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Arizona Blues


When people the world over think of Arizona, nowadays, they generally think of Gov. Jan Brewer, Sheriff Joe Arapio or state rep. Russell Pearce – the poster children of the state’s move toward legalized discrimination and racial profiling. If they are closely following the politics of the sun state, they also think of state superintendent of schools, Tom Horne, the architect of the state’s move to abolish Ethnic/Raza Studies.

Here, we think of the human toll.

Combined, these Arizona measures are becoming the modern version of Indian Removal and the colonial policy of “reducciones” – a policy aimed at civilizing the “savages.”

To those outside of this insane asylum – this state is being described as the New South. It may indeed be that, including a laboratory for setting the stage for apartheid governance in a part of the country that is browning daily. Politically, this is all about the clash of civilizations; one civilization Indigenous to this continent, the other, seemingly hell-bent on continuing the policies of manifest destiny.

Yet, there is something more taking place here. In a sense, to understand Arizona, read Brown Tide Rising by Otto Santa Ana. In it, the author poignantly observes that in this society: “Only humans have human rights.” There can be no doubt that the red-brown peoples of this state are being treated as less than human.

Also, read A Decade of Betrayal by Francisco Balderrama and Raymond Rodriguez. In it, they write about this nation’s obsession with targeting Mexicans during times of economic crises, going back to the period between 1910-1920. And yet, what they point out is that the numerous campaigns that deported hundreds of thousands and even millions of Mexicans, including U.S. citizens, were not indiscriminate, particularly the one conducted in the 1930s, but rather, targeted. Who were targeted were not criminals, but rather, anyone resembling a leader, in particular, community, educational and labor organizers.

In Arizona, there are numerous policies and programs in place (Operation Streamline) to criminalize migrants – which not coincidentally line the pockets of the private prison industry. But beyond that, an array of law enforcement agencies, continue to become extensions of the U.S. Border Patrol – operating as though SB 1070 was already the law of the land.

In Tucson, these draconian measures have now begun to affect the parents of our top students and top student organizers. In the summer, the father of a young high school activist DREAM Student, was picked up by a Sheriff’s deputy while a passenger in a truck. Even though SB 1070 was not in effect, as happens regularly, he was handed over to the Border Patrol. This happened during the middle of the annual Raza Studies Transformative Education Conference this summer. As a community, we rallied to the support of the family, successfully getting him out on bail. I’ve written about her previously as she has publicly identified herself, long before several DREAM Students identified themselves publicly while occupying the offices of Sen. John McCain this past summer. As a proud community organizer, she publicly identifies herself, but I don’t identify her, not even identifying her school, because I still feel the government has the potential to target their families.

For example, this past weekend, the father of one of our top students at the University of Arizona, Michelle Rascon – who is an incredible poet, a Raza Studies alumni, a U.S. citizen and a prospective law student – was picked up at his own home in what appears to have been an elaborate ruse by the FBI. After luring Jesus Gilberto Rascon outside, they proceeded to call the U.S. Border Patrol. As we speak, he is undergoing criminal proceedings that may keep him incarcerated for at least several months – until his final disposition — which could result in a lengthy prison sentence. Of course, there are legal details involved, which will be litigated in court, but suffice to say, that cases such as these point to the absurdity of what the government is doing to divide up families; neither are criminals in any sense of the word.

The federal government claims to no longer be targeting students or their families and that its policies are designed instead to primarily go after “criminal aliens.” The draconian enforcement measures seen around the country, especially in Arizona, belie this so-called new policy. Apparently, if the nation criminalizes non-violent migrants through its various operations and 287(g) agreements, including Secure Communities, then once criminalized, they now become “criminal aliens,” thus primary targets. Circular logic at its best.

We appear to be in the midst of another decade of betrayal.

* A note from Michelle Rascon: My family and I are eternally grateful for all of the support we have received. Please take this time and help us make an impact on his case. Please email me letters of support: To whom it may concern, ASAP if you are able to help or fax them to 520-884-5887. Michelle Rascon

* A note from Derechos Humanos: Please help our sister, Michelle, and her family during this difficult time. We must support each other. Donate online or mail a check or money order to Arizona Border Rights Foundation PO Box 1286, Tucson, AZ 85702-1268, with “Rascon Family” in the memo field. For more donation info, write to:

ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ, a professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at:


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