Immigration Reform No One Should Believe In

Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 was the recent immigration policy passed in Arizona. Essentially, it breaks down like this: Local, state, and federal authorities are now entitled to ask anyone they have “reasonable suspicion” for legal proof of citizenship. For example, if you’re stopped on the highway or walking down the street, and an officer sees you, you could be asked to show identification.


Aside from the roots of the cause of immigration, this policy subtly assumes that one could discern documented from undocumented people in Arizona, merely by getting a closer look at the suspect. It also applies a legal precedent – “reasonable suspicion”—a bit unusually. Reasonable suspicion is typically used as grounds to search minors, or people already utilizing public resources that are suspected of hiding evidence.


For example, if a school has reason to suspect a students are hiding marijuana in their lockers, a school can search all the lockers, because these lockers are state property, and the students are not entitled to their full civil liberties. Whereas, probable cause refers to people’s personal property, like their house, and requires a warrant. Probable cause is needed  to search houses; reasonable suspicion is insufficient.


SB 1070 would allow Latino communities to be patrolled, stopping everyone police see to ask for proof of citizenship. Though, the bill may not say that anything about racial profiling—stating that arrests and investigations should not be conducted when "complaints…are based solely on race"— race can still be a component of the suspicion.


The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General did a study this year in which they found severe lack in training and oversight to safeguard against racial profiling among police when cracking down on undocumented workers. To think that vague wording will not sanction police with the ability to move into known immigrant communities stopping anyone and raiding anywhere is naive. SB 1070 gives police free-range to run into Latino neighborhoods in Arizona, carding almost anyone.




No States – No Borders – No Human Is Illegal


The fact is that Latino immigrants are pouring over the border US-Mexico border as a result of the historical relations between the US and Mexico. During World War II, there was a shortage of farm workers in the South, because so many men were fighting in Europe. So, the US negotiated a policy with Mexico to bring Mexican families to these Southern US farms to work over the summer for low American wages. (However, these wages were relatively high for Mexican workers, which encouraged a flood of Mexican surplus labor to pour over its Northern border.) This agreement was supposed to simply keep US agribusiness on its feet, until the soldiers returned, but US agribusiness benefited too much from it to end it. 


After its 1947 expiration, the Bracero Program was continued up through 1964. That’s two generations of workers making a living by travelling North of Mexico for farm work. Nobody expected this to end the migration, but criminalizing it would drive illegal wages down even further through state fear and intimidation.


NAFTA was a 1994 Clinton era policy, which the US Department of Labor and American labor unions predicted would increase unemployment in Mexico and increase Mexican immigration to the US. This was, apparently, what the capitalist class wanted—more fearful and cheap labor. US agribusiness flooded the Mexican economy with US-government subsidized goods produced with highly industrial machinery, forcing Mexican peasants to compete with Monsanto and ConAgra in the US. As Mexican peasants could no longer make a return on their crops, they could 1) produce something that would make a profit, like marijuana, 2) go underground and move to where they can find jobs, the US, 3) try to adapt to the rapidly changing economy that requires skills they don’t have, relocation, and work cycles they’re unaccustomed to—work in low-wage sweatshop or maquiladora.


Our state has destroyed the Mexican economy and left them with the rational alternative of immigrating without following the bureaucratic processes. Meanwhile, the state and media are foaming at the mouth to break up families, leave children hungry, and put undocumented workers back in the situation where illegal drug trade or being beaten at work are the next best rational alternatives for their livelihood.  


SB 1070 states that what police have done for a long time is now sanctioned by Arizona public policy. There have long been laws on the books against employers and workers having undocumented contracts, but those have rarely been enforced; and when they are enforced, it’s almost always on workers, to scare them and drive them further underground. This does nothing to acknowledge the immigrant rights’ slogan, “We Want the Right Not to Migrate!” The state doesn’t care about people. It cares about approval ratings, creating fear, legitimizing itself, and pleasing its constituents, including its financiers. To this, the rich and powerful conquer and divide, erect borders, and create hysterical fear campaigns. 






Four students were arrested protesting this law at Senator John McCain’s Office; three were undocumented. This courage is paramount in the face of this law. Hip-hop artist, Chuck D, has come out against the bill, which has become a famous point of protest. A more unorthodox form of protest seems to be emerging in Arizona, too…from sports. 


The Phoenix Suns offered public statements and speeches at a game at their home, US Airways Center, where demonstrators and Al Sharpton gathered in protest against these “Juan Crow” laws. Everyone from owners to Charles Barkley from “Los Suns” had something  to say against the bill. Moving to baseball, where 27.7% of Major League Baseball Players are Latino, many players have released statements against SB 1070. The Arizona Diamondbacks are scheduled to host the 2011 All-Star Game, and many MLB players have said they will refuse to participate, even if chosen to play.


Michael Weiner, Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association has released a public statement against the bill, exposing the negative impacts the bill would have against players and their traveling family members when in Arizona. "The Major League Baseball Players Association opposes this law as written. We hope that the law is repealed or modified promptly. If the current law goes into effect, the MLBPA will consider additional steps necessary to protect the rights and interests of our members."


Players have made blunter statements, as have fans, but the Diamondbacks are the main focus. Diamondbacks owner, Ken Kendrick, was a major financial backer of the whole bill, which has made his team’s away games have a traveling road-show of SB 1070 controversy. At almost every away game immediately after the passing of 1070, they faced demonstrations of unhappy baseball fans. This is coupled with a new campaign, largely based around baseball fans and immigrant rights’ activists on Facebook, to boycott the Diamondbacks.

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