Preparing for debate: ‘We’re all Arizona’

“We are all Arizona,” said the Rev. Victoria Safford, minister of White Bear UU Church in Mahotmedi, Minn., at Saturday afternoon’s plenary session, “and this is not about Arizona. It is about fear.”

Safford was prefacing a debate about whether to boycott Phoenix as the site of the 2012 General Assembly, which is dominating the Saturday afternoon plenary.

She echoed the sentiments of UUA President Peter Morales who had spoken earlier. “This is truly about the future of our society, human rights, the struggle for America’s soul and the struggle for the soul of the Unitarian Universalist movement,” he said.

The Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, minister of Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater, Fla., described his own experience and that of his family as they navigated the immigration process. “After more dehumanizing experiences with the INS in obtaining a religious professional visa and an eventual green card, we are now permanent resident aliens,” he said. “But with regular pat downs at airports and being yelled at by unknown people to ‘go back to Iraq,’ my family and I live with constant reminders that we are outsiders, foreigners, people who don’t belong.”

Safford, Morales, and Janamanchi were among those speaking before discussion about a revised business resolution asking UUs to come to a “Justice” General Assembly in Phoenix in 2012 focusing on social witness and education about immigrant justice.

The issue of whether the UUA should boycott Phoenix as the site of the 2012 General Assembly has generated a vigorous and sometimes emotional response.

A new resolution hammered out at a mini-assembly Friday proposes that the UUA not boycott Phoenix as the site of the 2012 GA. In May the UUA board issued a business resolution asking General Assembly delegates to choose an alternative site for the 2012 GA. The resolution was a response to the passage of Arizona Senate Bill 1070, which would empower local police to check the immigration status of people otherwise detained. It could also prosecute people for transporting, hiring, or “harboring” illegal immigrants. Many fear that the law will lead to increased racial profiling and deportations.

In June UUA President Peter Morales sent out a letter asking UUs not to boycott and to use the 2012 GA as an opportunity to stand in solidarity with those most affected by the Arizona legislation. His letter included an invitation from Puente and the National Day Laborers Association, both immigrant advocacy groups.

3 Comments on “Preparing for debate: ‘We’re all Arizona’

  1. The racial profiling claim reminds me of “weapons of mass destruction” ; it was said so often it was assumed it was true, only much to late discovered false.

    Here is a link to what the bill actually says so your readers may see it for themselves and stop some of the hysteria.

    Fact Sheet: Arizona's SB1070 Immigration Enforcement Law

    Arizona's Gov. Brewer signed SB1070 into law in April of 2010. Combined with HB2162 (which amends SB1070), the new law will:
    Make it illegal in the State of Arizona for an alien to not register with the government, thus being an “illegal alien” (already the case at the federal level: 8 USC 1306a; USC 1304e)
    Allow police to detain people where there is a “reasonable suspicion” that they're illegal aliens (see the recent court case Estrada v. Rhode Island for an idea of what “reasonable suspicion” might entail)
    Prohibits sanctuary cities (already prohibited at the federal level, 8 USC 1373) and allows citizens to sue any such jurisdiction.
    70 percent of Arizona voters support the new law. Much of the outcry in the press has stemmed from misinformation about the law that may have originated with the local paper, The Arizona Republic.

    Reality vs. Myth: SB1070

    Myth No. 1: The law requires aliens to carry identification that they weren't already required to carry.

    Reality: It has been a federal crime (8 United States Code Section 1304(a) or 1306(e)) since 1940 for aliens to fail to carry their registration documents. The Arizona law reaffirms the federal law. Anyone who has traveled abroad knows that other nations have similar requirements.

    The majority requests for documentation will take place during the course of other police business such as traffic stops. Because Arizona allows only lawful residents to obtain licenses, an officer must presume that someone who produces one is legally in the country. (See News Hour clip 3:45 seconds in)

    Myth No. 2: The law will encourage racial profiling.

    Reality: The Arizona law reduces the chances of racial profiling by requiring officers to contact the federal government when they suspect a person is an illegal alien as opposed to letting them make arrests on their own assessment as federal law currently allows.

    Section 2 was amended (by HB2162) to read that a law enforcement official “may not consider race, color, or national origin” in making any stops or determining an alien's immigration status (previously, they were prohibited in “solely” considering those factors). In addition, all of the normal Fourth Amendment protections against racial profiling still apply.

    Myth No. 3: “Reasonable suspicion” is a meaningless term that will permit police misconduct.

    Reality: “Reasonable suspicion” has been defined by the courts for decades (the Fourth Amendment itself proscribes “unreasonable searches and seizures”). One of the most recent cases, Estrada v. Rhode Island, provides an example of the courts refining of “reasonable suspicion:”

    A 15 passenger van is pulled over for a traffic violation. The driver of the van had identification but the other passengers did not (some had IDs from a gym membership, a non-driver's licence card from the state, and IDs issued from the Guatemalan Consulate). The passengers said they were on their way to work but they had no work permits. Most could not speak English but upon questioning, admitted that they were in the United States illegally. The officer notified ICE and waited three minutes for instructions.

    The SB1070 provision in question reads:
    “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or agency of this state . . . where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person.”

    Myth No. 4: The law will require Arizona police officers to stop and question people.

    Reality: The law only kicks in when a police officer stopped, detained, or arrested someone (HB2162). The most likely contact is during the issuance of a speeding ticket. The law does not require the officer to begin questioning a person about his immigration status or to do anything the officer would not otherwise do.

    Only after a stop is made, and subsequently the officer develops reasonable suspicion on his own that an immigration law has been violated, is any obligation imposed. At that point, the officer is required to call ICE to confirm whether the person is an illegal alien.

    The Arizona law is actually more restrictive than federal law. In Muehler v. Mena (2005), the Supreme Court ruled that officers did not need reasonable suspicion to justify asking a suspect about their immigration status, stating that the court has “held repeatedly that mere police questioning does not constitute a seizure” under the Fourth Amendment).

  2. Amberdu, your fact sheet was prepared by the people who designed this racist law.

    If you have never been stopped for driving (walking, strolling, smiling, going through security) while Black, Brown, Native or Asian then you have no idea what racial profiling is, what it feels like, what it means to a person. If you do not have that experience it would be good to open your heart and your mind.

  3. Amberdu, copying and pasting the party line does not make it true.

    SB 1070 (and its alteration through HB 2162) has been very carefully written by lawyers from the DC based anti-immigrant organization FAIR to sound as reasonable as possible, while making clear its intent to create an environment of fear and intolerance surrounding the Arizona immigrant community. “The legislature declares that the intent of this act is to make attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local government agencies in Arizona.” That doesn't leave much doubt about what this bill's intentions are. Knowing that legal and illegal immigrants are often completely intertwined, it can not be ignored that this this bill has been passed in an election year and seems like a clear effort to intimidate legal Hispanic voters into leaving the state out of fear for their illegal relatives and friends. Almost all of the motivation and rationalization for this bill is based on the fear mongering of false generalizations about the immigrants community and its effects on the economy, on crime, and on our future. The more recent legislation to ban Chicano studies in schools, to fire English teachers who have accents, to invalidate the constitutionally granted right of immigrant children born in the US to citizenship, and most recently to try and cut off power, water, and other utilities to homes with illegal immigrants, leaves no doubt that these laws are directly attacking the overwhelmingly Hispanic immigrant population in Arizona.

    Regarding Myth No. 1: The constitutional issue is not that it requires non-resident aliens to produce papers they are already required to carry. The issue is that it requires citizens to prove their legal status on request or face detention. The US Constitution specifically states that citizens do not have to carry papers. Enforcement of this law will unavoidably result in citizens being detained until someone can prove their citizenship. Given how efficient/organized the government generally is (think no-fly lists) there is the very real possibility of citizens being detained for days if not longer. Many white people are generally fine with that, as they know we will never be asked to prove citizenship.

    Regarding Myth 2: This “myth” largely exists because the original law as signed contained no such language, and could be interpreted as condoning racial profiling. Whether this original language was intentionally aloud through, and then changed before it could be challenged in the courts is unclear. What is clear is by acting in this way, the law has been much more effective at creating fear in the immigrant community which seems to be its primary intent. It is also fairly clear that people like Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who lost his ability to act as a federal immigration enforcement agency when his 287g status was revoked by ICE, is really looking forward to getting back to the business of harassing immigrants for his own personal political gain once this bill goes into effect.

    Regarding Myth 4: Again this “myth” is brought about because the original bill as signed specifically enumerated being “illegal” as a primary offense, compelling officers to ask even witnesses and victims of crime about their immigration status. That language is gone, but the fear it created is not. The AZ law is significantly more strict than the federal statute it mirrors. The federal statute states that federal agents MAY inquire about immigration status, the state law says that law enforcement officials SHALL inquire, and if they don't provides for citizens to be able to sue their local law enforcement agencies. Currently when people who are arrested are found to be undocumented, they are turned over to federal authorities. In general this puts them in line for a hearing which will determine if they have extenuating circumstances that might allow them to stay in the country (such as young citizen children or other family needs) and puts them back in their homes (assuming no other charges are brought) while they await that hearing. Under the new AZ law, once undocumented status is confirmed they are guilty of a state crime and go to jail without requiring any such consideration. Once they have a “criminal record”, they are almost assured of being deported once they get out.

    This law places police in an untenable situation. If they enforce the law, they destroy the bonds of trust they have spent decades building with the immigrant community, upon whom they rely heavily to go after the real bad guys, the drug smugglers and human traffickers. They also face the prospect of having to deal with tens if not hundreds of thousands of new arrests, which neither they nor the courts have the resources to deal with. This will result in further shifting of resources away from actual criminals, to deal with immigration. If they don't enforce the law, they will face a never ending string of law suits from those who care more about harassing immigrants than they do about letting police chose the priorities that best serve the community as a whole. One only has to look at the record of Sheriff Joe, who has diverted substantial resources to going into other jurisdictions to rounds up illegal immigrants only to see the violent crime rates rise, and arrest rates drop in his own jurisdictions to see the negative impact of this form of “immigration enforcement at all costs” policy first hand.

    This law does no good for anyone, except the politicians who got a nice boost in the polls for looking “tough.”