Puente Human Rights Movement is calling for the release of everyone arrested while protesting, but for one woman — a well-known Arizona “Dreamer” — they’ve launched a mass social-media campaign, hoping to stop her transfer to an immigration detention center.

But the campaign fell on deaf ears, and in the middle of the night Máxima Guerrero was taken into Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, where she will be processed and transferred to a detention center.

Guerrero is usually on the other end of organizing rallies or actions to release migrants from jail. As a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides her temporary legal immigration status, Guerrero has said she feels a responsibility to stand up for others without DACA.

Now, the community is rallying for Guerrero’s release. 

About 40 people gathered Monday morning at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement near downtown Phoenix, including Maxima’s lawyer, Ray Ybarra Maldonado.

Ybarra Maldonado told The Arizona Republic on Monday that he got word at about 3 a.m. that Guerrero was transferred to ICE custody and taken to the immigration field office in downtown Phoenix. He’s hoping to prevent ICE from moving her to an immigration detention facility in Eloy.

Puente organizers said she was arrested in Saturday’s protest. Her attorney is criticizing heavy-handed police tactics, saying she was in her vehicle leaving the protest with a group of legal observers when police arrested her.

Her friends and family urged people to flood Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone, Mayor Kate Gallego, Chief Jeri Williams and other council members with phone calls for the release of Guerrero, two other protesters without citizenship and all others arrested.

Guerrero, a community organizer with Puente, gained media attention for launching Ganaz Apparel in 2016. The fitness line is aimed at inspiring activism and healthy living for communities of color.


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Puente focused pressure on Penzone, creating a flier with Guerrero’s image, because organizers have long called on the sheriff to remove Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials from Maricopa County jails to stop transfers to detention centers.

In the photo for the flier, Guerrero’s smiling, holding her hands together and in large black text above her head it says: “Sheriff Penzone don’t comply with ICE!”

The flier was spread via social media and once Penzone’s voicemail filled from the slew of calls, organizers urged people to tweet and email the sheriff.

Phoenix Councilman Carlos Garcia told The Arizona Republic late Sunday that he wasn’t at Saturday’s protest, but that Guerrero was leaving the protest with a group of legal observers, including a young woman from his District 8 office. They thought she’d made it home safely until she called them from jail.

Garcia said they spoke with Guerrero from jail on Sunday. He said Guerrero told them that she was in her car leaving when police stopped and arrested her.

Police had declared the protest an unlawful assembly and were clearing the area of anyone who hadn’t followed repeated calls to leave.

Garcia said police should have allowed Guerrero to drive home rather than escalate an already tense situation as people across the state and nation continue protesting for justice for George Floyd and an end to police violence.

Despite Guerrero’s DACA status, she’s in jeopardy, Garcia said. To qualify for the program, migrants must have clean legal records.

The fear, Garcia said, is that Guerrero and anyone without citizenship arrested in the protests could be transferred to ICE, placed in a detention center, where they are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19, and eventually deported.

Garcia said police were heavy-handed in recommending felony charges against Guerrero and many other people protesting peacefully.

“There’s no probable cause for many of these arrests,” Garcia said. “Everybody got dragged in with a big net. You have 114 people arrested—you don’t know who was doing what.”

Court documents summarizing probable cause for the arrest provided to The Republic state “a large group of subjects gathered in the downtown area to protest recent police involved shootings in the United States.”

Shortly before 9 p.m., an officer gave a verbal warning for the crowd to disperse after people began blocking the roadway and gathering at the entrance to police headquarters, according to court records. After protesters threw fireworks and rocks at officers and damaged buildings, according to court records, an officer “declared the gathering to be a riot” and the crowd was repeatedly ordered to leave.

The records said the riot lasted until about 3 a.m. “only ending after numerous arrests were made.” No mention of what Guerrero was doing when she was arrested is noted in the probable cause summary provided to The Republic.

Garcia said civil-rights advocates want to see Guerrero and everyone arrested immediately released to their families. He said at least one other young woman without citizenship was arrested and doesn’t have DACA protection so they worry she’ll likely be transferred to an ICE detention center.

Garcia worries about the many young undocumented people who sympathize with the African-American communities call for justice and are joining protests in solidarity. The consequences for civil-rights actions can be life-changing for people without legal immigration status, he said.

“If you’re undocumented and arrested, you might never see your family again,” Garcia said.

Garcia said immigration attorneyYbarra Maldonado is representing Guerrero and many other arrested protesters. On Sunday, Ybarra Maldonado posted a scathing, profanity-laced criticism of police actions on his Facebook account.

“Ladies and gentleman, I’ve been an attorney here in Arizona for quite some time … I have never seen charges so absolutely false, inaccurate, just plain wrong as we’re seeing here on these cases that they’re bringing class 5 felony riot,” he said in the public post.

Ybarra Maldonado said he’s spoken with people who were picking up family members from the protest when police “pepper sprayed me, they dragged me out of the car, they arrested me and charged me with a class 5 felony for rioting.”

Adding that “there’s been a lot of concern for Maxima,” he encouraged people to call Penzone and city officials to urge her release.

Ybarra Maldonado said the judge in the majority of cases he’s witnessed isn’t buying police charges.

“We have a Superior Court judge sitting behind me here on the video screen telling everybody there is no probable cause,” he said, shouting in the post outside the court facility. “Phoenix Police Department, you arrested these individuals without probable cause. Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, you are continuing charges when there is no probable cause.”

Even if people are released without charges, Ybarra Maldonado said police are “causing young people to spend an entire night in jail, causing them to miss work, maybe lose their job, causing people to maybe lose their immigration status.”

Garcia said many of the protesters are 19- and 20-year-olds.

“It’s going to ruin your life, a felony can make it so they can’t get a job, can’t get a mortgage,” he said. “And the sad thing is it’s ruining young people’s lives because they were out there trying to bring justice.”

Puente has posted volunteers outside the jail waiting to give rides home to people released.

Garcia said Guerrero went before a judge after 8 p.m. Sunday. Her friends and family are waiting to see if she will be released or transferred into ICE custody and transported to an immigration detention center.

Guerrero’s arrest one day after her birthday has shocked the community. Her Facebook page is still filled with birthday wishes. One person wrote: “Hope this year is full of love and joy and abundant good health!”

Guerrero’s last Facebook post on Saturday before her arrest advocated for a Black Lives Matter campaign calling for people to donate bail money for protesters to the Phoenix metro Black People’s Justice Fund.

Now, people are pulling for Guerrero.

One woman wrote on Guerrero’s Facebook: “I want to wake up seeing the post that you were released and got home safe. May you feel our support, prayers, and love right now. We are with you.”

This is a developing story. Check for updates.

Dianna M. Náñez is an investigative reporter with The Arizona Republic. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter: @diannananez.

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