Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Breathing While Undocumented

I’m glad I’ve already seen the Grand Canyon.
Because I’m not going back to Arizona as long as it remains a police state, which is what the appalling anti-immigrant bill that Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law last week has turned it into.
What would Arizona’s revered libertarian icon, Barry Goldwater, say about a law that requires the police to demand proof of legal residency from any person with whom they have made “any lawful contact” and about whom they have “reasonable suspicion” that “the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States?” Wasn’t the system of internal passports one of the most distasteful features of life in the Soviet Union and apartheid-era South Africa?
And in case the phrase “lawful contact” makes it appear as if the police are authorized to act only if they observe an undocumented-looking person actually committing a crime, another section strips the statute of even that fig leaf of reassurance. “A person is guilty of trespassing,” the law provides, by being “present on any public or private land in this state” while lacking authorization to be in the United States — a new crime of breathing while undocumented. The intent, according to the State Legislature, is “attrition through enforcement.”
Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, a Democrat from Tucson, has already called on the nation’s business community to protest the law by withholding its convention business. Such boycotts can be effective, as demonstrated in the late-1980s when the loss not only of convention business but of — horrors! — the Super Bowl prompted Arizona voters to reinstate a Martin Luther King holiday in the state.
But a boycott is a blunt instrument that can hurt innocent business owners and their employees. So I will stick to my own personal protest without presuming to urge anyone else to follow my example.
Rather, I’ll offer a reflection on how, a generation ago, another of the country’s periodic anti-immigrant spasms was handled by the Supreme Court. In 1975, Texas passed a law to deprive undocumented immigrant children of a free public education. Many thousands of children — a good number of whom were on the road to eventual citizenship under immigration laws that were notably less harsh back then — faced being thrown out of school and deprived of a future.
The law was challenged in federal court, with the Carter administration supporting the plaintiffs. By the time the case, Plyler v. Doe, reached the Supreme Court, Ronald Reagan was president, and there was a major debate within his administration over whether to change sides. Rex E. Lee, the admirable solicitor general, refused to do so.
In June 1982, by a vote of 5 to 4, the Supreme Court struck down the Texas law. Justice William J. Brennan Jr. wrote for the majority that the constitutional guarantee of equal protection prohibited the state from imposing “a lifetime hardship on a discrete class of children not accountable for their disabling status.” Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., a Nixon appointee and the swing justice of his day, provided the fifth vote. The law “threatens the creation of an underclass of future citizens and residents,” he wrote.
I have no doubt that but for that ruling, public school systems all over the country would be checking papers and tossing away their undocumented students like so much playground litter. Blocked from that approach, local governments now try others. The city of Hazleton, Pa., passed a law that made it a crime for a landlord to rent an apartment to an undocumented immigrant. A federal district judge struck down the law on the ground that immigration is the business of the federal government, not of Hazleton, Pa.
Indeed, federal pre-emption would appear to be the most promising route for attacking the Arizona law. Supreme Court precedents make clear that immigration is a federal matter and that the Constitution does not authorize the states to conduct their own foreign policies.
My confidence about the law’s fate in the court’s hands is not boundless, however. In 1982, hours after the court decided the Texas case, a young assistant to Attorney General William French Smith analyzed the decision and complained in a memo: “This is a case in which our supposed litigation program to encourage judicial restraint did not get off the ground, and should have.” That memo’s author was John G. Roberts Jr.
So what to do in the meantime? Here’s a modest proposal. Everyone remembers the wartime Danish king who drove through Copenhagen wearing a Star of David in support of his Jewish subjects. It’s an apocryphal story, actually, but an inspiring one. Let the good people of Arizona — and anyone passing through — walk the streets of Tucson and Phoenix wearing buttons that say: I Could Be Illegal.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Yesterday's Press Conf & Rally Report Back! & ACTION ALERT: VETO SB 1070!

The American Friends Service Committee, Faith and Immigrant Rights Groups to Decry Arizona Bill and Draconian ICE Action
Say to President Obama Stop Separating Our Families
The Arizona state legislature recently passed Senate Bill 1070 which would institutionalize racial profiling and the division of families. Thursday, around 1,000 law enforcement agents aggressively descended upon Arizona communities from Phoenix to Tucson, creating extreme panic. On the heels of a yet to be signed SB 1070, this raid further terrorized community members and left them wondering if they are now living in a police state. ICE claimed to be targeting a smuggling ring. While only 47 people were arrested, the impacts were felt throughout Tucson, Phoenix, Nogales as ICE vehicles and masked agents roamed the streets.
As part of a national response to these brutal actions, the American Friends Service Committee held a press conference in Denver today at El Centro Humanitario para Los Trabajadores in solidarity with the communities of Arizona resisting fear and repression.
Dr. Phil Campbell from the Iliff School of Theology, led the crowd in prayer to open the conference, while more than 60 people listened with head bowed.
People traveled from Boulder, Longmont and Greeley to the rally. “This bill is so hateful. I can’t believe I live in a time where people are asked for their papers based on what they look like, like Nazi Germany. I had to come out and show my support for Arizona communities and to stand against this kind of bill” stated Bob Norris.
Jennifer Piper, from the American Friends Service Committee spoke next, “The actions by the Arizona senate and ICE this past week do not recognize the contributions of immigrants and divide our communities. The truth is that immigrants are intricately part of our community, anything you do to them; you do to all of us. We reject this bill. We reject the raids and heightened enforcement of the Obama administration, which deported more people last year than the Bush administration did. We call on President Obama to stop the raids and put energy into passing just and humane immigration reform this year”.
Jenny, a mom and leader with Rights for All People, spoke about how dangerous legislation like this is saying “This legislation forces law enforcement to spend more time acting as ICE agents and spend less time on community safety. Victims and witnesses of crime will be even more afraid to call the police for help.” Jenny called for people to contact Arizona Governor Brewer and ask her to veto the bill.
“Already, pastors across Arizona are receiving panicked and fearful calls from their communities asking what will happen to them now” said Jeff Johnsen of Mile High Ministries “This type of legislation divides our community and puts families under greater threat. I believe in the rule of law, but I also believe as Christians we have to advocate for just laws.”
Alec, of Centro Humanitario added that workers rights are impacted by raids and enforcement resulting in bad actor employers being able to take further advantage of their employees. “We need immigration reform, not the enforcement of broken laws. I challenge the community to do more than just come to this press conference, more than just march on May 1st, get involved with a group and make your voice heard”, said Alec.
In addition to the humanitarian and community safety reasons for opposing the bill, many law enforcement groups in Arizona opposed the bill based on cost. According to the Arizona newspaper Phoenix New Times, Yuma County Sheriff Ralph Ogden said “that his county would have to pick up the tab for training costs related to the legislation, and the cost of holding more inmates on state charges in his facilities. "We don't have enough people to be doing what we're supposed to be doing anyway. But you have to prioritize. And if you start spending less time on property crimes and personal crimes, you don't want to do that." Secretary Napolitano, in response to letters from law enforcement opposing SB1070, came out against the bill in March saying it took away law enforcement’s ability to prioritize.
Adding insult to injury, ICE conducted massive visible raids on Thursday in Tucson and Phoenix in “Operation Plain Sight”. More than 1,000 heavily armed law enforcement officials descended into local communities, many of them wearing masks. In a press release from an Arizona, Kat Rodriguez of Derechos Humanos described ICE's chaos, "There was a massive show of force, with helicopters, dozens of agents, police vehicles, and weapons, assaulting our community in a fashion never seen before." She continued, "This raid marks a new low in the Obama Administration's lack of accountability".
Reverend Woodliff-Stanley, board member of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado closed asking “Who is important in our community?” The crowd answered “Everyone!” Rev. Woodliff-Stanley ended by saying “The timing and scope of these raids almost seem designed to maximize fear in the community. We are all one community, one human family, and we all deserve respect and to have our inherent dignity recognized”.
For Immediate Release: Monday, April 19, 2010
Contact: Jennifer Piper, jpiper@afsc.org , 720-301-1858 or Jordan Garcia, jgarcia@afsc.org 303.919.8798

At Coloradans For Immigrant Rights, we KNOW that the immigrant communities of Arizona are often a testing ground for anti immigrant legislation that will then permeate the rest of the nation. As neighbors to Arizona, let’s stand in solidarity with communities resisting repression!
Sabemos que las comunidades inmigrantes de Arizona muchas veces son usadas como lugar de prueba para legislación anti-inmigrante que después inponen por el resto del país. Siendo vecino de Arizona, penémonos en solidaridad con las comunidades resistiendo represión.
Para leer esta mensaje en español, clic aquí
We Are All Arizona/Todas y Todos Somos Arizona
Stop the Criminalization of Immigrants, End Racial Profiling!
Demand that Governor Brewer Veto SB 1070
This week, Arizona could make history and protect human rights by VETOING one of the worst anti-immigrant and racially targeted laws our nation has seen in decades.
SB 1070 was passed by the Arizona state legislature and awaits the signature of Governor Jan Brewer.
Raise your voice now for justice & equality: We are all Arizona
Click here to read and sign the petition to tell Governor Brewer to VETO SB 1070.
In no small coincidence, on Thursday, April 15,the Department of Homeland Security carried out multiple massive raids in Arizona, terrorizing hundreds of workers, families, and children. Over 800 ICE agents were joined by U.S. Marshals and local law enforcement, causing fear and panic across several Arizona communities while the state legislature passed SB 1070, which permanently criminalizes the immigrant community.
With one click, help our sister communities in Arizona to stop DHS attacks on our rights and the new Arizona law. Click here to tell Gov. Brewer to veto SB 1070, the anti-immigrant racial profiling law.
If signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer, SB 1070 would:
• Criminalize all undocumented immigrants as "trespassers" in the state of Arizona. SB 1070 would subject all undocumented workers and their families to arrest and conviction for misdemeanors, and in some cases felony charges for the new crime of "trespass" (reminiscent of HR 4437, the 2005 'Sensenbrenner bill').
• Legalize unchecked racial profiling by police of anyone they "suspect" is undocumented.
• Give police the authority to enforce federal immigration law and arrest people who cannot produce identification proving their legal residency in the U.S.
• Give police the power to investigate and entrap employers for hiring undocumented workers.
• Make seeking work illegal for day laborers and force all individuals, regardless of immigration status or citizenship, to carry identification papers or be subjected to detention and even deportation. Public agencies and service providers would have authority to demand identification documents from any person.
We are ALL Arizona
The repercussions of such a law will be devastating for immigrants and all communities of color in Arizona. Moreover, SB 1070 will have dangerous consequences, setting a national precedent for states and federal law, permanently criminalizing immigrants.
The DHS raid and SB 1070 law in Arizona are a turning point in our fight for socially just immigration reforms. The "immigration blueprint" announced by Senators Schumer and Graham last month is a proposal that allows such criminalization of immigrants. It promises to "fill gaps in apprehension capabilities" that will likely lead to the use of local police nationally to terrorize immigrant communities.
The VETO of SB 1070 will send a historic signal to Congress, the Obama Administration and the country that the further criminalization of immigrant workers, families and communities will not solve the problem.
Tell Gov. Brewer to VETO SB 1070 and raise your voice for socially just immigration reforms that uplift human rights and dignity.
Thanks to folks at presente.org for their support of the petition process.
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights