Jeff Biggers: Arizona’s “Barrio Defense” Rises for SCOTUS Decision on SB 1070
They are also asking their fellow Arizona neighbors and politicians to take a stand.
“Within Arizona we’re ready to pose the question to every individual and institution, police department and school district, what side are you on?” Puente executive director Carlos Garcia wrote in an email. “SB 1070 can only function if individuals allow undocumented people to be singled out, if school districts allow their security guards to double as immigration agents, if businesses refuse to offer us safe haven, and ultimately if Obama’s administration agrees to deport whoever Arpaio turns over to ICE.”
Case in point: As President Obama announced his new policy for certain undocumented youth last week, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio ramped up his anti-immigrant dragnets and snared an unaccompanied and undocumented 6-year-old girl who quite possibly lost her parents on the dangerous journey from El Salvador to the United States.
“For migrants in Arizona, our work has turned towards building power for and amongst ourselves,” Garcia noted in an interview. “We went to Congress for reform and were treated like a political football. We asked the president for relief and instead got record deportations. Now even the courts may give SB 1070 the greenlight. It’s time we realize we have only each other and instead of appealing to the powers-that-be, start organizing deeper in our community so that our goals are unshakable demands instead of requests.”
As the nation awaits the Supreme Court decision, Garcia offered his thoughts on the role of the barrio defense committees, civil rights organizations and national advocates, and the parallel between the Obama administration and Arizona’s own draconian immigration law.
Jeff Biggers: Do you anticipate a Supreme Court ruling in favor of AZ’s SB 1070, and if so, do you feel Democrat promises — such as the one made by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer in April, to pass federal legislation to overrule SB 1070 — provide any hope for the future?
Carlos Garcia: Sadly, the court that gave us Plyer v. Doe and Brown v. Board of Education is not likely to decide on the right side of history with its ruling in the Department of Justice case against Arizona SB 1070.
Linda Greenhouse explained it best when explaining how the Department of Justice argued against 1070 in the Supreme Court, but didn’t do so on the grounds of racial profiling or civil rights:
Many casual followers of this case, State of Arizona v. United States, no doubt assume it has something to do with the rights of undocumented immigrants. As the argument made abundantly clear, it doesn’t. The question, rather, is which of two sovereigns, the United States or the state of Arizona, has the right to make the immigrants’ lives difficult.
What the federal government was arguing was that Obama’s deportation machine, via programs the DOJ defended in court like Secure Communities, should be the authority in making immigrants life’s unbearable instead of laws such as SB 1070.
So those of us in Arizona and 1070 copycat states are gearing up for the reality that the “Arpaios” of the country may be given another tool to make our lives miserable. Neither Democrats nor Republicans are likely to be much help in defending our rights after the court ruling.
After SB 1070 passed in 2010, Sen. Schumer sent a letter to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer that asked for a delay of the bill in order to pass immigration reform in Congress “before enactment of SB 1070 becomes necessary.” The day before the Supreme Court hearing, Schumer called in Russell Pearce to a Congressional hearing dismissed as political circus.
For migrants in Arizona, our work has turned towards building power for and amongst ourselves. We went to Congress for reform and were treated like a political football. We asked the president for relief and instead got record deportations. Now even the courts may give SB1070 the greenlight. It’s time we realize we have only each other and instead of appealing to the powers-that-be, start organizing deeper in our community so that our goals are unshakable demands instead of requests.
JB: Do you think there is enough support by Arizona residents — and their outside allies — to launch a mass movement to effectively launch wide-scale non-compliance and halt deployment of the law?
CG: There already is a widespread mass movement fighting back against SB 1070 and its federal counterparts. As I write there are undocumented youth staging sit-ins in presidential campaign offices nationwide calling for relief. Across the country, cities and states are stopping individual deportations, pushing back against dragnet programs, and passing TRUST Acts to become the opposite of the Arizona model.
FULL ARTICLE HERE: Jeff Biggers: Arizona’s “Barrio Defense” Rises for SCOTUS Decision on SB 1070.
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