Promise AZ Director Petra Falcón Reveals Plan Against Arpaio, Voting Efforts

By Editor June 9, 2016 10:08

By Lorin McLain

(Photo Credit: Facebook/Johnny Lozoya)

Petra Falcón is the executive director of immigrant rights organization Promise Arizona, and a leading figure in a statewide initiative to mobilize Latino voters. She’s also a staunch critic of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. recently spoke to her about her mission and perspective on the ongoing Arpaio case over search and seizure raids.

Q: How did you get involved in an effort to unseat Sheriff Joe?

Falcon: “Our story with Joe Arpaio is mainly how he’s impacted our families. I had been working on the national level on causes and immigration reform, and when SB 1070 hit in 2010, it was very obvious that Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Russell Pierce, and Governor Jan Brewer were all working together to make immigrants in the state of Arizona the culprit of what was going bad in Arizona – the economy, state budget, you name it. They were blaming everything on immigrants. And of course, Joe Arpaio had this power to ask anybody: ‘Do you have any papers,’ and he just really hurt families.

They were being picked up. He was holding raids in neighborhoods. I had been working in southern Arizona for 13 years organizing church and community groups, addressing issues important to these families. I spent a lot of time with farm workers in Yuma and immigrants across the border on really trying to understand what’s going on both sides of the border.

The story of Arizona is immigrants have always played a role of building the economy, and being the workforce of the economy, and they’ve always been abused. When SB 1070 hit, Joe Arpaio was the enforcement, and continues to do that. He’s terrorized our community.”

Q: So what was the basis of your organizing efforts?

Falcon: “In 2012, he had a Democratic opponent, so we created the infrastructure of support to get him out. We came very close through voter registrations and get-out-the-vote efforts, along with local partners, especially with labor union Unite Here. We came close, but Arpaio had a lot of outside money, 9 million dollars that he spent on his campaign. We registered over 34,000 new voters.”

Q: I’m guessing you’re doing something similar with him coming up for re-election this fall?

Falcon: “Promise Arizona is an immigrant rights organization. Our focus is leadership development and civic engagement. We have been registering voters since 2010. Obviously, we’re gearing up to register eligible Latino voters across the state to get them out to vote in November.”

Q: Arpaio’s case has been gaining attention, with him facing possible criminal charges. Do you think this will have any impact on him securing re-election?

Falcon: “We’re doing the education necessary so that people are now voting early. We’ve added a significant number of voters who now vote by mail, that hopes to get a higher turnout because people vote as early as 30 days before the election; or at least get some assistance voting if they still have questions about who’s on the ballot, or what issues are on the ballot. So, we’ve been growing the Latino electorate.

What’s significant this year, is it’s presidential. We know people will vote at a higher rate. This year, we have Donald Trump who is energizing the electorate around the same things that have been happening in Arizona over the last decade – the anti-immigrant, hateful language of being divisive. This time, more than any other time, Latinos, Hispanics, they know who’s running for president – more so than ever before. Everybody knows Donald Trump.”

Q: So you’re expecting a record turnout?

Falcon: “We’re expecting a record turnout because it’s generated that kind of disgust. The numbers of people who are permanent legal residents, are becoming citizens, there are more people who are registering Independent, and now are registering Democrat to vote for the Democratic candidate. It’s a dynamic we have not seen in a long time. Yes, I do think it will energize the Latino electorate. In fact, some people are saying Latinos will elect this next president.”

Q: What do you see the odds of Arizona going blue this year?

Falcon: “I think it has potential. We are working hard to make sure Latinos go to the polls. That is our focus. We are predicting record numbers of Latinos going to the polls this year.”

Q: Do you think Arpaio will face criminal charges?

Falcon: “I pray he will. From what I understand of what the judge has rendered, there’s enough ammunition for a criminal case. I personally think he will. What I’m hoping is they’ll take into consideration the damages to families who were victims of his abusive powers.

I’m not a legal person, but I think we should demand that. We should demand families should be compensated, should come forward and somehow have their cases reviewed in cases where he was able to separate families, incarcerate individuals. Justice will be served if that is able to happen.”

Q: Can you elaborate on your personal letter sent to President Obama posted on your website? You say it’s out of concern over plans by the Department of Homeland Security to conduct further immigration raids.

Falcon: “I think the president in his authority should have the moral initiative to stop what’s going on. In many cases, there’s a lack of due process in these raids.”

Q: Who’s mostly conducting these raids?

Falcon: “It’s a combination, but it’s mostly the feds.”

Q: And what happens to these families?

Falcon: “I’ve heard different things. I’ve heard they get picked up, and they get taken to the airport and put on a plane. It could be they get signed over. The question is, what’s the due process? Have they been able to see a judge? What are circumstances?

We just feel there needs to be consideration of why they’re here in this country. Because they’re fleeing violence, and we’re putting them on a plane and sending them back. That’s what we’re ultimately trying to prevent.”

By Editor June 9, 2016 10:08

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