Not only has 1070-style profiling and policing happened for years, it’s not the first time such legislation has been pushed in Arizona. In 2004 Proposition 200 narrowly passed which required proof of citizenship to register to vote or apply for social services and made it a misdemeanor for public officials to fail to report those who failed to provide proof. Much of this proposition was later vetoed, but it opened the door for similar legislation. Proposition 300 in 2006 forced students to pay out-of-state tuition and prove their legal status to receive financial aid. In 2007 the E-Verify system was implemented which provided a national database and required employers to check their employees’ Social Security numbers online within three days of hiring. Although E-Verify mandated punishment for employers who knowingly employed people without the right documents, it more often led to employers learning the status of their workers and refusing to pay them after weeks of work under threat of reporting them. Although this was facilitated by a new law and new technology, this appears to be the same type of theft that proliferated under the Bracero program from the 1940s through 1960s. It’s all too easy to see SB 1070 as an isolated incident that happened in a crazy state. Instead, we were challenged to see Arizona as a fertile testing ground for this legislation which has since been implemented in other states. This is the product of large-scale successful organizing by nativist groups like Numbers USA, Federation for American Immigration Reform, and the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Another major legislative attack has been HB 2281, or the Ethnic Studies Ban which targets programs in Arizona schools that teach Mexican-American literature, history and cultural studies. Proponents of this bill literally say they are afraid of the “racial tensions” that result from these classes. That means that they are not only spaces for cultural celebration and preservation but that they are uncovering dangerous, radical truths about this country. If that is not enough of an endorsement for the value of these educational programs, then watch how these kids fight for their classes:
Rosalva was clear that it is important to direct efforts to combat a proposition from becoming law because once it makes it to the law books, efforts to repeal it are often futile. Many people actively fought against each of these laws, but as they’ve been passed it seems the focus has shifted to efforts like the Protection Network and escuelitas that teach what was banned by HB 2281 outside the classroom. Towards the end of our visit, Rosalva hit on two points that I think have profound implications for all justice work. First, that these problems are systemic. It doesn’t matter if politicians, cops, and CEOs are explicitly racist and cruel or if they are nice folks “just doing their job,” it’s the system itself that is destroying us. Second, that protest doesn’t do anything on its own. Both of these points raise big questions about our current state of politics and ongoing organizing for justice. Can we really expect transformative change or true democracy from our two-party system? Does equal rights under the law lead to true social equality? What alternative tactics and strategies must we consider if traditional forms of protest are ineffective?
– submitted by Will Wickham
Last Thursday we met with Rosalva Fuentes, a powerhouse community organizer who seems to have her hands in most of the coolest organizing working going on here. We met her at Fortin de las Flores, an organization she formed a year and a half ago with three other women. The organization is for women and their families and offers Know Your Rights trainings, self-esteem workshops, and support and empowerment for women facing domestic violence. A nine family committee meets at Fortin to educate each other about political issues and community problems.
Much of this work focuses on resisting the racially-motivated policing undertaken by the Tucson Police Department in collusion with Sheriff’s departments, Border Patrol, and federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) police. This urban policing effort is part and parcel of the larger “border security” project. It is common practice for police to pull over latino drivers for having a taillight out, or having something hanging from their rear-view mirror, in order to check their immigration status. These are the situations in which knowing your rights and asserting them can decrease your chances of being detained and deported. Rosalva also helps families organize their own Red de Protección, a protection network that, in the case of a detention or deportation, sets in motion a support schematic that includes legal support, fundraising, notarized letters regarding child custody and financial matters, as well as moral support through letters and signatures. This work is also supported by a Cop Watch and Migra Patrol group, which responds to calls in order to make sure those being policed know to assert their rights and to film what happens. Police are less likely to beat or shoot their victims when they are being filmed and when they do violate our rights anyway, the footage is important evidence.
Rosalva did a role-play with us of a typical racially-profiled traffic stop in which the cops are trying to check your legal status. It was immediately clear that we were in need of a Know Our Rights training! The students in the “car” consented to the car being searched, either lied about their status or admitted to not having papers, offered to open the trunk, and offered to take the cop to their house to “get their papers.” This exercise showed how to difficult it is protect yourself against a persistent cop, especially if you have a hard time understanding the language they’re speaking. This type of policing and racial profiling certainly expanded after it was legalized in July, 2010 with SB 1070, but as Rosalva says “SB 1070 has always been in effect here.” That is to say, policing of immigration had always been racialized, and they’ve always gotten away with profiling. “This isn’t happening to undocumented Canadians,” says Rosalva.
– submitted by Will Wickham