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After Arpaio Defeat, Immigration Activists Set Their Sights On President-Elect Trump

“I’m ready to fight,” one undocumented woman said. “We won the battle at the local level now we have to win the war at the national level.”

Posted on November 9, 2016, at 5:05 p.m. ET

Ross Franklin / AP

PHOENIX — A day after their victory against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, immigrant organizers in Phoenix began to set their sights on their upcoming battle against President-elect Donald Trump.

For these organizers in Maricopa County, Arpaio’s removal from office represents a hard-fought victory that took years to accomplish. Even as they celebrated with chants and an inflatable Arpaio in cuffs outside his office, the threat at the national level by the man the sheriff said was his "political soul mate” was on their minds.

Maria Rodriguez, an undocumented Phoenix woman who canvassed against Arpaio, said she was not afraid of a Trump presidency after the sheriff was defeated.

“I’m ready to fight,” Rodriguez told BuzzFeed News. “We won the battle at the local level now we have to win the war at the national level.”

Trump and Arpaio share a hardline stance on immigration. Trump has pledged to reverse President Obama’s executive actions that protected thousands of young undocumented immigrants, increase deportations, and increase border enforcement.

"We have mixed emotions today because of the uncertainty of what Trump promises to do. A lot of what he's promised is what happened in Arizona,” said Carlos Garcia an activist with Puente Arizona, a group working to stop the deportations of families. "In Arizona, we've faced Trump before. It looks like Joe Arpaio, it looks like Jan Brewer."

Paul Penzone
Matt York / AP

Paul Penzone

Thousands of undocumented immigrants have been caught in Arpaio’s sweeps in heavy Latino areas, often by pulling people over without probable cause. It was many of the same Latinos who were ensnared by Arpaio or had friends and family that were deported because of him that successfully mobilized against him, Garcia said.

Paul Penzone, a former Phoenix police sergeant who lost to Arpaio in 2012, beat the sheriff Tuesday night 55% to 45%.

"Arpaio wasn't taken down by coincidence he was taken down by the same people he hunted down," Carlos Garcia. "What we learned in Arizona to be victorious is what we're going to use against Trump.”

Last night Tania Unzueta, legal and policy director for Mijente which runs the #Not1More campaign to stop deportations, said her mother called her from an election viewing party in Chicago. Unzueta’s mother, who traveled to Phoenix to canvass against Arpaio, told her she didn’t cry like some of the other people around her because she in the sheriff’s loss she saw hope.

“There is something about feeling that this victory can be yours too,” Unzueta said. “The hope that I’m holding onto for the next four years is that it’s possible, the people who directly affected can win by strategizing and empowering themselves.”

Unzueta said now they have to analyze what worked and didn’t work in their campaign against Arpaio as something to use for the future. Though she is certain that the reason so many undocumented people were willing to risk going up against Arpaio is because they believed a group of people were supporting them.

“Over the next four years part of our jobs as Latinos is to figure out how to fuel a movement that supports each other that has power at the polling booths and beyond,” Unzueta said.

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