Over the weekend, dozens of Arizonans shut down a major highway leading to a rally Republican frontrunner Donald Trump held in Phoenix, blocking supporters from attending the event for several hours.
One of the handful arrested on Saturday was Jacinta Gonzalez, who had locked her neck, with a U-lock, to a truck blocking the highway. But while her fellow activists were processed and released a few hours later, Gonzalez was held overnight, transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and questioned about her immigration status, despite the fact that she is a U.S. citizen.
Gonzalez, who works for the immigrant rights organization Mijente, told ThinkProgress that her white colleagues were released around midnight Saturday night. “But as a Latina with a Latina surname, I was the only person interviewed by ICE, and they placed an immigration detainer against me,” she said. In that interview, she refused to answer questions about her citizenship, saying only: “I’m invoking my constitutional right to remain silent and I want an attorney present.”
“Because I asserted my civil rights, I was retaliated against,” Gonzales said, referring to agents detaining her overnight. “I’m a fierce believer in the Constitution, and I don’t believe they have the right to interview people without a lawyer present. It’s extremely alarming, and it even violates ICE’s own policy. They are not supposed to put a immigration hold on people convicted of non-violent offenses.”
On Sunday morning, Gonzalez was handcuffed, shackled, and loaded into a van, where she was driven to an ICE field office. There, they fingerprinted her, realized she was a U.S. citizen, and released her. She speculates that they found a fingerprint match with her U.S. passport information.
She spoke about the experience in a video uploaded on Sunday:
Detective Doug Matteson at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to ThinkProgress that Gonzalez was charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor for blocking the highway and refusing to disperse. But he denied she was targeted by immigration agents.
“Everyone that enters Maricopa County Jail, whether it’s for spitting on the sidewalk or for murder, you are seen by ICE,” he said. “They interview everyone — male, female, black, white — and for some reason they put a hold on her. They always operate in our jail facility. It’s not like she was singled out.”
Yet courts have found that Maricopa County Sherriff Joe Arpaio and his department have engaged in systemic racial profiling. Arpaio, who recently endorsed Trump and provided the security services for his Phoenix rally, made reforms only after residents filed a class action lawsuit.
“The profiling I experienced shows what Trump is trying to promote,” Gonzalez told ThinkProgress. “We are really alarmed not only by Trump’s campaign but the space he’s opened up for other people to spew hatred and implement racist policies.”
As Arizona voters go to the polls today to cast their votes in the presidential primary, Gonzalez emphasized that Democrats and Republicans have both supported harsh immigration policies and share the blame for the current climate.
She said of the Obama administration: “They built up the prisons, they built up the deportation programs, they made sure Border Patrol and ICE are the largest they’ve ever been. They would just be handing over the keys to Trump with a full tank of gas.”