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Young Immigration Activist Celebrates a Win

July 18, 2013

By Ellen Bravo

 Katherine FigueroaI met Katherine Figueroa on Mother’s Day in 2010, when I traveled to Phoenix with other activists from We Belong Together.  We made the trip to talk with women and children on the front lines of Sheriff Arpaio’s attacks on immigrants.

I heard her speak twice that weekend, once to our group and then at a large rally protesting the SB 1070 law that treated aspiring citizens as criminals. Both times she wept as she described the raid that swept up her mother and father on their job as they worked, like parents do, to keep the lights on and food on the table.

What moved us most was her spirit. When we asked her what advice she had for her community, Katherine said, “Luchan” – fight for justice.

Earlier she had called on President Obama to help out. She made a video with this request: “Mr. President, I want you to help me, and my family, and my parents. I want them back.”

Organizers said Katherine was the first to talk about the President’s power to end the brutality. “He has two daughters,” she told us. “Maybe one of them is my age. I don’t want Sheriff Arpaio hurting other people or my parents again.”

Katherine spoke – and those in power have listened. Yesterday in a courtroom in Phoenix, the case against her parents was closed. Katherine worked with Puente, a grassroots group in Arizona who helped win a federal judge’s decision in May that Sheriff Arpaio had violated the constitutional rights of Latinos by targeting them in traffic stops and raids.

I know Katherine will continue to lift her voice, as part of a powerful movement demanding an end to policies that rip families apart. As she told a New York Times reporter, “I wanted there to be justice for my parents and justice for the fathers and mothers whose only crime was to work.”

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