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Arizona – The State of Hate

Below is an piece written by my friend and RTTC colleague Marisa Franco, an Arizona native, on the immigration battle in AZ.

Marisa Franco | Organizing Upgrade

I remember a childhood of listening to the stories of my elders, sitting at a kitchen table with thick mugs filled with more milk than coffee. There was my Nana Tonia, who came in the early 1920’s with her family from Sonora, México. My Tata Emilio’s eyes would gleam as he spoke, describing the orchard trees along South Mountain and Baseline Road, the ranches, the farms all around. He loved to point out how much things used to cost in the early days, breakdown what it cost to feed his family and pay the rent and match that to the wages he made as a janitor, a musician and a groundskeeper.

Stories like theirs constitute the backbone of the history of the state of Arizona. Their labor helped build the foundation upon which the 5th largest city of the United States operates upon today.  And I wonder, what would they think about what is happening in Arizona now, days after the passage of the nation’s harshest anti-immigrant law?

In the Arizona of today, you can get charged with smuggling – yourself.

In the Arizona of today, the chain gangs of the Jim Crow era are alive and well.

In the Arizona of today, undocumented students are forced to pay triple tuition for a college education.

And, after the signing of Senate Bill 1070, police can stop and question you because you look illegal.

Arizona – a state built by the hands of many people, of many colors and many languages – has taken another step in the wrong direction. Since 2005, almost 6,000 immigration-related bills have been introduced in the state legislature; many have passed with examples noted above. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has made it his personal mission to hunt migrants in the community and humiliate inmates in county jails. Check points are scattered throughout the state.  Others have begun to follow this example, as day laborers have been attacked as they wait for work on street corners.  Last summer, nine-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father were shot and killed in their home; three members of the Minutemen Militia have been arrested and charged for the crime.

The state government has been converted into a legislative laboratory and thus represents an epicenter of the anti-immigrant movement. And as a result, a veil of fear and terror has been laid upon the population.  Daily routines have become a risk.  A child going to school has to wonder whether she will see her mother or father when she comes home.  A quick trip to the store requires heavy good byes reserved for long journeys.  I was in Arizona the week SB1070 was signed into law and I heard stories of pregnant women coming in to community centers to ask if it was safe to go to the hospital to give birth.  The answer was, “No.”

The struggles around immigration are among the defining civil and human rights issues of our time, and Arizona has become the new Alabama.  Governor Jan Brewer made the choice to stand on the wrong side of history last week.  In exchange for votes she has solidified her place in history alongside segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace.  Wallace clung to the institution of racial segregation in the South, defending it by arguing for state’s rights over the federal government.  Governor Brewer and Republican politicians in Arizona will echo this argument, a general strategy of the Right wing under an Obama Administration, which emerged in the health care debates this year.

In a state nearing bankruptcy, with exploding foreclosures and growing unemployment, elected officials have chosen to target the state’s most vulnerable population instead of develop serious solutions to the state’s problems.  In this time of economic instability, people are increasingly fearful and uncertain of how things can get better.  The rhetoric behind bills like SB1070 is reckless and irresponsible, as they paint a narrative that blames immigrants for all the nations ills.  But there is a silver lining that comes from characters like Sheriff Joe Arpaio, legislation like SB1070 and politicians like State Senator Russell Pearce: they wake the people up. Because of SB 1070 the nation has turned its eyes upon Arizona. Now, the question becomes: Will the resistance multiply, or will the hate?

Read more…

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