field director at Mijente, a national political hub for Latinx organizing based in Phoenix.
As voters head to the polls in Arizona, we continue our conversation with Jacinta González, who was transferred to immigration custody, despite being a U.S. citizen, after her arrest for helping block a highway leading to a Donald Trump rally Saturday. González says an immigration agent called her a "pain-in-the-ass illegal" after she invoked her constitutional right to remain silent. "The racial profiling that I underwent is just indicative of larger systemic problems, with how ICE is going into jails, how ICE is profiling people in the streets," González says. González also talks about using the gender-neutral term "Latinx," and the importance of building community power beyond the 2016 elections.
Click here to see Part 1 of our conversation.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. In Arizona, demonstrators shut down a highway Saturday leading to a rally for the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump outside Phoenix, delaying the rally ahead of today’s key primaries. Three people were arrested, including Jacinta González, a leading immigrant advocate, who had locked her neck to a van’s window as part of the roadblock. Jacinta said she was then transferred to immigration custody—despite being a U.S. citizen. Jacinta joins us now for Part 2 of our conversation.
Jacinta, you were put in ICE custody although you are an American citizen. And your two friends, who are white, were released. Can you talk about that dynamic and what happens, and then the questioning ICE did of you and what you chose to do at that point?
JACINTA GONZÁLEZ: Thank you, Amy. Yeah, it was very concerning. You know, Maricopa County Jail is run by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is notorious as one of the worst sheriffs in the country. Even the Department of Justice has well documented his history of racial profiling. And so, once we were inside of the jail, I was singled out for interview by ICE, mostly because of my Latino surname. Because I defended my constitutional rights, that meant implicitly for them that I was guilty of being undocumented. And so, really, what we were seeing is that they’re using this machinery for deportation in a way that is racially profiling and violating people’s constitutional rights. ICE is unable to even follow their own protocols. I mean, within their own standards, someone with this type of crime, even if I was undocumented, should have not been transferred to their custody. And so, we’re seeing that it’s an agency that has very little supervision and has very little accountability, while having tremendous amounts of resources to destroy entire communities.
AMY GOODMAN: The significance of Sheriff Joe Arpaio being a surrogate for, speaking out for Donald Trump?
JACINTA GONZÁLEZ: Yes, I mean, what we’re seeing is, again, that the campaign that Donald Trump is operating under, the way that he’s running it is opening up space for the Joe Arpaios of the world. He’s making sure that the wannabe Trumps that are in, for example, our state Legislature feel empowered to make laws that directly attack our communities. We’re seeing it with anti-immigrant bills. We’re seeing it with bills that would increase incarceration. We’re seeing it with bills that attack women’s rights and reproductive justice. We’re seeing it with bills that attack trans people’s rights And so, for us, it’s been really important to be able to make this connection between the national campaigns and the realities of our communities on the ground. And that’s why, for us, it was so important to shut down the event, because it can’t be assumed that communities of color, that vulnerable communities are just going to take this type of hatred and type of attack passively. We’re going to stand up. We’re going to resist. And we’re going to continue to organize to build the power that we need to change this country in the right direction.
AMY GOODMAN: Last week, during a visit to the infamous Tent City in Phoenix that Sheriff Joe Arpaio runs, Jane Sanders, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, was surprised by a visit from Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arizona radio station KTAR caught part of their conversation.
JANE SANDERS: It is troubling to see some of the things—to hear some of the things that I’m hearing about Tent City and about immigration here in Arizona.
SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO: Tent City, I started that in August 3, 1993.
JANE SANDERS: Yeah.
SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO: It’s been—23-year anniversary. I’ve had four presidential candidates visit. Are you sure you want to visit?
JANE SANDERS: Yes.
SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO: They were on the other side: Republicans.
JANE SANDERS: Right. I think they might have agreed with you. I’m, in all honesty, in disagreement.
SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO: You haven’t seen it yet.
JANE SANDERS: Well, but I’m—oh, and that’s it. That’s why I’m here. So, but I am in disagreement in your general principles on immigration and racial profiling. I mean, I’m sure that’s no surprise. So, it’s great. If you want to show us around, we’d appreciate it. Thank you for your hospitality.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Jane Sanders, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, surprised by a visit from Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio at Tent City. Can you respond to this? Can you respond to this, Jacinta? And also talk about the position of your organization, Mijente, deciding not to endorse any candidate.
JACINTA GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, what we’re seeing is we’re seeing a wide spectrum of candidates. We’re seeing, on one side, candidates who want to destroy our communities, other candidates that simply want to pander to us, and some that are starting to engage in the issues that affect our communities the most directly. But what we also know and what we also analyze is that right now the Latino community, the Latinx community, does not have the power that is shown in the demographic shift that our country is under. And so, for us, we have a broader mission of being able to continue to organize, to be able to build up to the numbers but also to the consciousness that we need to build a pro-black, a pro-queer, a pro-women, a pro-Latino agenda that actually engages on a wide variety of issues, that we don’t see all of the candidates actually doing. And so, for us, we have to build the power to push them in the right direction and know that our communities—there’s many folks that are undocumented, many folks that because of criminal record can’t vote, and so our community cannot be just summarized as the Latino vote. There’s actually a lot more power that we want to build, through direct action but also through other types of organizing.
AMY GOODMAN: You talked about Latinx. What do you mean, Latinx?
JACINTA GONZÁLEZ: Latinx, you know, as I was talking right now, for us, as Mijente, we understand that a lot of Latino leaders have tried to take up space in a way that shuts down other parts of our community. For us, Mijente is a political hub where folks can come as their full—as full human beings. And so that means being pro-queer, pro-trans, and really including all identities around gender. And so the X is our way of recognizing that and opening up that political space to show what our politics are and what we stand for.
AMY GOODMAN: At a Trump rally in Tucson Saturday, a Trump supporter was caught on video sucker-punching an anti-Trump protester as he was being led away by security. Tony Pettway was arrested for misdemeanor assault and released. The protester, Bryan Sanders, was kicked out of the rally after chanting "liar" and holding a sign that read "Trump is bad for America." This is Bryan Sanders speaking after the rally.
BRYAN SANDERS: Donald Trump is perfectly welcome to go ahead and run for president. What he’s not welcome to do is to suggest that everybody who opposes him should be violently attacked, that he should be handed the presidency outside of the rules of his own party. I mean, this is sounding like 1933 up in here. And then you saw all hell break loose, this and that, and he’s stomping me. Incredible scenes. I understand that people support Donald Trump. But do they support this kind of scene, really? Donald Trump is associating himself with violent, extremist people, who are willing to go to any lengths, apparently.
AMY GOODMAN: So that was Bryan Sanders after the Tucson rally. Can you explain what you understand happened to him there? We’re looking at video right now, and we’re going to play it right here, of him being beaten as he was taken out by security.
JACINTA GONZÁLEZ: I don’t know, personally, about this video, and I wasn’t personally at this rally. But I am very aware well—well, well aware of the amount of violence and threats that folks that have been protesting at these types of events have gone through. It was definitely a consideration that we had to think about as we designed our protest. For us, it just shows the violence and the hatred behind Trump’s campaign. We understand that he’s not just talking about politics. He’s talking about deporting entire communities. He’s talking about incarcerating folks. He’s talking about surveilling Muslim communities. He’s talking about such aggressive and violent attacks that it’s no surprise that they’re being manifested in this way within his own rallies. And so, for us, that’s even more why it’s important to use tactics such as nonviolent civil disobedience to shut down Trump events, to show that communities of color aren’t going to just sit back idly while we’re under attack and allow this type of messaging to continue. We’re going to, you know, again, continue to organize and continue to resist, to make sure that the history books will say that there were actually people who resisted the type of dangerous propaganda that Donald Trump is putting out.
AMY GOODMAN: You talked about a detainer, an immigration detainer. Talk about how it was applied for use with you and how it’s used in Arizona and around the country.
JACINTA GONZÁLEZ: For many, many years, organizers and communities across the country have been challenging the constitutionality of detainers precisely for this reason. ICE is a rogue agency, does not follow the same standards that our criminal justice system has to follow. They create different standards of proof and different probable cause. And so, you know, the racial profiling that I underwent is just indicative of larger systemic problems, with how ICE is going into jails, how ICE is profiling people in the streets. You know, previously, before moving to Arizona, I lived in New Orleans. And when we saw ICE conduct stop-and-frisk raids for Latinos, where they were deporting hundreds and hundreds of family members and reconstruction workers, we continue to see inside of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jail how this racial profiling is taking place. And so—
AMY GOODMAN: What, though, Jacinta, is a detainer?
JACINTA GONZÁLEZ: A detainer is a simple request that the federal authority asks of the local authority to hold someone to try to deport them. And so, just because I defended my constitutional right to remain silent, I was immediately selected as being, as an immigration agent called me, a "pain-in-the-ass illegal," for, you know, just defending my basic constitutional rights.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, you remained silent, and you were transferred from the police station to ICE, and you were held there for 24 hours?
JACINTA GONZÁLEZ: No, I was held past the time in the jail. So, after my colleagues who were arrested with me were released, I was held longer. I was held overnight in isolation. In the morning, ICE agents came, shackled my hands, shackled my feet, and transferred me to the immigration offices. And just to be very clear, the thing that’s so dehumanizing and so unjust about this is this happens to hundreds of people every day. ICE’s own protocols say that even if I had been undocumented, for the charge that I was arrested for, I should not have been transferred to immigration custody. So not only can they not follow the Constitution, they can’t follow their own guidelines.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, there are some states that don’t refuse to deal with these detainers, right, to adhere to detainers, like California?
JACINTA GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, there are states like California that have passed bills. There are sheriffs, like Sheriff Marlin Gusman in New Orleans, who actually, while I was there, decided to do what was right and stopped submitting to immigration hold requests. So there’s examples across the country of local officials saying, "You know what? We’re not going to participate in this type of rogue behavior. We’re not going to violate people’s basic civil rights. We’re not going to separate families. And instead, what we’re going to do is we’re going to build with the communities that we serve." And that’s what we want to see more of. We don’t want to see Joe Arpaios. We don’t want to see, you know, different people following the Trump agenda. And that’s also the dilemma that right now Governor Ducey has here in Arizona. What path is he going to take? Is he going to decide on the side of constitutionality and using Arizona resources for good? Or is he going to sign bills that are actually going to balloon the prison population and increase the type of lawsuits that the state has.
AMY GOODMAN: Jacinta, we just have 30 seconds. It’s primary day in Arizona. We’re speaking to you in Phoenix. What has this election meant for the Latino community, whether people can vote or not vote? Has it intensified organizing?
JACINTA GONZÁLEZ: Yes, it definitely has intensified organizing. We’re seeing a shift in demographics, and we’re seeing a backlash to that shift. We’re seeing that folks that believe in white supremacy are pushing back on people of color organizing and demanding their rights. And so, we’re definitely afraid of the violence that we’re seeing, but we’re also very conscious that we’re building power.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank Jacinta González, field director of Mijente, a national political hub for Latinx, or Latinx, organizing. Jacinta was joining us from Phoenix, Arizona. This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman.