The riders plan to be a thorn in the side of the Democratic Party, which they blame along with the Republican Party for the lack of progress on immigration reform. The fact that the Obama administration has deported a record number of illegal immigrants is not lost on them.
Still early in their “no papers, no fear” cross-country journey, the bus riders already have stirred controversy. On Aug. 1, they were the subject of a debate in the opinion pages of The New York Times, with some expressing support for the actions of the protesters and others condemning them.
“Anytime illegal immigrants advertise where they are, it seems to me that makes them high priority for detention,” says Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors stricter immigration laws. “ICE [US Immigration and Customs Enforcement] needs to pull the bus over, put them in detention, and then remove them.”
ICE officials won’t say if intercepting the bus is a possibility, stressing instead that the agency prioritizes the deportation of people responsible for crimes and other serious violations.
“ICE uses discretion on a case-by-case basis, based on the merits of an individual’s case and a comprehensive review of specific facts,” spokeswoman Amber Cargile said in a recent statement after ICE released four arrestees, all of whom lacked legal status. They were among protesters who took to Phoenix streets during a racial-profiling court case against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Ms. Meraz was one of the people arrested for blocking traffic. Riding the bus is merely a progression of the civil disobedience she has chosen to engage in to shake up perceptions about people like her, she says.