‘No Papers, No Fear’: Undocumented Immigrants Declare Themselves on Bus Tour

Miranda Leitsinger, NBC News, August 17, 2012

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Over the past few weeks, a group of more than 30 housekeepers, day laborers, students and immigration activists has been making its way across the country in a ragtag caravan, chanting “no papers, no fear” and proudly declaring “I’m undocumented” in public gatherings.

The riders do not have the legal documents to be in the U.S., a point they want everyone they meet to know. They are on the bus tour, dubbed the “undocubus,” to highlight their plight and to challenge their anti-immigrant foes in the ongoing national debate on immigration.

“We want to live in equality like everyone else, and that’s why we have taken this risk. We have confronted fear of potentially being arrested, but we believe that it is worth fighting,” said El Salvadorean Jose Mangandi, a day laborer living in Los Angeles who is raising his 3-year-old son on his own after his wife was deported. “We have customs, we have cultures. We want to share this with this country, and those who criticize us and who hate us, we invite you to get to know us.”

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Their tour, which began in Arizona, has made stops in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Along the way, the riders have met Civil Rights-era activists, some of them have been arrested during protests, and they’ve held talks with immigrant groups to exchange ideas on how to prevent deportation.

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Though their flagship bus painted with the words, “No papers, no fear,” on it in Spanish and English broke down in New Orleans, they’ve carried on with vans and a minibus. They hope the bus will soon re-join the trip.

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The group has their opponents, though they haven’t been turning out in large numbers. One woman showed up at a Nashville event wearing an anti-immigration t-shirt, but she kept her distance, participants say.

“They’re illegal immigrants advertising the fact and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) needs to pull them over and detain them,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center of Immigration Studies, a think tank that supports tighter immigration controls. “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.”

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When asked about the “undocubus” and whether the riders could be deported, Barbara Gonzalez, press secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, sent the following statement via email:

“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.”

Nine of the riders are applying for the government’s new “deferred action” policy, under which certain young immigrants in the country without documents can get a two-year work permit and a reprieve from deportation. {snip}

Their ride ends in Charlotte, N.C., at the Democratic National Convention, where they intend to convey this message.

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