SB1070 promotes mass racial profiling of Latinos as it gives police officers power to detain persons to determine their immigration status based on a racial profile of what an undocumented person looks like. But, at its roots it is ethnic cleansing, a crime against humanity and a violation of international law.
Ethnic cleansing is the attempt to create ethnically homogeneous geographic areas through the deportation or forcible displacement of persons belonging to particular ethnic groups. Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer, the State legislature and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, among others, are engaged in a campaign to cause the forced migration of Mexicans and other Latinos from the state in violation of human rights. SB1070 is just one of their tools.
To be sure, ethnic cleansing did not originate in the United States. There are unfortunately examples the world over, in Europe, Africa and Asia from as far back as the 7th and 9th centuries. However, there is the historical precedent of the forced displacement of Native Americans by white settlers in what is now territorial United States in the 18th and 19th centuries.
As expected, Brewer signed the anti immigrant legislation. In so doing, she has unleashed the dogs of war and terror on the state’s Latino population and its hundreds of thousands of immigrants, documented and undocumented.
Arizona’s State government’s Declaration of war on its Latino population carries the stench of partisan politics. As in the California gubernatorial primary race, it is crystal clear now that Arizona is the preview of what the republican national campaign will be for the November elections. Despite the fact that it could establish apartheid like persecution of the Latino population, Republican Party leaders will attempt to whip immigration to a frenzy to win votes and galvanize their base. It does not matter that it will force the migration of thousands of Latinos out of Arizona that tens of thousands of our children, citizen or undocumented, will live in constant fear of being deported, of losing their parents, their sisters and brothers, their neighbors and have their families separated. Nor does it matter that the forced migration of brown skin Latinos will drive Arizona’s economy to the ground. The Republican Party will feed Latinos to their base to win elections. It is obvious also that if this measure prevails in the courts, it will drive the state’s economy to lower levels, losing billions of dollars and over one hundred and fifty thousand jobs immediately. What is more, it will divide the people of Arizona because the persecution will foment discrimination and massify racial profiling of Latinos to levels unseen before.
Profiling is based on subjective suspicions caused by external human features, primarily the color of skin and language. As in the southern states, where, before civil rights laws were enacted, African Americans were the target of selective racial enforcement, in Arizona, the targeted, hunted ethnic community will be Latinos, who are 37% of the population, citizen or not.
On a short term basis, the ethnic cleansing campaign is about winning elections, on the long term the Republican Party and other reactionary forces seek to stem the inevitable growth of the political strength of Latinos, who upon obtaining citizenship will enroll in the ranks of the Democratic Party. As in many states of the union, it is only a matter of time before the brown skinned people become the majority in Arizona.
SB1070 is an assault upon Latino/police community relations and community security. The proponents of SB1070 steadfastly cling on to the idea that SB1070 is about enforcing the immigration laws which the federal government has failed to enforce. They stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the obvious and the warnings of police chiefs across the country: that SB1070 will create such fear of contact with the police that Latinos will refuse to report crimes out of fear of arrest and deportation and thus it will seriously deteriorate police community relations, generating a haven for future criminal activity and diminishing security for all the people.
To halt ethnic cleansing on its tracks and stem the tide of racism and xenophobia sweeping Arizona and other parts of the country, Congress and President Obama must move speedily on immigration reform. As well, the federal government has the power to intervene as it did in the sixties, in the southern states of Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi, to stop discrimination and persecution of African Americans. The administration could at least refuse to cooperate with Arizona by refusing to take custody of any detainees and prisoners the state attempts to hand over to Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE).
Meanwhile, the mass social expressions of rage and discontent of the people in Arizona and throughout the nation are also on the rise. For days, hundreds of youth have walked out of school and held demonstrations and vigils in front of Arizona’s Capitol building to protest SB1070. On Friday April 23, immediately after the governor signed the bill, in a matter of two hours, a reported 7,000 demonstrators surrounded Arizona’s State’s building complex. In Tucson, hundreds gathered on Saturday. In Phoenix, thousands rallied in protest with Congressmen Luis Gutierrez and Raul Grijalva leading the chorus. Throughout the nation media events and protests in solidarity with the people took place the past week. Furthermore, in the net and other venues, economic boycotts on Arizona economy have been called for by truck drivers associations and others, some calling for boycotts of sports teams, conventions and transportation of goods.
SB 1070 has become another spark for Latinos and all people of good will. On May 1st, in an estimated one hundred cities across the country, immigrants and their allies will take to the streets and hundreds of thousands of marchers will loudly demand legalization and comprehensive immigration reform. The added battle cry on international workers day will be: BOYCOTT ARIZONA.
Javier Rodriguez is a journalist and a media and political strategist. He has published extensively in La Opinion, LA Times, ZMAG.ORG, PORTALUNO.COM, Hispanic Link and other venues. Antonio H. Rodriguez is a civil rights attorney in Los Angeles.