Person

Tomas Robles

Organization:

Living United for Change in Arizona

Tomas Robles (also known as Tomas Robles, Jr.) is an activist for expansionist immigration and other left-of-center policies in Arizona. He has been the executive director of Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) since 2013.

In October 2021, Robles led LUCHA in launching a series of confrontations against Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) for insufficiently supporting President Joe Biden’s government spending proposals. Protesters shouted outside a fundraiser hosted by Senator Sinema, entered a classroom, and began shouting at Senator Sinema while she was teaching. Activists followed Senator Sinema into a public restroom, and later an activist officially unaffiliated with LUCHA filmed and questioned Senator Sinema on a plane.

Early Life and Career

Tomas Robles was born in Tucson, Arizona, to Mexican immigrant parents, and grew up in Phoenix. After high school, Robles earned a degree in accounting from Arizona State University. He then enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps for five years. [1]

In 2009, Robles’s service ended, and he returned to Arizona State University to earn a degree in transborder studies. Robles begin his career in activism to oppose Arizona SB 1070, which instituted some of the toughest state-level laws targeting illegal immigration in the U.S. Robles worked as a community organizer for Promise Arizona, organizing a get-out-the-vote campaign and underwent training based on the New Organizing Institute’s volunteer recruitment strategies. Robles also briefly worked in an accounting job. [2] [3]

After graduating, Robles worked as an education coordinator for the Caesar Chavez Foundation. Robles recruited teachers for supplemental education programs for low-income schools, and organized local advocacy groups. [4] His first assignment with the Foundation, to design a budget override plan for a local school system, was given to him by the director of LUCHA, which Robles would eventually co-lead. Robles later stated that he felt the Caesar Chavez Foundation had too much bureaucracy limiting its effectiveness. [5]

Robles then got a fellowship with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and worked in the offices of the AFL-CIO’s immigration team and U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ). [6]

In 2012, Robles worked as a deputy field director for Promise Arizona in Action, where he oversaw a $2 million voter outreach project during the 2012 election. [7]

In December 2012, Robles became an outreach coordinator for the United Farm Workers Foundation where he developed strategies for local activism and immigration advocacy. [8]

Living United for Change in Arizona

In August 2013, Robles became the lead organizer LUCHA. In November, Robles became co-executive director and led the group alongside fellow-Arizona State University alumnus Alejandra Gomez. [9] [10]

In March 2016, after the endorsement of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump by controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (R-AZ), Robles led a protest in front of Governor Doug Ducey’s (R-AZ) office demanding that the Arizona Republican Party denounce Trump. [11]

In 2016, Robles was a major leader in the campaign to pass Proposition 206, which proposed to increase Arizona’s minimum wage to $10 in 2017, and $12 in 2020, as well as to mandate paid sick leave for employees. Prop 206 passed with 58.33% of the vote. [12] [13]

In January 2019, Robles was selected as one of thirty recipients of the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership’s Flinn-Brown Academy fellowship. [14]

In December 2019, Robles and Gomez co-authored an op-ed in the New York Times describing their views on the struggle over immigration in Arizona, particularly efforts to fight Arizona SB 1070 and Sheriff Arpaio. They criticized Republicans for supporting anti-immigration laws, referring to some lawmakers as “racists.” However, they criticized Democrats for using Latino voter and organizer support without incorporating Latinos into party leadership. They wrote that Democrats had “long treated communities of color as instruments of someone else’s power rather than core progressives who should be instruments of their own power.” Robles and Gomez took partial credit for reversing the tide of Arizona’s anti-immigration push over the last decade, which they claim was accomplished through grassroots mobilization and community outreach. [15]

Protests against Senator Kyrsten Sinema

Tomas Robles and LUCHA have been long standing critics of Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) since her campaign for Senate in 2018. Sinema served three terms in Congress where she initially identified as a progressive but steadily shifted to the traditionally liberal wing of the Democratic Party, eventually becoming a member of the moderate-liberal Blue Dog Coalition. While running for Senate, then-Rep. Sinema refused to endorse Democratic gubernatorial nominee David Garcia (D-AZ) because her immigration policy preferences were less liberal than his. Rep. Sinema also did not meet with Robles despite LUCHA campaigning for her, leading Robles to describe her as “not a centrist or a bold progressive but an opportunist.” However, Robles would later retract this statement. [16] [17]

On March 31, 2021, President Joe Biden unveiled his proposed $3.5 trillion social spending proposal. After Congressional negotiations, the proposal split into a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, and an additional $3 trillion “reconciliation” spending package pushed by Democrats alone. Senator Sinema became known as one of the most prominent Democratic critics of the social spending legislation; she argued that the $3.5 trillion bill should be reduced in scope. [18] Democrats initially proposed to add provisions to the bills to support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, but the initiative was rejected due to general opposition to the bill. Many immigrant activists, including LUCHA, believed that dissension from Democrats like Senator Sinema crippled the immigration efforts. [19]

LUCHA, which endorsed both bills, allegedly reached out to Senator Sinema numerous times to argue for their support, but never got a response. In early October, LUCHA under Robles organized a series of confrontations and protests against Senator Sinema. [20] [21]

On October 2, 2021, LUCHA members protested a private fundraiser hosted by Senator Sinema by shouting outside the building until Senator Sinema left. [22] [23]

On October 4, student members of LUCHA entered a classroom at Arizona State University (ASU) and began shouting at Senator Sinema and filming her while she was teaching a class. After she left the classroom, the protestors followed Senator Sinema into the bathroom and continued to ask her questions. Senator Sinema, who has been teaching at ASU for 19 years, deemed the protest unlawful and illegitimate. The students had not gained permission to either enter the building or film the class. [24] [25]

While flying back to Washington D.C., Senator Sinema was confronted by activist Karina Ruiz, who was filmed repeatedly asking Senator Sinema about her immigration policy beliefs while on the airplane. [26]

When asked about the incidents, President Biden said the tactics were not “appropriate” but that aggressive confrontations are “part of the process” of being an elected official. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki clarified that President Biden condemned the tactics used by LUCHA. [27]

After the incident, Robles issued a public statement supporting the protesters and urging Senator Sinema to enthusiastically support the administration-backed bills. [28]

Senator Sinema has refused to publicly respond to the protests. On October 4, her spokesman said, “We are not dignifying this behavior with a response.” [29]

References

  1. “Tomas Robles.” Arizona State University. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://thecollege.asu.edu/node/9704. ^
  2. Tomas Robles.” Arizona State University. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://thecollege.asu.edu/node/9704. ^
  3. “Tomas Robles.” LinkedIn. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomas-robles-5a139944/. ^
  4. “Tomas Robles.” LinkedIn. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomas-robles-5a139944/. ^
  5. “Tomas Robles.” Arizona State University. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://thecollege.asu.edu/node/9704. ^
  6. “Tomas Robles.” LinkedIn. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomas-robles-5a139944/. ^
  7. “Tomas Robles.” LinkedIn. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomas-robles-5a139944/. ^
  8. “Tomas Robles.” LinkedIn. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomas-robles-5a139944/. ^
  9. “Tomas Robles.” LinkedIn. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomas-robles-5a139944/. ^
  10. “Tomas Robles.” Arizona State University. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://thecollege.asu.edu/node/9704. ^
  11. “<Trump Picks Up Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Endorsement Before Arizona Primary.” NPR. March 18, 2016. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.npr.org/transcripts/470925848. ^
  12. “Arizona Minimum Wage and Paid Time Off, Proposition 206 (2016).” Ballotpedia. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://ballotpedia.org/Arizona_Minimum_Wage_and_Paid_Time_Off,_Proposition_206_(2016). ^
  13. Maxedon, Tom; Potter, Suzanne. “Arizona Minimum Wage Increases Again in 2018.” KJZZ. December 28, 2017. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://kjzz.org/content/585548/arizona-minimum-wage-increases-again-2018. ^
  14. “Arizona Center for Civic Leadership names 30 Fellows for 2019 Flinn-Brown Academy.” Flinn Foundation. January 31, 2019. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://flinn.org/arizona-center-for-civic-leadership-names-30-fellows-for-2019-flinn-brown-academy/. ^
  15. Gomez, Alejandra; Robles Jr., Romas. “How to Turn Anger and Fear Into Political Power.” New York Times. December 21, 2019. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/21/opinion/sunday/latinos-arizona-battleground.html. ^
  16. Flaherty, Joseph. “Kyrsten Sinema on the Defensive After NYT Report on Childhood Homelessness.” Phoenix New Times. September 25, 2018. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/kyrsten-sinema-new-york-times-childhood-homelessness-10865253. ^
  17. Martin, Jonathan. “A Senate Candidate’s Image Shifted. Did Her Life Story?” New York Times. September 24, 2018. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/24/us/politics/kyrsten-sinema-arizona.html. ^
  18. Castronuovo, Celine. “Sinema viewed unfavorably by one-third of Arizona Democrats in poll.” The Hill. September 30, 2021. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/574630-sinema-viewed-unfavorably-by-one-third-of-arizona-democrats-poll. ^
  19. “Arizona senator condemns activists pursuing her on campus.” The Darien Times. October 4, 2021. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.darientimes.com/news/article/Arizona-senator-condemns-activists-pursuing-her-16508662.php. ^
  20. Arizona senator condemns activists pursuing her on campus.” The Darien Times. October 4, 2021. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.darientimes.com/news/article/Arizona-senator-condemns-activists-pursuing-her-16508662.php. ^
  21. Gomez, Laura. “DACA leader confronted Kyrsten Sinema on flight, at ASU to ask for her support. They got silence.” AZ Mirror. October 5, 2021. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.azmirror.com/2021/10/05/daca-leaders-confronted-kyrsten-sinema-on-flight-at-asu-to-ask-for-her-support-they-got-silence/. ^
  22. “LUCHA Arizona.” Twitter. October 2, 2021. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://twitter.com/LUCHA_AZ/status/1444498965064347653. ^
  23. Gomez, Laura. “DACA leader confronted Kyrsten Sinema on flight, at ASU to ask for her support. They got silence.” AZ Mirror. October 5, 2021. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.azmirror.com/2021/10/05/daca-leaders-confronted-kyrsten-sinema-on-flight-at-asu-to-ask-for-her-support-they-got-silence/. ^
  24. Arizona senator condemns activists pursuing her on campus.” The Darien Times. October 4, 2021. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.darientimes.com/news/article/Arizona-senator-condemns-activists-pursuing-her-16508662.php. ^
  25. Luchetta, Julie. “Activists ambush Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in public bathroom over immigration, infrastructure.” USA Today. October 4, 2021. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/10/04/sen-kyrsten-sinema-bathroom-arizona-immigration-infrastructure/5990516001/. ^
  26. Gomez, Laura. “DACA leader confronted Kyrsten Sinema on flight, at ASU to ask for her support. They got silence.” AZ Mirror. October 5, 2021. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.azmirror.com/2021/10/05/daca-leaders-confronted-kyrsten-sinema-on-flight-at-asu-to-ask-for-her-support-they-got-silence/. ^
  27. “Arizona senator condemns activists pursuing her on campus.” The Darien Times. October 4, 2021. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.darientimes.com/news/article/Arizona-senator-condemns-activists-pursuing-her-16508662.php ^
  28. “Arizona senator condemns activists pursuing her on campus.” The Darien Times. October 4, 2021. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.darientimes.com/news/article/Arizona-senator-condemns-activists-pursuing-her-16508662.php. ^
  29. Luchetta, Julie. “Activists ambush Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in public bathroom over immigration, infrastructure.” USA Today. October 4, 2021. Accessed October 6, 2021. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/10/04/sen-kyrsten-sinema-bathroom-arizona-immigration-infrastructure/5990516001/. ^
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