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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Civil disobedience for immigration reform! Wise advice for the individual who is thinking about protesting sb 1070

Civil disobedience is the refusal to follow a “lawful order” by the police.  It is a non-violent protest and civil rights tactic that has been effective since the term was coined by David Henry Thoreau in the mid 1800’s. 

The tactic of civil disobedience was expanded upon by Mahatma Gandhi who said “My life is my message.”  Civil disobedience was again used by Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King in the Montgomery bus boycott.

Considering the wavering US Congress on immigration reform, advocates are speaking about “ratcheting up” the message.  I am continually amazed at the ignorance of mainstream America with the topic of immigration reform ( CIR ) and the plight of undocumented workers. 

Short guide to civil

1.  Think this one through.  It is a drastic step but if your conscience requires it then plan ahead.

a.  You are likely to be charged with breaking a minor criminal law.  No matter how minor, it is a criminal law.  You will have a criminal record for the rest of your life.  Employers have a hard time understanding the action of conscience.  In 20 years they won’t have a clue why you did it.  Think this one through.

b.  Recent arrests have generally not required bonds from what I can see.  However, you should have bond money ready to go.  Arizona judges are likely to be less tolerant. 

c.  If there is a bond, you can usually pay the entire bond in cash.  You get it all back when you finish your court date.  In the alternative, you can hire a bondsman.  You will have to pay 10% to 15% which is non-refundable.

d. Have legal counsel ready.  If you don’t want to pay for an attorney in advance then at least have a telephone number for one.  You need an attorney who is licensed in the state in which you plan to civilly disobey, not in your home state.

e.  If you are not documented then you must think carefully.  We are on the eve of immigration reform.  You can easily be deported.  Some people are out of the country in as little as 7 days. 

Proposed immigration reform requires a presence in the United States for a set time. Five years was discussed. Any time you leave the country your time period starts over again.  Re-entry into the US may subject you to up to 10 years of imprisonment.  

There are plenty of people willing to take the risks of civil disobedience.  If you are an undocumented person, please think about it carefully. 

f.  If you are on special medication, civil disobedience may not be right for you.  Jailers may not be sympathetic to requests for medications. 

g.  Be sure you have plenty of witnesses.  Police are usually conscious of multiple witnesses and may treat you better.

h.  It can’t hurt to have your picture taken shortly before your “disobedience”.  A picture is your best witness to your condition when you were arrested.

i.  Call a press conference.  Your one act of civil disobedience is not likely to change the world, although it did in the case of Rosa Parks.  Rather, your one act along with many other acts will help send the message.  We are after publicity. 

j.  At arrest, do not resist!  First, it could turn a misdemeanor into a felony.  Second, resistance defeats the purpose of peaceful protest.  Why protest if you hurt the movement?

k.  When they release you from jail they are not likely going to give you a ride back to the venue.  It is wise to be prepared with a ride home. 

l.  When you are released call another press conference.  It helps to have support crew to help you with the details. 

m.  Your court appearance likely will require payment of a fine.  The courts are not always willing to give you time to pay.  Those who can’t pay with money get to pay with time behind bars.  Be ready for whichever suits you best.

n.  If you are fond of certain substances which law enforcement might find offensive, don’t bring them!  I can’t tell you how many of my clients get busted with “something” in their wallets.  All of your possessions are subject to search.  I hope none of my readers fall into the trap of drug abuse as it can put you back into a personal prison as fast as unfair immigration laws. 

m.  Turn off your cell phone before you get arrested.  That way, you will have a fresh battery when released!

Pass this guide on to your friends!  It may come in handy sometime!

Tim Paynter, Attorney at Law

The information in this article is general in nature and is not legal advice.  Consult private counsel for advice pertaining to your city or state.

My personal experience with the Puente Movement, Puente Arizona and Alto Arizona is they only advocate non-violent and LEGAL activities.  They have not asked for civil disobedience as far as I know.  Individual persons not related to the Puente Arizona, the Puente Movement and Alto Arizona have acted in civil disobedience. 

We do not speak for the Puente movement, Puente Arizona or Alto Arizona.

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