Though it feels like a decade or more, it's only been three years since Senate Bill 1070, Arizona's ethnic cleansing legislation, went into effect, stoking the fires of ethnic discord, clobbering an already weak state economy, and putting Sand Land in the running for the most racist state west of the Mississippi, if not the entire Union.
This morning, the civil rights group Puente led a march from Steele Indian School Park to the offices of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Central Avenue, near McDowell Road. The demonstration was both a protest of the nefarious effects of the statute, as well as a rally marking three years of resistance to 1070 by Latinos and their allies.
Around 200 demonstrators carried signs demanding an end to the Obama administration's deportations and the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border. They chanted, "Stop 1070/We will not comply," and, "Being brown is not a crime," and peacefully assembled before the ICE building following the march.
Three years ago to the day, Phoenix was the site of massive civil disobedience, Arizona was being boycotted by groups around the country, and the most egregious parts of 1070 just had been enjoined by federal Judge Susan R. Bolton.
What remained of the statute formally made "attrition through enforcement" the public policy of the state.For our Spanish-speaking friends, some advice on what to do if Arpaio's goons come calling at your job: Consejos y trucos en español de la abogada Delia Salvatierra
It would be another two years till the U.S. Supreme Court would rule on this odious legislation, upholding much of Bolton's order, save for her injunction against section 2(b), which requires law enforcement officers to inquire as to the immigration status of someone already stopped, if they have reasonable suspicion to believe someone is in the country illegally.
The justices reaffirmed the federal government's supreme authority over immigration, and left the door open to an as-applied challenge of the law, if it could be demonstrated that 1070 was being used to violate the civil rights of those halted.
To that end, the ACLU of Arizona has begun a campaign called United Against SB 1070, with its own phone app and statewide hotline, so that people can report instances of racial profiling or other civil rights abuses.
Activist Beto Soto, whom you may recall for the verbal spanking he gave Maricopa County Board of Supervisors chair Andy Kunasek at a recent BOS meeting, pointed out that this will be the first full year section 2(b) will be in effect, with many college police forces, for instance, having to address the issue.
"Basically,  is teeing up the ball for a massive class-action lawsuit against the state," he told me during the rally at ICE's doorstep, "in two years, three years, while we get a lot of these cases [of civil rights abuses] accumulated."
Soto described as "reckless at best, criminal at worst," the actions of pro-1070 politicians, who have backed the law for their own myopic ends.
"They are forcing the state of Arizona to undergo a racial experiment that the whole nation understands," he stated, "a neo-Jim Crow experiment on the entire state."
That's a good way of putting it. Because enforcing section 2(b) of 1070 in a state that's one-third Latino is guaranteeing yourself just the sort of class-action lawsuit Soto is describing.
Those who whine that section 2(b) doesn't involve color or ethnicity are either disingenuous or delusional. There's no way to implement 2(b) without it resulting in racial profiling.
Meanwhile, the war on Latinos in this state continues apace, with crass, self-serving politicians such as Governor Jan Brewer denying driver's licenses to DACA-eligible DREAMers, and Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne suing to deny in-state tuition to the same population of young men and women.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery pursues a discriminatory policy toward undocumented workers by overcharging them, so they can be held nonbondable under Prop 100. Though, ICE has been more willing of late to dismiss immigration cases or release immigrants with a pending immigration hearing.
Also, the ACLU's class-action lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio has resulted in a finding that the MCSO engages in racial profiling, and an order that the MCSO must end its biased policing. The anti-immigration sweeps seem to be over, as a result.
But as Joe has shown recently with the Uncle Sam's arrests, he can still do worksite raids of businesses, rounding up brown kitchen workers and busboys under the pretext of enforcing state law.
The struggle, la lucha, roils on, with the defiance of the nine DREAMers who recently crossed into the United States from Mexico and are now on hunger strike at the Eloy Detention Center, after being arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Here in Phoenix, Puente engages in a family-by-family battle through its campaign Not One More Deportation, involving immigration attorneys, public pressure and appeals from family members in the effort to free individuals from ICE detention.
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"Three years after 1070, we've come to realize that it's the people who have the power," explained Puente organizer Sandra Castro. "It's the community itself that's going to put an end to the deportations."
She told me that so far Puente has been able to help reunite 47 families.
Additionally. Puente and other groups such as the Barrio Defense Committees have been educating the undocumented as to their constitutional rights in dealing with law enforcement, empowering them to stand up for themselves and fight.
Solidarity and determination are our greatest weapons against an enemy energized by fear and hate. Which is why, if we stay true to those qualities, we shall, as they used to sing back in the day, overcome.