Arizona on Our Minds
Ever since Governor Jan Brewer signed SB1070 into law – despite daily demonstrations and thousands of emails, calls, and faxes asking for veto – many of us both inside and outside of Arizona have been considering what to do in response. The new legislation is arguably the most far-reaching and repressive anti-immigrant legislation passed at the state level, and indeed, may not be constitutional. But in the mean time, while the lawyers ply their trade, what do the rest of us do to urge Arizona to reconsider?
Unitarian Universalism values relationship over creed; therefore, before we made any actions or recommendations of our own we had to know what our allies are asking for. And of our allies, it was most important to listen to those who would be most adversely affected by this new law. In this case, that would be organizations and people who represent immigrants, migrant workers, Hispanic/Latin@s, and other people of color who might be suspected of being “undocumented.” So we did a little research – some phone calls, some emailing, some websurfing – and this is what we found:
Not that they are the most important, but since they are in the news, let’s start with elected officials. Our only Latino/Hispanic senator, Sen. Menendez (D-NJ), is urging Major League Baseball players to boycott the 2011 All Star Game if it is held in Phoenix as scheduled. His voice joins that of Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) Rep. Polis (D-CO), Rep. Gutierrz (D-IL), and Rep. Grijalva who have all called for a boycott in some form or another.
“The question will inevitably be, aren’t you hurting yourself?” Gutierrez says. “The answer to that question is, yes, we are!”
“We understand that our people are inordinately the dishwashers and the busboys for the hospitality industry…But we also understand they are the mothers and fathers of children in this state. It is they themselves who are asking for this boycott.”
Secondly and more significantly, a coalition of over thirty organizations – representing Latin@/Hispanics, labor and civil rights groups, and others – have called for a national boycott. This effort is being spear-headed by the National Council of La Raza, the largest and most well-known Hispanic/Latin@ rights group in the nation. You can sign their pledge here.
La Raza is joined by many other groups, including the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Puerto Rican Coalition, and Presente.org.
Like Sen. Menendez, one of their main targets for the economic boycott is Major League Baseball’s 2011 All-Star game, which is scheduled to be played in Phoenix. From Presente.org’s email ask to move the game:
“Many other major league players and coaches are saying they don’t want to play ball in a state where Latino players — who make up more than 25% of the League — and Latino fans are subject to racial profiling.”
Latin@s/Hispanics are rightfully concerned that the Arizona law encourages racial profiling against them regardless of their legal status, but Asians know that such laws affect them as well. After Latin@s/Hispanics, Asians constitute the second largest population of undocumented immigrants, and South Asians in particular have been subject to harrassment. The Asian American Justice Center and the Japanese American Citizens League are part of the boycott coalition. In a statement, the JACL called SB 1070 “the worst case of racial profiling since World War II.”
And African-Americans are, of course, very familiar with racial profiling. The campaign against SB1070 is being waged with help from civil rights leaders, including Rev. Al Sharpton. Economic boycott was part of a strategy that the Black community successfully employed to “convince” the AZ legislature to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr with his holiday. In that same vein, Alpha Phi Alpha, the fraternity of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Thurgood Marshall, moved their annual convention from AZ to NV.
“Our late Alpha brother the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, in a letter he wrote while sitting in the Birmingham Jail, ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ Alpha Phi Alpha’s decision to boycott Arizona continues that same fight, fought during the Civil Rights era.”
Other members of the coalition calling for national boycott are the Center for Community Change (CCC), which advocates for economic justice on behalf of low-income people, especially low-income people of color, and labor groups such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).
SEIU’s website includes a roundup of who is participating in the boycott. Of particular note, the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators together with the National Black Caucus of State Legislators have canceled their upcoming conferences in Arizona.
“This misguided legislation will likely subject countless people to unwarranted harassment. In a demonstration of our disapproval, we have decided to hold our annual Promoting Healthy Lifestyles Conference, which was to be held in Scottsdale, Arizona, elsewhere,” stated NBCSL President, Representative Calvin Smyre (GA).
We also looked at what immigration and migrant worker rights groups were doing in response to SB1070.
- Interfaith Worker Justice is calling on faith leaders to join them in condemning the new law.
- The New Sanctuary Movement also condemns the new law and is vowing “resistance.”
- Reform Immigration for America is asking people to FAX Congress in support of comprehensive immigration reform. They are also calling for boycott.
“These boycotts are happening in conjunction with marches, rallies, and protests across the country. Our actions will show that we’re not going to sit quietly while the state enshrines racism and hatred as the law of the land.”
- National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and Puente.org, as part of the Alto Arizona coalition, are organizing for a massive rally in Phoenix on May 29th. They also have a petition asking the Obama administration to intervene.
- In addition to moving the MBL All Star Game (see above), Presente.org also has a petition letting Arizona leaders know how we feel about the new law: Shame on Arizona.
- Border Action Network is supporting a number of actions posted on Change.org, including petition the Obama administration to intervene, attend local solidarity actions, boycott, and civil disobedience.
- Detention Watch Network offered a similar list of actions.
- The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights also offered four actions: calling Gov. Brewer, spreading the message locally, asking President Obama to intervene, and supporting local organizations working against SB1070.
The ACLU is also looking ahead to other states and organizing to keep what happened in Arizona from spreading. (Currently 10-11 other states are considering similar legislation.) Visit their site to tell your elected officials that What Happens in Arizona Stays in Arizona.
As I said, there’s a good argument to be made that SB1070 is unconstitutional, and three of the most experienced immigrants’ and civil rights legal organizations nationwide – the ACLU, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) – have announced a partnership, together with local Arizona-based counsel, to challenge the new law in court.
So as of the moment, the major possible actions for folks like you and me seem to be a “mega march” in Phoenix, AZ on May 29th (see this video), asking the Obama administration to intervene, and a call for economic boycott.