In the United States, immigration reform activists have taken to the streets – and the internet – in order to create momentum for comprehensive changes in immigration law. A key hope is for the government to create a path to legal citizenship for the estimated 12 million undocumented people already living in the country. Fixing the broken immigration system is something groups on opposing sides of the political spectrum agree requires critical attention.
Arizona in the eye of the storm
This month, Arizona enacted a controversial law – S.B. 1070 – that gives police powers to demand to see immigration documents from anyone in Arizona that appears not to be American. President Obama himself called the measure “misguided” during a naturalization ceremony at the White House on the same day S.B. 1070 was signed into law on April 23.
Outcries of civil rights infringements are making the rounds in the blogs and on social networking sites. The hashtag #LegalizeAZ surfaced on Twitter for information-sharing regarding S.B. 1070 protests. Several twitter posts are also spreading the message to petition Eric Holder the U.S. Attorney General to step in and put a stop to S.B. 1070. According to the Washington Post, Holder said the federal government may be taking Arizona to court over the new law.
Citizens on social networking sites are also encouraging people to participate in widespread Arizona boycotts. Latinunionchicago uploaded a video on YouTube chronicling the boycott of Arizona’s baseball team the Diamondbacks during a game against the Chicago Cubs. Demonstrators even compared S.B. 1070 to discriminatory laws of Nazi Germany.
Others are finding moments of creativity amidst political unrest. Zitherguy read a poem titled “Goodbye Tenochitlan” on YouTube in deference to activists and artists Zack de la Rocha and Ernesto Yerena. Both have spent considerable energy defending the rights of vulnerable immigrants and indigenous Mexicans through music and art.
Goodbye Tenochitlan poem makes a reference to activists voicing their dissent against S.B. 1070
Challenges to the Arizona law
Supporters of S.B. 1070 argue that the federal government is taking too long to fix a broken immigration system and that national security is at stake, especially in U.S. states along the southern border area where rampant drug smuggling is an issue. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer who signed the bill into law on April 23, said the measure would help put a stop to the “murderous greed” of the drug cartels. Previous highly controversial measures to stop the flow of drug cartel related trafficking along the southern border, includes the construction of a border wall between the southern U.S. border states and Mexico. The wall has yet to be completed.
Pumas Unleashed, a blog that focuses on free speech issues, writes about the new law in Arizona, and puts forth an argument that it appears to be constitutionally invalid. Phoenix, Arizona mayor, Phil Gorman also plans to challenge the constitutional validity of the Arizona law . He believes the new law leaves the city vulnerable to expensive racial profiling lawsuits. The mayor of Flagstaff, Arizona mayor, Sara Presler, is considering joining forces with Gorman. She is concerned the additional policing responsibilities would overwhelm their cash-strapped budget. Another official concerned with the costs of the bill is Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Homeland Security Department. She has argued against S.B. 1070 because it siphons limited resources from her budget.
The National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders stepped forward on April 29 to challenge S.B. 1070, filing one of two prominent lawsuits against the new law. The second lawsuit was filed by a veteran police officer from Tucson, Arizona. Additional lawsuits are planned by MALDEF, the ACLU and the National Immigration Law Center.
Whatever the source, President Obama seems to have gotten the message that as long as Congress and his administration put immigration reform on the backburner, the chasm of racial tension in this country is only going to get deeper — and potentially deadly violent.
That concern to head off any further volatility, fueled by states adopting their own immigration laws, may have been the motivation for Pres. Obama to call the Senate's newest member today, Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown. Not to chitchat but to tell him to get ready — Democrats will be moving forward with immigration reform in a month.
The March for America
Many immigrant rights groups are concerned President Obama is not following through on promises made during his presidential election campaign. On March 21 there was a rally in Washington D.C. — The March for America — on a day that healthcare reform took most of the political and media spotlight. Despite the difficulty getting their cause heard, thousands of immigrants from different parts of the world were present. Smaller rallies have followed in cities with large immigrant populations including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Seattle and Miami.
StephenNielsen18, a producer of citizen media from the D.C.-metro area, attended the rally on March 21 and interviewed a Catholic group about their concerns and hopes regarding immigration reform.
Carlos in DC, a blogger who writes about his life in the nation’s capital with an emphasis on race, community, and immigration reform, also attended the rally on March 21. He interviewed notable participants including the Civil Rights Leader Rev. Jesse Jackson and Congressman Xavier Becerra, a Democrat from California’s 31st District based in Los Angeles. Carlos in DC also interviewed several grassroots organizers among them members from Dreamactivist.org who carried and displayed a Dream Quilt: a large quilt constructed of colorful patches where undocumented students inscribed their dreams for a brighter future through access to higher education.
March for America Rally in the Nation's Capital on March 21, 2010