A bus full of three dozen undocumented immigrants — displaying their illegal status for all to see — is set to stop in Nashville on Thursday to raise awareness of immigration politics.
The “UndocuBus,” as organizers call it, will be at a public rally Thursday near the Super Mercado La Reyna #2 at 3761 Nolensville Pike in Nashville from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The group’s motto: “No papers, no fear.”
Advertising for Thursday’s event is virtually nonexistent, but supporters are beginning to spread the word via Facebook. The group includes six undocumented immigrants from Tennessee.
“The Hispanic community in Tennessee is just so ruled by this fear of getting deported, and saying that you’re undocumented is so unheard of where I come from,” said 19-year-old Alejandro Guivar of Knoxville. “I want to wake people up and tell them that if they don’t come out of the shadows and fight for what they deserve, then nobody’s going to give it to them.”
The group — which has garnered attention from a range of national media outlets — began its “Ride for Justice” across the United States in Arizona, home of a controversial so-called crackdown law on illegal immigrants. Its plan is to arrive in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 3, in time to stage events as the 2012 Democratic National Convention commences.
Guivar, who has joined the “UndocuBus” cause in Tennessee, is in the process of deportation proceedings via the federal Secure Communities program after being detained last year following a misdemeanor. He spent a month at a detention center in Louisiana, and will learn his fate next spring.
“I don’t want to see any other 18-year-old ever have to go through that,” he said.
In recent days, the “UndocuBus” has made its way to the South, unfriendly territory for immigrant causes. The group is in Memphis Wednesday. From there, the route heads east on Interstate 40 to Nashville. Here, they will be arriving in a city with its own debates on illegal immigration.
The Tennessee Supreme Court is currently weighing whether Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall has the legal authority under the Metro charter to enforce 287(g) — a federal immigrant detention program that Davidson County’s immigrant community has long criticized. The Metro Council will vote in October whether to renew the sheriff’s 287(g) agreement with the federal government.
A year ago, a federal judge awarded an undocumented mother in Nashville named Juana Villegas $200,000 after ruling her rights were violated when sheriff’s deputies shackled her before and after she gave birth. Villegas had been arrested for a routine traffic ticket and held in jail under 287(g) provisions.
Metro has appealed the Villegas decision in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Both parties are waiting on the court’s decision.
Karla Chavez, a youth organizer for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, pointed to President Barack Obama’s recent executive action to allow some illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to remain here without the threat of deportation. “But where is the relief for our mothers and fathers?” she asked.
“The immigrants that get on this bus are telling the country that our families and communities deserve to stay together, that undocumented immigrants are part of our community, and that the immigrant community is done being scared,” Chavez said.