Illegal Immigrants Cross Country on Bus Tour

Saturday, 18 Aug 2012 12:52 PM

By Patrick Hobin

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A group of illegal immigrants who want to emerge from the shadows are crossing the country in a bus en route to their final destination of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., NBC News reported.

The group is calling it the “Undocubus” tour, which began in Phoenix on July 29, and most recently made stops in Tennessee.

The 30 or so housekeepers, day laborers, students and immigration activists hope to raise public awareness of the plight of living in an atmosphere of fear and oppression. They want to “make front and center a problem they feel President Obama has failed to confront,” according to the New York Times, which first reported on the bus tour.

“The No Papers No Fear Ride for Justice" is a national delegation of undocumented people and allies that left Phoenix on the anniversary of the state's implementation of SB1070 and is travelling across the country to rally the migrant community to overcome fear and organize to challenge anti-immigrant policies,” a statement on the group’s website says.

The bus tour has made stops in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, NBC News reported. The tour is drawing criticism from some who think that the group members should be detained.

“They’re illegal immigrants advertising the fact and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) needs to pull them over and detain them,” Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center of Immigration Studies, a think tank that supports tighter immigration controls, told NBC News. “I mean, it’s as simple as that. … You can’t arrest every illegal immigrant, but it seems to me advertising your illegality ought to be reason enough for you to be detained and removed from the country as a priority and the fact that they’re not is outrageous.”

NBC’s story drew thousands of online comments.

“Nice so now the illegal aliens are so ‘empowered’ and bold they openly spit in our faces,” one person wrote. “This country is so upside down. What a joke we have become.”

Another wrote, “Gamechanger here folks. When lawbreaking people feel empowered to brazenly and openly declare their lack of care for U.S. laws it's a major problem. It's time for the government to take steps to reform immigration policy, not just talk about it.”

Barbara Gonzalez, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman, told NBC News in a statement, “ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens, recent border crossers and egregious immigration law violators, such as those who have been previously removed from the United States.”

The tour comes at a volatile time for the immigration issue. The Obama administration's new policy, dubbed "deferred action for childhood arrivals," took effect this week. It grants temporary legal status to many young illegal immigrants, ending the threat of deportation for at least two years. But the policy does not entitle the immigrants to state services such as driver’s licenses.

Last week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and media mogul Rupert Murdoch teamed up in Boston for a discussion to press the case to make it easier for legal immigrants to come to the U.S. and for the federal government to create a residency path for illegal immigrants, the Boston Globe reported.

They made the case that America needs more engineers and other professionals that the U.S. cannot supply right now, and that the U.S. should grant work visas to university graduates with advanced degrees instead of making them go through red tape.

The “Undocubus” ride winds up in at the Democratic National Convention, where the illegal immigrants intend to convey their message.

“I think it’s important for people within the undocumented community to find some kind of technique that can have some success in increasing the pressure on the political process and on Obama and on the Democrats,” Gary Gerstle, a professor at Vanderbilt University, told NBC News.

“I think in order for more to happen, there has to be more of an immigrant-rights movement and there has to be more of a human-rights movement in the U.S., and in thinking about how that might happen, I think the ‘undocubus’ is innovative and has a chance of making a difference and it fits within a broader history of non-violent peaceful protest.”

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