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Fighting Back in Arizona | The Nation

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Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

Opposing war, racism, sexism, climate change, economic injustice and high-stakes testing.

Fighting Back in Arizona

This past April, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer created a national uproar when she signed the harshest immigration bill in the US. The legislation, SB1070, grants police officers the power to stop and interrogate anyone they suspect as an undocumented immigrant and requires law enforcement officials to arrest those who cannot immediately prove they are in the country legally,

Opposition has been widespread and vigorous, both within Arizona and without. Nationally, as Christine Ahn and Linda Burnham detail at Foreign Policy in Focus, city councils across the country -- in Boston, West Hollywood, Oakland, Tucson, and Flagstaff -- have all passed resolutions against SB1070, and San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom imposed a moratorium on city worker's official travel to Arizona.

Unsurprisingly though, the most determined opposition to the bill is coming from the Arizona migratory communities being directly targeted and their longtime advocates in the field.  In the state there have been marches, demonstrations, rallies and urgent ground organizing by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights devoted to beating back the anti-immigrant bill before it takes effect in August. Even the Phoenix Suns basketball team expressed solidarity with migrant communities by wearing jerseys with "Los Suns" on Cinco de Mayo.

Fanning the flames of discontent, just three weeks after the anti-immigrant bill, Governor Brewer signed a new law banning ethnic studies in Arizona public schools. The law again targets the state's Latino community and is likely to shut down a popular Mexican American studies program in the Tucson school district. It will also affect specialized courses in African American and Native American studies.

In response, as a recent episode of DemocracyNow! highlights, students have taken to the streets to voice their opposition to the bill. On Wednesday, fifteen people, most of them students, were arrested protesting the law at the state offices of education in Tucson.

Over Mother's Day weekend, an emergency human rights delegation of feminist leaders, journalists, and grassroots organizers traveled to Phoenix to document the experiences of women and children in this hostile anti-immigrant climate. The delegation heard testimonies from undocumented women and children and visited one of the Tent City detention centers established by Joe Arpaio, the infamous sheriff of Maricopa County.

As Ahn and Burnham explain, women testified that not only were they afraid to seek out medical or other urgent social services, the threat of deportation also prevents them from reporting incidences of sexual assault, domestic violence, or exploitation on the job. Women said that they would not report a sexual assault because they cannot trust their supposed protectors. According to one woman, "If the law goes through, I don't think any woman will call the police again. It will be chaos. It will be terrible."

So, how to help beat back the law? Many advocates are calling for federal intervention. The National Day Laborer Organizing Network has put forth these three specific demands to the White House.

1. Reassert the federal government’s exclusive control over immigration law by making clear that state and local police do not have the inherent authority to enforce immigration law.

2. Immediately suspend and terminate all police-ICE partnerships, including 287(g) agreements and the so-called 'Secure Communities Initiative" with the state of Arizona.

3. Direct the Department of Homeland Security to refuse to take custody of anyone charged with violating provisions of SB1070.

These all seem right to me.  If you agree, you can write the Obama Administration imploring it to act immediately. There's also a major effort underway to stage national actions on Saturday, May 29. Find an event near you, help spread the word and let me know about other good anti-SB1070 initiatives in the comments field.

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