-day march to the detention center where their loved ones were held, blasting messages of hope and love across prison walls. Others traveled to Washington DC to lead a hunger strike of people entangled in the deportation crisis from across the country in front of the White House, effectively shifting the  entire immigration debate. After years of supposed advocates playing political games instead of listening to our community’s demands, we showed up at the President’s front door, demonstrating the power we have built through organizing to defend our families and changing the conversation to not if the President would take administrative action for our families, but when.

Our experience has taught us that true change will come only when we organize, act and speak for ourselves. We continue to fight against the mass incarceration of our community, the Obama Administration’s record high deportations, and the web of police and ICE collaboration here in Arizona that entangles us in this crisis to begin with. Families still gather in our office every Tuesday night, many of whom have been called criminal for crossing borders, for working to provide for their loved ones, and for trying to survive within the hostility and racism all around us. To us, #Not1More literally means not one more, period. Not one more family separated, not one more mother or father or neighbor behind bars, not one more day without justice for all of us.

Puente Human Rights Movement, a RESIST grantee, is part of the global movement for migrant justice and human rights. As a grassroots community-based group Puente promotes justice, non-violence, interdependence and human dignity. We aim to develop, educate, and empower migrant communities to enhance their quality of life. Puente works to empower the community and build bridges by working collaboratively with various organizations and individuals.

Puente Human Rights Movement, a RESIST grantee, is part of the global movement for migrant justice and human rights. As a grassroots community-based group Puente promotes justice, non-violence, interdependence and human dignity. We aim to develop, educate, and empower migrant communities to enhance their quality of life. Puente works to empower the community and build bridges by working collaboratively with various organizations and individuals.