In November of 2009, I took a trip to the Mexico/U.S. border with Rev. Louise Green and other members of All Souls Church, Unitarian in DC. The organization that led our trip was Borderlinks. Being so close to the border in Tucson is a very different experience than thinking about immigration here in DC. The effects of our immigration policies are immediately evident there. So when I read the following account of last week’s ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids by Borderlinks staffer, Rachel Winch, I knew it had to be shared. With her permission, Rachel’s description of April 15th, 2010.
“ICE has swarmed the city. There are over 800 officers making check points and raids all over South Tucson.” I felt a sense of panic as a friend from Derechos Humanos, a grassroots organization that promotes human rights and fights the militarization of the Southern Border, came to share the news this morning that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had taken hold of South Tucson.
For those living in parts of Tucson besides South Tucson, the largely Latino/a “Pueblo Within a City,” it would be easy not to know that anything out of the ordinary was happening today. It is even possible that those passing through the area who were not worried about their immigration status or being “confused for a migrant” could pass by the 12 patrol vehicles and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers in full black facemasks at the intersection of 6th Avenue and 29th Street without being filled with fear. But for members of the Latino/a community and anyone who might “appear to be here illegally” (i.e. have brown skin), today was no less than terrorization.
Two teenage boys pulled off a bus on their way to school and taken into custody. Armed enforcement officials patrolling within eyesight of students playing at a local elementary school. Fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers, pulled over at “random” checkpoints and leaving in handcuffs when they failed to produce documentation. A Latina college student at the University of Arizona carrying three forms of ID with her in fear that she would be interrogated. April 15th, 2010, South Tucson has become yet another example of the ever increasing police state.
For those of you outside of Arizona, this may seem unfathomable, an exaggeration even. Surely this could not be legal to stop people simply walking down the street or driving their cars around town because they “look like they might be undocumented.” In the Land of the Free people do not need to walk around carrying documentation, right?
Well, that may be called into question this week in Arizona after the state house of representatives passed landmark legislation that would greatly extend the powers of police and immigration officials. Under the new legislation, police would have the right to ask anyone whom they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe is in the country illegally to produce documentation proving their legality. Whereas formerly police were only allowed to ask for such documentation if a person were arrested for another crime, under the new legislation standing on a street corner and looking Latino, or looking for work at a day labor center would be probable cause for police to interrogate and make an arrest if such papers were not produced.
While under the guise of attempting to crack down on human smuggling, today’s checkpoints and the interrogation and arrest of people without evidence of involvement in smuggling is yet another example of the Department of Homeland Security’s increased terrorization of the Latino/a population and militarization of the US-Mexico border.
Friends, we must take action to ensure that these raids stop and that police and immigration officials are not allowed free range of our communities.
The words of anti-Nazi theologian Martin Niemöller reverberate through my head:
“In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
We must not stay silent as our brothers and sisters are being intimidated, arrested, deported. Please join me in writing to your local newspaper, contacting your elected officials, and telling your friends. Not in our name.
 These were some of the stories shared at the Derechos Humanos rally outside the Federal Court building at 2:30 pm. April 15, 2010.
I didn’t even know this had happened in my own community. Distracted by the tax deadline, an upcoming wedding, and a weekend off, here I am this morning receiving this forwarded forwarded email containing the link to our UUA Advocacy and Witness site, and I’m appalled. I used to teach, thirty years ago, in South Tucson. I wrote my first novel (unpublished) about sanctuary and it took place on the border where I no longer feel safe even to drive in the beautiful hills near Lochiel. People here cannot be distinguished by sight between fourth generation Arizonans and illegal residents. I taught classrooms full of both long ago, and this tale of police-state action targeting the tiny town of South Tucson is horrendous. Thank-you for your blogs and for this site. I’m calling Gov. Jan Brewer next.