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Thoughts on SB1070….

April 23, 2010

All of this without SB 1070 being passed…

There was a massive show of force, with helicopters, dozens of agents, police vehicles and weapons, assaulting our community in a fashion never seen before…This action clearly demonstrates what we have predicted, that we would all be living in a police state here in Arizona. Kat Rodriguez, of Derechos Humanos, in response to the April 15, 2010 raids.

From October 2003 to October 2009 there have been at least 107 reported deaths within US detention centers. Since October 2009 there have been 87 deaths on the Arizona border. Most recently the Arizona Daily Star reported finding the body of a migrant along the Arizona-Mexico Border on April 19, 2010. The same report claimed that it was the third body found within a three-day period.

On April 15, 2010 “Operation In Plain Sight” the coordinated effort of more than 800 Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) officers and law enforcement officials from local to international levels resulted in the largest ICE raid of it’s [ICE] seven-year existence.  Five shuttle bus locations, four in Tucson and one in Phoenix, were targeted in the raid. ICE officials claim that these bus services were narcotic-traffickers and human smugglers. 50 vehicles and seven vans were confiscated. At least 47 people were arrested. Some reports have reflected larger numbers of arrests and prolonged detentions.

In communities where these raids have taken place many have experienced fear sweeping through their neighborhoods. The images from these raids have been very unsettling. Unfortunately gun totting, mask-wearing cops rampaging through neighborhoods raiding homes and businesses like car washes and Day Laborer sites is anything but new. 

“…. We are concerned about the timing of an ICE operation that seems to be as much designed for media consumption as anything else,” Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said in a statement. “We are worried ICE Director Morton’s intense media campaign to publicize this action will only contribute to a climate of fear that is already sending shockwaves across the state and country.”

After a callout for emergency rallies in response to the raids, demonstrations erupted in both Phoenix and Tucson. The following week more demonstrations and walkouts happened with small escalations at certain points. In Phoenix nine students felt compelled to chain them selves to a door of the Arizona Capitol Building resulting in all of them being arrested. One of the student’s attorneys said that the action was taken to send a message to Gov. Jan Brewer and “block the bigotry that was emanating from the Legislature”.

One doesn’t need to look far to see why Arizona state officials would be grasping for straws.  The AZ central Star’s (Main newspaper of Phoenix) number one story of 2009 was recounting the deficit that Brewer and legislature faced:

“The Legislature and Governor Jan Brewer spent 2009 thrashing around the deep end, looking for a way out. It didn’t happen.

Budget cuts were inevitable, and the public began to see the contours of a shrinking state government: Hundreds of state employees were laid off and thousands forced to take days off without pay. For the first time since the depression the state borrowed to pay the bills

The budget quagmire will continue in 2010, where a $3.3 billon deficit looms and most likely beyond.”

Another point of contention for Phoenix politics falling apart last year was another top story of 2009 recounting the US Department of Justice (DOJ) investigating Sherriff Joe Arpaio. 

From that article:

March, the DOJ announced an investigation into alleged patterns of racial discrimination based on national origin. Although the DOJ has not been specific, the consensus among Arpaio’s critics is that the investigation relates primarily to racial profiling and illegal searches and seizures. In October, Arpaio complained publicly that DOJ investigators had posed as reporters to gain access to one of his press conferences.

When connecting to the DOJ’s Arpaio tip line, it says, “You have reached the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office investigation line.” Then it prompts the listener to choose between English and Spanish. By lunchtime Wednesday,[of the week the hotline was established] both the English and Spanish mailboxes were full. They have been full throughout the week and are still full as of Saturday morning. The toll free number for the tip line is 877-613-2137.

Taking these two weak points into context definitely sheds light on why Phoenix politicians would be looking for scapegoats and easy ways to pose as if they have things “under control”. The fact that SB 1070 has made it this far should most certainly be linked to the fact that we are in a state of literal crisis rapidly approaching a level of disparity similar to that of 1929’s great economic depression.

“Tucson today is the moral equivalent of Birmingham, Alabama in 1961,” said Mike Wilson, border rights activist and Tohono ‘O’odham tribal member, while attending a rally at the Tucson Federal Building April, 15.

Since the closing of 2009 and now well into 2010 Arizona has been sinking further and further into political unrest and deficit. In 2005 Arizona enacted a law making human smuggling a state crime and prohibited employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants with a law in 2007. What are some of the quotes coming from Arizona’s head political figures in 2010?

Republican Senator Russell Pearce of Mesa, who sponsored SB 1070, said”…. it will take handcuffs off police and put them on violent criminals. Enough is enough,”.

U.S. Sen. John McCain called the bill a “tool that I think needs to be used.” His office later said that wasn’t an endorsement.

“It will be extremely difficult to repair that chain (in reference to the shuttle bus service). It is the missing link that greatly disrupts the infrastructure of human smuggling organizations,” said Dennis Burke, U.S. attorney for Arizona.

Knowing all of this we need to ask ourselves a few important questions: knowing the US government just closed down a way for many people to safely travel from south of the US border to find work and be close to their families, what can we do to help recreate this safety net and lessen the blow that the government wishes to inflict upon those migrating to the U.S.? Knowing that large-scale fear is sweeping through neighborhoods of people that are subject to repression solely on race alone (that will only increase if SB1070 is passed), what can we do to first, reach out and provide safer ways for those affected to share their stories? Second, how can we improve the ways that we disseminate information about our current community projects (i.e. No More Deaths and Derechos Humanos in Tucson) and assure that we sustain them and use this chance to get new people involved in supporting migrants?  We also need to develop community based actions to help alleviate the governments goal of further alienating people of color communities? One project that will surely need more help is the documentation of abuses on Tohono O’ odham land where abuse is already high and will only escalate if it becomes legalized through the passage of SB 1070.

Realistically speaking, what will you do the next time you see police pulling someone over in your neighbor hood? What can/will we do to strengthen some of the past efforts started to rally observers for ICE raids, and get serious about supporting those that will continue to feel less safe and unsupported in our communities after raids increase?

Some may see rallies and direct actions as the answer. The author of this piece definitely supports those actions. Looking at the situation strategically though some of the first steps should be stopping and listening to each other. Building community ties right now could be an empowering step one for the problem at hand. The government can easily cut the chain of a lock-down. But they truly fear a group of organized people. So at the next walk-out and rally be sure to actually connect with those around you. Remember to reflect on feelings and provide a space for more wide-scale communication to occur.

Regardless of SB 1070 passing we can expect things around the border to only get worse. Governor Jan Brewer requesting an additional 250 troops to increase militarization of the border definitely reflects that. As long as militarized borders exist and ICE detention centers continue to operate we can be sure that there will be fear and definite reason for it in our communities. Extreme cases of human rights violations and racial profiling will also continue to occur on Tohono O’ odham land and in our communities. The amount of humans dying on the border will also drastically increase.  The question at hand that needs to be answered is how are we going to lessen that? 

It’s like a powder keg and the fires lit, it’s about to explode! — A-Alikes Explode 

At the time of this article being written SB 1070 has not been signed into law.

This piece is part of a larger group of short essays later to be released on the topic of response to the militarization on the border and racist repression in our community.  

Another Crucial article for this discussion from friends: 

Thoughts on our role in the emerging struggle against the racist state of Arizona

For more information on resistance to SB1070 visit AZ Indymedia 

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