“This isn’t happening to undocumented Canadians”Posted: August 28, 2012
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