In 2007, grassroots organization Puente Human Rights Movement (Puente) came together as a coalition of immigrant rights groups, indigenous peoples, and citizens, who opposed anti-migratory policy and pushed for the conversation of fighting immigrant rights as a for human rights issue in Arizona. Puente originated as a united front organization that protested, documented, and spread public awareness on the harassment and exploitation of day laborers by off duty MCSO deputies. In 2013, Puente has a base membership of over 300 immigrant community members and over 150 allied community members.
Puente’s fight to defend human rights for immigrants begins with the repeal of anti-immigration policy that the organization believes violates personal rights. Short-term strategies to defend immigrant rights consist of challenging anti-immigrant laws by working on political campaigns, protesting, civic engagement, and direct action. Throughout the years, Puente has been able to use their political power to mobilize immigrants and citizens both on a state and national level. Puente’s political campaigns and victories include their fight in documenting racial profiling abuses by MCSO in 2010. Puente documented and interviewed immigrants who were victims of racial profiling and jail abuse and managed to create a national opposition against the policing practices of MSCO at the expense of immigrant’s rights. Puente’s work culminated in having the Department of Justice and the FBI investigate the policing practices of MCSO with access to the 287(g) Agreements. Campaign efforts resulted in the removal of 287(g) access for MCSO by the Department of Justice on the justification that federal policy was used to target a specific ethnic group.
Currently, Puente continues to work to challenge existing policy such as SB1070, Operation Streamline, and Arpaio’s workplace raids. Moreover, Puente is recognized on a local and national level for their direct action strategy when making political demands for the full inclusion of undocumented immigrants. Puente has built a movement that pushes for political reform by creating different outlets where immigrants are able to build a poltical voice in though their local, national and international networks. Puente organizes in efforts to build a political platform in which all immigrants are able to represent themselves in political sectors such as senate hearings and police department meetings.
Puente operates with an Open Hand Closed Hand strategy that works in tandem to create empowerment of immigrants in the state of Arizona. The Closed Hand organizing philosophy (otherwise recognized as a fist) represents fighting against enforcement. Fighting is conceptualized as fighting against anti-migratory policies through direct action, civic engagement, public awareness, protest, and civil disobedience. The Closed Hand stands as one of the main foundations upon which the organization can bring about political change in the state of Arizona.
The Open Hand philosophy represents Puente’s mission to serve the immigrant community by welcoming immigrants and providing a space for immigrants to co-exist as a community. Puente serves to create community by providing free English classes, immigration counseling, Know Your Rights Workshops, gardening, and health and wellness projects. Together the Open Hand and Closed Hand organizing strategy work side by side as a mechanism to empower and educate Arizona immigrants to fight for their rights as workers and human beings in Maricopa County.
As a broader international movement, Puente works as a human rights organization that creates national and international alliances with immigrant, labor, and women’s rights in efforts to create a united front to demand human rights for all communities around the world. Puente is one of the few immigrant rights organizations that create political demands using human rights framework and bridges the intersectionality of immigrants and indigenous people of the Northern Americas. Puente’s organizational demands as a human rights movement works to achieve their most basic human rights demands: 1) allow immigrants the freedom to freely migrate as stated in UNDIP, 2) allow immigrants to be reunited with family members, 3) immigrants should have the right to work and posses protections as international workers, 4) immigrants have the right to protest and gain a political voice, 5) all people have a right to education, 6) call an end to racial discrimination of all forms against immigrants.