Every year on May 1, tens of thousands of people take to the streets in cities across the country—including, of course, San Diego—to agitate for civil rights for undocumented workers from Mexico and Central America.
They protest detentions and deportations and military-style protection of the border with Mexico, and they rally for legislation that would reunite severed families and create a clear path, without conditions, to legalization of workers here illegally. For better or worse, they also open their tent and encourage protests against U.S. foreign policy, economic globalization and domestic discrimination of the gay community.
This year, their cause is more urgent than ever. They have a new reason for anger: Arizona's brand-new, “Papers, please”-style law that makes racial profiling standard operating policy. And the planets are aligned nicely this time around; with May 1 falling on a Saturday, there's no reason for anyone who cares about racial and ethnic harmony and basic civil rights for all human beings on U.S. soil to sit this one out.
Arizona's law, signed last week by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer—who acknowledged that she doesn't know what an illegal immigrant looks like—makes being in the country without documentation a state crime even though it's already a federal crime and requires state law-enforcement officers to check the residency status of anyone they suspect as being in the U.S. illegally. If a suspect fails to produce proof of legal status, that person can be arrested and detained. It bans local governments from limiting officers' ability to enforce federal immigration law and allows citizens to sue government agencies for not fully enforcing federal law.
The legislation was introduced by Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, who once famously forwarded to supporters an anti-black, anti-Semitic, white-power e-mail (later apologizing and claiming he hadn't carefully read it) and once famously posed for a photo with a swastika-wearing neo-Nazi. It was co-written by Kris Kobach, who does legal work for an organization, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, that's been labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. Kobach, also an anti-gay, fundamentalist Christian, is running for the office of Secretary of State in Kansas and, as chair of the Kansas Republican Party, bragged in 2007 about Kansas' success in purging voters from state rolls.
The Arizona law's constitutionality will surely be challenged and could be overturned before it even takes effect. Nonetheless, Arizona has suddenly become a dangerous place for Latinos, regardless of their status. City cops and county sheriff's deputies with chips on their shoulders about the increasing browning of their state have been emboldened to harass anyone who looks even remotely Latino.
Imagine soulless deputies who think like our own rabidly anti-immigrant member of Congress, Brian Bilbray, who said on MSNBC's Hardball that officers will be able to easily spot illegal immigrants: “They will look at the kind of dress you wear. There is different type of attire; there is different type of—right down to the shoes, right down to the clothes.” Bilbray and local Congressmember Darrell Issa, who also supports the law, albeit with less asinine commentary, should make great poster fodder for the demonstrators on Saturday.
We urge our readers to send Arizona a message by joining the boycott of the state's tourist attractions. Stay away from the Grand Canyon and the other state and national parks. Steer clear of Lake Havasu and Lake Mead, and go only to the Utah portion of Lake Powell. Stay out of Tucson and the posh Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. If the law stands until next March, for heaven's sake, skip that annual pilgrimage to Spring Training. Tell Arizona that if this is the way it's gonna be, it's gonna be expensive.
Even if you don't go as far as the May 1 organizers in your stance on immigration policy, show up in solidarity against that disgraceful Arizona law and in repudiation of knuckleheads—and knuckle-draggers—like Bilbray. The rally starts at 11 a.m. in Chicano Park and, at noon, marches to the Federal Building at 880 Front St., Downtown. Also, an educational forum is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 28, in Room B204 at San Diego City College. C'mon, get involved.
What do you think? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.