SB 1070 Lite?

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While last week’s ruling by federal Judge Susan Bolton that suspended four central provisions of Arizona SB 1070 might bring some modicum of relief to people confronted with the possibility of being stopped by local police and asked for their citizenship papers, it left intact other sections of the law that immigrant advocates want tossed out, including criminalizing the transportation of undocumented persons and making it a crime to block traffic while soliciting work.

“We really need SB 1070 to be done away with. We still see it as huge problem in Arizona,” said Opal Tometi, spokesperson for the Arizona-based immigrant rights group Puente Movement.

In a phone interview with Frontera NorteSur, Tometi said the roots of the problem extend to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 287(g) program that allows local officers to assume the functions of immigration law enforcers.

“We have to get rid of SB 1070 and 287(g), Tometi insisted. The Arizona activist said Puente Movement has formed community defense committees to educate residents about their legal rights and organize neighborhood cop watches.

National opponents of undocumented immigration, who viewed SB 1070 as a model to emulate, are reconsidering the type of legislation that could be introduced in other state legislatures. In states including Ohio, Idaho and Minnesota, “SB 1070 Lite” bills could emerge, modified to conform with the clauses that were not initially rejected by Judge Bolton.

“I think we need to make sure that we comply with what the federal courts order,” said Courtney Combs, a Republican lawmaker from Ohio who planned to introduce a SB-1070 like measure in the Midwestern state. Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies said SB 1070 supporters would adopt a wait-and-see approach while Arizona does the “heavy work” in the courts.

In addition to the Obama administration’s case against SB 1070 for usurping federal authority, several other lawsuits against SB 1070 have been filed.

As of August 3, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s official website claimed 31,494 people have donated $1,455.672.60 to defend Arizona’s immigration laws.

Despite the refusal of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to fast-track Arizona’s appeal of Judge Bolton’s ruling in the United States vs. the State of Arizona case, Brewer’s office is keeping the immigration issue boiling on the front burner.

Brewer blasted a leaked document from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services that outlined how the Obama administration could issue more green cards to undocumented residents as a way of getting the immigrant legalization process moving forward in the continued absence of congressional action. In a statement, Brewer’s office explicitly linked the issue of undocumented immigration with drug smuggling and terrorism.

“The amnesty memo obtained by US Senator Grassley is very disturbing,” Brewer said. “I hope the Obama administration would first be exploring and implementing plans to secure our nation’s borders and put an end to the daily operations of narco-terrorist groups in the United States…”

In the lead up to SB 1070’s July 29 kick-in date, a climate of insecurity and panic was indeed reportedly gripping some quarters in Arizona. Scattered reports of undocumented migrants fleeing Arizona, especially to the neighboring states of California and New Mexico, sprinkled the press.

Hector Ocampo Abarca, honorary counsel for the Mexican city of Acapulco said 10,000 people originally from the state of Guerrero had relocated from to Los Angeles from Arizona. “Family members, friends and places that could help like missions are giving them shelter,” Ocampo said. “Thousands more are expected.”

Paulino Rodriguez Reyes, migrant area coordinator for the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center in Guerrero’s indigenous La Montana region, said his organization was carefully observing the Arizona situation. Rodriguez urged local radio stations to monitor developments and inform listeners. Migrants from La Montana tend to pass through Arizona on their way to California, Alabama, North Carolina and New York.

Interviewed in the Sonora border town of Nogales across from Arizona, a pair of migrants said the looming implementation of SB 1070 forced them to return to Mexico. “I was afraid of getting deported and then punished,” said Nicolas Mendez, who added he had two US citizen sons living in Arizona. “It is better to return, so I could emigrate later.”

On the other hand, many people are determined to stick it out and resist in Arizona, said Monica Ruiz, national organizer for the A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition. Ruiz participated in last-minute community organizing and Phoenix demonstrations against SB 1070. Some Anglos slammed doors or tossed leaflets back in organizers’ faces, but many Latinos were supportive and welcomed the activists, Ruiz said.

Immersed in a deep economic crisis, Arizona-especially the Phoenix area-is “polarized,” Ruiz said. Half a dozen counter-demonstrators showed up at an anti-SB 1070 protest with guns, Ruiz said. “It’s a scene I’ve never seen anywhere else, she added. “It’s like a war zone.”

At a New Mexico forum, Ruiz said Judge Bolton’s decision gives immigrants and their supporters some breathing room to organize against racism and economic demonizing.

“We’re all demanding to build a broad multinational movement against these attacks against immigrants,” Ruiz said, “because at the end of the day, nobody wants to live in a police state.”

Others of Latino heritage are now wary of traveling through Arizona. Early on the morning of Thursday, July 29, the day the Arizona law was due to take effect, Orlando Pardo was driving his 16-year-old sister Jazmin from Los Angeles to visit a brother in Albuquerque. Concerned about her children traveling in Arizona, Pardo’s mother had provided a notarized statement giving permission for the minor Jazmin to travel with her older brother.

“That’s how worried my mom was about the Arizona thing.” Pardo told Frontera NorteSur.

While cruising on Interstate 40 west of Flagstaff, Arizona, Pardo said he was pulled over by an Arizona state trooper for driving four miles over the speed limit. The officer eventually handed Pardo a written warning, but not before asking personal questions about the destination of the driver and his sister, and hinting about work authorizations.

“He didn’t use those words, but that was apparent to me,” Pardo said. “I was thinking about wearing my ‘Legalize Arizona’ t-shirt, but I’m kind of glad I didn’t,” Pardo joked. Anticipating the drive home to Los Angeles, Pardo added: “I will try to stay well below the speed limit.”

Meanwhile, Arizona activists have organized a legal defense committee for scores of people arrested in Maricopa County anti-SB 1070 protests on July 30, including Puente Movement leader Salvador Reza, who was detained by deputies across the street from a civil disobedience action at Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jail, even though Reza was not directly involved in the blockade, according to activists.

B Loewe, volunteer for the Puente Movement and the National Day Laborer Organizing Committee, said court proceedings are scheduled to begin August 18 for defendants accused of obstructing public thoroughfares. All the demonstrators who participated in civil disobedience have been released, he added.

Additional sources: La Jornada/Notimex, July 29 and August 2, 2010. El Sur, July 30, 2010. Articles by Xavier Rosado and Jesus Rodriguez Montes.


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