El Sueño Americano (The American Dream)

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We’ll talk to photographer Tom Kiefer about El Sueño Americano, an exhibition of the personal effects and belongings of migrants and smugglers apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection near the Arizona/Mexico border.

Richard Ruelas: Good evening and welcome to "Horizonte," I'm Richard Ruelas. A federal judge has not decided whether or not to charge criminal cases to sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Richard Ruelas: and, we'll tell you where you can see a personal exhibition of immigrants. All this coming up, straight ahead on "Horizonte."

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Richard Ruelas: this week, a federal judge weighed potential penalties against sheriff Joe Arpaio. Joining me is Megan Cassidy, a colleague at the Public Safety Reporter for the Arizona Republic.

Megan Cassidy: Thanks for having me.

Richard Ruelas: So, what happened in the courtroom?

Megan Cassidy: There was a lot that happened, there was a little that happened. This was an extension of what happened on Friday, they outlined they think the remedy should look like for civil content.

Richard Ruelas: The judge stood?

Megan Cassidy: Yeah. In previous hearings, he's taken not a back seat role but he lets the attorneys drive. He had a list in his head and even if, you know, one attorney said this, he said, I don't want to hear about this. This is what I want to hear about.

Richard Ruelas: Part of your job is to read them. Do you have a feeling of where he is headed?

Megan Cassidy: Sure. There's two huge portions of the remedy that we were going over all day. One was the internal affairs investigation, that snow and plaintiff believe are completely messed up, that they are way too excused. And so the plaintiff and defense attorney worked together. Plaintiffs and doj attorneys want a third party to come in and basically have [Indiscernible] relinquish all of the power.

Richard Ruelas: So if there's an internal affairs investigation, there's a chance it's not Arpaio's office?

Megan Cassidy: Yes. Or in some way, what snow wants is for -- what he said rehabilitate. He wants them to have a part in that, to learn what the proper techniques are from this third-party to eventually hand the reigns back over to them.

Richard Ruelas: Snow believes the internal affairs investigation, if they were keen in violating this case, they were let off light? So this would be a retaining? This sounds like pretty harsh measures.

Megan Cassidy: He actually voided several of the investigations that have stemmed from this case. There is a back and forth on whether that will be constitutional. There's a lot to be ironed out there, as far as details.

Richard Ruelas: there was talk of money compensation. What did each side think is appropriate dollar amount to give to people who were illegally detained or detained in violation of the court order?

Megan Cassidy: There was 17 months after the court had banned the sheriff's deputies from enforcing federal immigration law that apparently, they still did. They found 157 of these potential people that could be claimants. The defense said, we think they should be paid $500 and an additional $3,000. Plaintiff's wanted $1,500. Show didn't officially rule on this but he indicated he was leaning towards $1,000 and $200 for each additional hours.

Richard Ruelas: He's taken each side's numbers. Is there an indication of how he arrived at that?

Megan Cassidy: The whole hearing was very conversational. He said -- plaintiff's wanted an extra $1,000 for each additional hour. Snow said, that looks a little deep, let's go with $200. I don't know if he gave away any of the inner workings of his mind.

Richard Ruelas: What people were waiting for -- again, we're so used to covering criminal cases that I use the wrong vocabulary at times. This is a civil case. There's talk of this becoming a criminal case.

Megan Cassidy: He said it would come later. [LAUGHTER] that's something that's expected. Historically, he's been very deliberate. You can see from the hearings from last year, what started off, it was supposed to be four days of hearings, turned into 21. He doesn't come to rash decisions and anybody that's been following this case wasn't too surprised by that. Of course, as a reporter, it was a bit of a let-down.

Richard Ruelas: Federal judges, especially, get to set their own time tables so there's no idea when he might say what happens?

Megan Cassidy: It's going to be at least another 30 days. That's when each side has a couple of deadlines in between there. He seemed to telegraph that he was looking very, very carefully at a couple of people.

Richard Ruelas: He added some new names?

Megan Cassidy: He did. First and foremost, Arpaio is the most. Jerry Sheridan, the chief deputy and two other names, their defense attorney and captain [Indiscernible]

Richard Ruelas: that was what was inside the courtroom. Talk about what was going on outside of the courtroom, both in the building and in the plaza. What is what you expected as you walked up to the courthouse?

Megan Cassidy: You get -- your typical players that are usually there. I was very surprised to see this big, giant inflatable Joe Arpaio out on my lunch break. He wasn't there when I got there. But he was there by the time I got out for lunch.

Richard Ruelas: We figure that -- it's not a 60-foot Arpaio. It's about --

Megan Cassidy: I guess 20 feet. That's not official though.

Richard Ruelas: Like someone put a lot of time and effort.

Megan Cassidy: Oh, yeah. There's always protestors any time there's a court hearing. This one was especially spirited.

Richard Ruelas: Getting into the courtroom itself, what was it like?

Megan Cassidy: I described it like black Friday. There were at least 50 people out there, all kind of huddled up at the door. You felt like you were going to get trampled if you got in. I was marking my way, who I had to push out of the way. [LAUGHTER] the court Marshalls had to say, defendants and attorneys, in here first. Stop it there. Then the media could come in next.

Richard Ruelas: Were there a lot of media there? I mean, obviously, there's --

Megan Cassidy: yeah, there is. And then, they actually took it to another level this time. They came over to the media and said you only have one representative from each outlet. Sometimes they do have a couple of people there [Indiscernible] intern watching. But this time, they made it very specific that they only wanted one person per outlet.

Richard Ruelas: and every outlet was represented?

Megan Cassidy: I would think so.

Richard Ruelas: The public had to be let in, not in a mass rush?

Megan Cassidy: Right. In groups of 30.

Richard Ruelas: Wow.

Megan Cassidy: And it's not a huge courtroom, either. The first group of 30 pretty much filled it up. I managed to get in during that one. I'm not sure how they did the rest.

Richard Ruelas: The chaotic scenes outside. Inside, no signs, no air horns, people well-behaved?

Megan Cassidy: It's very strict inside. We're not allowed to be on our cell phones inside. There's rumor that the judge will kick anybody out if you've been tweeting. It's very, very strict in there. All the fun has to go outside.

Richard Ruelas: A no-nonsense job.

Megan Cassidy: Yeah.

Richard Ruelas: Thanks for joining us tonight. We'll obviously wait for the next [Indiscernible] or actual ruling from the judge coming down the pike.

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Richard Ruelas: last year, the group, "Living United for Change in Arizona," "LUCHA," "Equality Arizona," granted to provide education and outreach around fair housing organizations. Things improved. With me to talk about this is Alejandra Gomez and Elvia Espinosa. Thank you for joining us. We have a city of Phoenix representative means things went decent, but we'll find out. Alejandra, tell us the steps the group took with this grant? What were the first steps you took?

Alejandra Gomez: so, the first steps were actually were listening to our members. A lot of folks come in for immigration services, become members, receive support with citizenship, with [Indiscernible] English classes, citizenship classes. But, within those services, we were hearing back from them that they were having challenges based on their economics. Based on their housing.

Richard Ruelas: Meaning, they're trying to rent an apartment?

Alejandra Gomez: Absolutely. There's issues within their complexes that they were already living in so we started doing some investigating and found that there was a grant and in partnership with the city of Phoenix, starting working on figuring out, how can we make this come to life?

Richard Ruelas: Was the city -- was the city hearing similar stories?

Alejandra Gomez: The city of Phoenix, we are -- we are a fair housing agency that is, you know -- we a monitor and oversight, which is hud, federal program. Hud really wants government agencies to conduct outreach to the community, to let them know. Everyone has their housing rights.

Richard Ruelas: Had the city heard anecdotically these things?

Alejandra Gomez: The city knew there was challenges. But the reporting of such issues was so -- it was so underreported and so we decided to go ahead and submit for this grant and we were awarded the grant.

Richard Ruelas: This was almost a way to figure out, systematically, if there's a problem and how to fix it?

Alejandra Gomez: Correct.

For us, it came at the perfect time because our members were lifting us up so it was kind of the perfect synergy that happened.

Richard Ruelas: What kind of investigation do you do, to find out the extent of the problem?

Alejandra Gomez: Our organizers go out into the community and knock on doors and ask questions. There were [Indiscernible] people were saying, we have bedbugs here. My baby, I have to sleep with her at night and wipe off the bed bugs.

Richard Ruelas: how did you know where to go? You were listening to the people coming to your group and saying, this is where we live?

Alejandra Gomez: Uh-huh.

Richard Ruelas: What is the response? What do you do when you find the bed bug issue or the discrimination issue?

Alejandra Gomez: We would take reports and people would sign up and say they want to file a complaint. Often times, they reach out to Elvia and Elvia does a formal investigation and we decide whether it is education or discrimination or what do we need to do with the landlord.

Richard Ruelas: Bed bugs, I mean, you don't want those. That's the thing, you want to know whether these were a systematic problem that is landlords keeping bad apartments or if they were discriminating.

Richard Ruelas: What was the outcome?

Elvia Espinoza: Or goal was to partner with a nonprofit agency, grass roots agency who already had established relationships with the community because one of the things we recognized is that people are not reporting such issues, whether it be bed bugs or discriminatory issues because they are afraid. The political climate that's been set in this environment has been, you know, very fearful. You know, for the -- particularly, the Latino community. But the underserved, which was limited English proficiency. It could include refugees from other countries, as well. And so we partnered with "LUCHA" because they have the established relationship and people have a trust. So the goal is to build that trust with the community that, hey, you have these rights and if you report them, we're going to investigate them and we're not going to ask you or report you. We want to report that, you know, investigate it. That landlords, if they are discriminating. And if so, how to address the discrimination issues.

Richard Ruelas: Did you also look at how the discrimination is happening because of race or sexual orientation?

Alejandra Gomez: Absolutely.

Richard Ruelas: What was the outcome of that?

Alejandra Gomez: We worked with the city and elected officials for a particular case that basically, this complex completely just tossed out their residents. Not giving them notice, that they were selling the complex. And so typically --

Richard Ruelas: how do you determine that is -- not just a bad landlord, but discrimination?

Alejandra Gomez: That's our area of expertise so once we receive an actual complaint and it meets the legal threshold. You were in a protected status and you were impacted, we would formalize a complaint and investigate it.

Richard Ruelas: Do you talk to the landlord and say --

Elvia Espinoza: we talk to everybody.

Richard Ruelas: How do you figure out what the motivation is?

Elvia Espinoza: We figure out if there is pretext, meaning a certain group of individuals are treated betters than others. In some of the complexes that "LUCHA" went out to, it was a deplorable landlord condition but everybody in general. The majority of the tenants were primarily minorities because of the concentration of the complex, were Latinos.

Richard Ruelas: So if it's based on the fact that it's happening to minorities.

Elvia Espinoza: Uh-huh.

Richard Ruelas: Did you find -- hey, are there problems throughout Phoenix? And what happens going forward? Have you set groundwork for pending it?

Alejandra Gomez: Absolutely. Within "LUCHA," we're still partnering with the city to do housing fairs. There's a wider scope to discrimination and there's a lot of education that needs to happen and that education helps alleviate a lot of the fear that has been here. We have been able to create a bridge with the city to actually have communities go to the city and not feel that fear anymore of reporting and also, come to us and do something about it. So our communities can take responsibility and make the change within their own community.

Richard Ruelas: Education. Thank you, both, for joining us and giving us an update on this.

Alejandra Gomez: Thank you.

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Richard Ruelas: el sueño americano, the American dream, an exhibition. Joining me to talk about the exhibition is photographer Tom Kiefer. You decided to get a job as a janitor?

Tom Kiefer: I did move to [Indiscernible], the segment before, they were talking about housing rights. I wanted to fulfill my part of the American dream. I wanted to own my own house. So I known about [Indiscernible] for awhile. I had lived in L.A. for 20 years previously.

Richard Ruelas: It's much more affordable than L.A.

Tom Kiefer: absolutely. A few years after I moved there, my money was running out. Not that I had much to begin with. There was an ad in the paper, janitor, border patrol, so I took the job part-time and it was about -- so, I worked there for 11 years, from July 2003 until August 2014. About my fourth year working there, I was allowed to start taking the food that was transported by the migrants, dig it out of the trash and bring it to our local community food bank. The agents had previously been taken to the community food bank, which was wonderful and great. There was a change of leadership and that came to a halt so no more food bringing back to the food bank. It was, instead, taken to the landfill.

Richard Ruelas: And then it opens up to what else is being thrown away and you started collecting them. It would have been headed to the landfill and you rescued it and made it art. How do you create these images we're seeing?

Tom Kiefer: How do I create? I have this incredible archive of these personnel effects and belongings. When I was selecting the food and I would come across a rosary or Bible, I could not, in good conscious -- that is such a personal item. So I would just take these objects.

Richard Ruelas: So you started taking these objects, essentially as a way to rescue them.

Tom Kiefer: Clothing, shoes, blankets. I started bringing them to the thrift shop. Being an artist and being a photographer, I started realizing the power, the story behind these objects. And so --

Richard Ruelas: the groupings, I mean, it sounds like, as an artist, you essentially grouped similar objects together. What do you think that says? Bars of soaps together. Rubber duckies together?

Tom Kiefer: The ducks, that's unique. It's like, why are these ducks here? Well, those ducks were [Indiscernible] markers and left behind so that the next people would know where to go. So, the -- you know, this is some -- you know, you don't think, they're crossing the desert, why would they bring soap? And the water bottles, they're almost like art objects. And --

Richard Ruelas: each one, again -- represents something, that person who had that with them and it was deemed not essential. Where can we see this exhibit?

Tom Kiefer: It's in Gilbert, Arizona. It's scheduled to come down on June 18. It's gallery four.

Tom Kiefer: Photographer

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