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Don’t Cry for Us, Arizona


If Gov. Jan Brewer and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio are cheering and excited about the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on Arizona’s SB 1070, then you know something is wrong. And when both promise that there will be no racial profiling, that’s akin to the proverbial foxes promising to take real good care of the hens.

So let’s cut to the chase; despite ruling against three of its provisions, this ruling, which compels law-enforcement to cooperate with immigration authorities (Arizona’s SB 1070 2(b),) was not a victory. It represents a green light  for law enforcement — based on “reasonable suspicion” — to engage in racial profiling, a license to harass and destroy families, not simply in Arizona, but nationwide. As we all know, in Arizona, and in this country generally, brown skin is “reasonable suspicion.”

Despite that, it also affords people nationwide to support organizing efforts in Arizona, because while the battles will continue in the courts, it would be literally in the streets where this decision will be played out. It’ll be the same place where organizing will continue to take place. These organizing efforts include Tucson’s upcoming Freedom Summer.

In regards to the decision that upheld the 2(b) section of SB 1070, the green light, compliments of the Supreme Court, is for the states that can now follow Arizona’s example. Reasonable people would see the striking down of the three provisions as an affirmation of the supremacy of the federal government on immigration matters. However, legislators from Arizona and the copycat states, will instead see that green light and they will not be stopped, unless halted by voters or a future court.

The small comfort is supposed to be that if it can be proven that SB 1070 causes abuse and rampant discrimination, etc., then the court can revisit and later strike it down. The Supreme Court no doubt is leaving it up to Brewer and Arpaio to compile this documentation. This actually places the burden on human rights organizations to do this work.

Before continuing, it’s time for a reality check. That, which everyone fears, has already been our reality in Arizona, precisely because of the likes of Brewer and Arpaio. But even beyond them, with thousands of dead bodies and remains strewn about the desert, with deportations at record levels and the continued militarization of both homeland security operations and the border itself, it is worse than people imagine. This was true even before SB 1070. The overreach of the federal government, especially since 9/11/2001, via homeland security, has enabled racial profiling to take place not simply along the border, but in the entire country via agreements such as 287G and Secure Communities, etc.

Something that most of the country is still unaware of is that several weeks before SB 1070 was enacted, some 800 federal law enforcement officers descended upon Tucson, conducted a mass dragnet raid, and ended up arresting barely a few people involved in a shuttle bus smuggling operation. Again, this was prior to SB 1070.

In the midst of a presidential campaign, people will be choosing between two candidates, hoping that one is a little bit better than the other one. Enter Arizona.  Enter the US-Mexico border. Enter Alabama. Enter the Dream Act. Sure, one candidate is a little bit better than the other one. But basic dehumanization characterizes how this and previous administrations deal with the issue of immigration.

As long as this issue is defined as that of too many brown people, too many Mexicans and too many people from Central and South America, there will never be a humane solution.

Within the context of the current makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court, the only surprise about the ruling is that they didn’t simply outright affirm Arizona’s leap back into the 19th century.


In Arizona, the issue is not about “illegal immigration,” as the right-wing loves to proclaim. It is in fact part of the same civilizational war that the “West” has carried on since 1492. It is driven by the same ideology; the idea that God is commanding, that God has granted permission for Europeans/Christians to civilize this continent. In history this has been known as Providence, and Manifest Destiny; both were “legitimated” by the “doctrine of discovery.”

In this philosophy, red-brown peoples are simply in the way, have always been in the way, and not quite human. Only in Arizona do politicians actually verbalize these thoughts. They are brazen here because they don’t see the need to mask their thoughts and attitudes. To them, “illegal aliens,” are not quite human, not worthy of being afforded their full human rights. Of course, this simply means that many politicians nationwide hold the very same views and attitudes, but they are little more subtle and sophisticated, ensuring that they only keep their scorn against so-called illegal aliens; they have learned the art of obfuscation or skillfully speaking with euphemisms.

To understand that this is beyond “illegal” immigration, one needs to examine Arizona’s other regressive state measures; namely, the anti-ethnic studies HB 2281. This measure has enabled the Tucson Unified School District to ban the district’s Mexican American Studies (MAS) curriculum, to ban its books and more importantly to ban a [Indigenous] worldview.  The rationale, according to Tom Horne, the intellectual author of HB 2281, for doing this since 2006 has been that the curriculum is purportedly outside of Western civilization. The measure, in effect, criminalizes not simply teaching and learning Indigenous Knowledge, but thinking itself. Horne’s objective has always been to place Mexican-American [Indigenous] culture under house arrest. It cannot be coincidence or it cannot be a surprise that this measure was birthed in Arizona.

There are plenty of other regressive measures, too many to name. Suffice to say that this is the state where birthright citizenship also continues to be attacked by ways of attempts to effectively repeal the 14th amendment. In reality, these same politicos attack the very presence of red brown peoples in this state and country; mind body and spirit. SB 1070 attacks the body, thus, racial profiling; HB 2281 by banning a worldview, attacks both the mind and the spirit.

This is not news for those who have not been asleep or MIA the past several years. The real news is the amazing organizing that has taken root in Arizona, in spite of these regressive measures. The author of SB 1070, Russell Pearce, president of the State Senate, was successfully recalled. The Justice Department is all over Arpaio for civil rights violations. And Horne is also under investigation.


What the Supreme Court ruling does is simply point to the need to support the organizing efforts of people on the ground.  It does make a difference. The outrage is there locally, statewide and nationwide; what is needed is material support for those who work tirelessly to ensure human rights for all human beings, regardless of their legal status. And as a reminder, those of us in Arizona will never accept any immoral and inhumane measure as a law, regardless of what the Supreme Court says.

Living in Tucson, I will recommend supporting five different organizations or causes from there:

* Derechos Humanos

* Raza Defense Fund

* Save Ethnic Studies

* U.N.I.D.O.S

* Indigenous Alliance Without Borders

All do incredible work.

To be blunt, most or all need support, resources, volunteers or money to support their work. The ACLU recently announced that they have amassed nearly $9 million to fight SB 1070 and related state measures in court. That’s a very good thing. What organizers on the ground need is a similar kind of support and commitment from supporters nationwide. Communities in Arizona have already been tapped dry from the constant and intense organizing efforts of the past few years.

Derechos Humanos has for years documented abuses and deaths along the border. In the Tucson sector, they along with several other organizations will take the lead in documenting the abuses that will stream forth as a result of the flawed SB 1070 Supreme Court ruling. They’ve documenting and organizing for years.

Raza Defense Fund: This fund has been established in support of Sean Arce and Jose Gonzalez from a frivolous $1 million lawsuit, meant to attack the leadership of the now dismantled Mexican American Studies:

Save Ethnic Studies is the group that has filed a lawsuit against the state  in support of Mexican-American studies. Formerly the group was representing the 11 teachers when they were litigants in the same lawsuit. This group continues to challenge HB 2281 in the courts, with several students as litigants.

U.N.I.D.O.S: These youth organizers have led the organizational resistance the past 2 years against the efforts to dismantle MAS. Beyond taking over the school board, they along with student organizers from Social Justice Education Project and MEChA, have organized not simply protests but also educational and organizational workshops and conferences. UNIDOS is currently competing a video project titled “BANNED!” about the MAS struggle in Tucson: Contact info:, @UNIDOSPORVIDA or find them on Facebook.

Indigenous Alliance Without Borders: For more than a decade, the Alianza has defended the rights of indigenous peoples to cross the border safely, free of abuse and discrimination.  For decades, the increased militarization of the border has desecrated sacred lands and has prevented elders from Indigenous nations that straddle both Mexico and the United States from attending ceremonies. Contact Jose Matus

I should also add two organizations out of Phoenix that do critical work:

Tonatierra-Nahuacall (from their own mission statement): To create and sustain a Cultural Embassy of the Indigenous People that will support local-global and holistic indigenous community development initiatives in education, culture, and economic development in accord with the principles of Community Ecology and Self Determination. They have carried out this work for decades, which is included creating consciousness of migrants migrating into the United States are not immigrants, but rather, indigenous to this continent:

Puente Arizona (from their own mission statement) is part of the global movement for migrant justice and human rights. As a grassroots community-based group Puente promotes justice, non-violence, interdependence and human dignity. Puente Arizona works to empower the community and build bridges by working collaboratively with various organizations and individuals.

Both organizations have done incredible work, both at state, national and international levels, and of course, in Phoenix, organizing against Arpaio and the state’s power brokers.


Finally a word about whether people should be boycotting or not boycotting Arizona. To my knowledge, most organizations do not feel comfortable with anyone coming to or spending their money in Arizona, especially tourism dollars. However, organizers, willing to work with local organizations, have always been welcome. In fact, in Tucson we are but a few days away from Tucson’s Freedom Summer: July 1-Aug 7. There’s a national callout for people nationwide to descend upon Tucson in support of Mexican American Studies. For a schedule and for further information:  Contact:
Ernesto Mireles – 517-­‐881-­‐6505 ph; Sean Arce – 520-­‐975-­‐4780; Curtis Acosta – 520-­‐891-­‐7327; and

Roberto Rodriguez can be reached at: XColumn@gmail.com

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