Community event aims to celebrate immigrants, provide resources and campaign info

The Arizona Daily Star recently interviewed campaign manager, Martha Reyes, and supporter Anakarina Rodriguez about the We Are Home Celebration scheduled for Saturday, Sept 18th

Source: Arizona Daily Star; Published: September 14, 2021 by Caitlin Schmidt

More than a dozen community groups and agencies are teaming up Saturday to celebrate Tucson’s immigrant community and raise awareness about a ballot initiative.

The “We are Home Celebration” will kick off with neighborhood outreach at 9 a.m. by Pima County Justice for All. The group is collecting signatures for the initiative, which would change the Pima County code to allow access to a public defender for indigent residents facing deportation or detention. It needs to collect 75,000 signatures by next July to make it onto the November 2022 ballot.

The neighborhood outreach will include signature gathering, voter registration and distribution of information about COVID-19 vaccine availability, said Anakarina Rodriguez, Arizona civic engagement director for Care in Action US, a group that represents domestic workers across the country.

After the door-to-door portion of the event wraps up at noon, the celebration will begin at Mission Manor Park, 5900 S. 12th Ave., where the public is invited for hot dogs and music and to hear speakers, including Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, City Council member Lane Santa Cruz and Pima County Attorney Laura Conover.

The county attorney’s office will be on site to provide information about marijuana expungement and to hand out gun locks. Masks and hand sanitizer will be distributed by other groups.

The event will also feature on-site COVID-19 vaccinations and information about immigration resources around town. Representatives from Keep Tucson Together will be there to answer questions about citizenship.

With several groups making the trip down from Phoenix, including the International Painters Union Local 86, Rodriguez said the event is collaborative.

“It’s so exciting to see Arizona coming together for a community like Tucson and supporting Justice For All’s efforts,” Rodriguez said.

Martha Reyes, campaign manager for the ballot initiative, said the pandemic has posed a challenge to signature-gathering efforts. She and her colleagues are grateful for the event and the opportunity to spread the message about what they’re working towards.

“We want to establish a legal office for undocumented folks in deportation proceedings. These are typically poor people who don’t have money to get a lawyer,” Reyes said. “They’re people who have been here for years, and the only thing they want is a better life and a better future for their kids. A simple (traffic) stop can change their whole lives.”

The initiative calls for Pima County to establish on office of immigration representation, to be paid for through public and private funding.

The group has more than 6,000 signatures, but Reyes acknowledged the group still has a lot of work to do. It needs more volunteers to help with canvasing and getting the message out, she said.

“We have broken families and we want to change that here in Pima County,” Reyes said. “They’re part of our community. Everybody knows somebody who’s undocumented.”

Other groups involved in the event include Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, Tucson Jobs with Justice, LUCHA — Living United for Change in Arizona, Arizona Center for Empowerment, Corazón Arizona and more.