All defendants of human rights and civil liberties are urged to join a nonviolent demonstration against the new law, for comprehensive immigration reform

courtesy of PhotosByJoseMunoz.com

And so the battle continues.  With the signing of SB 1070 into law yesterday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) raised the stakes on the fight for comprehensive immigration reform in the United States.  Her state intends to require local police to enforce federal immigration laws by making it a state crime to be in the country illegally.  This despite broad opposition from Hispanic and human rights organizations far beyond Arizona’s borders, and including President Barrack Obama’s harsh words against the bill just hours earlier.

“Our failure to act responsibly at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others.  That includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness which we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe,” President Obama stated at a televised press conference.  “In fact, I’ve instructed members of my administration to closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation, but if we continue to fail to act on a federal level we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country.”

With their new authority, police in Arizona would be allowed to ask anyone whom they suspect are in the country illegally to prove their legal residency status in the United States by producing a valid “alien registration document,” including a green card, an Arizona divers license, or a passport.  If they are not able to produce these documents they would be subject to arrest, could be jailed up to six months and fined $2,500.  Harsher restrictions are also placed on anyone knowingly “concealing, harboring, or shielding an illegal immigrant.”  This law becomes the toughest anti-immigration law in the nation and marks a new level of assumed state government authority.

At a press conference in downtown Phoenix on Thursday where she was discussing border security, Brewer defended her state’s actions toward illegal immigration.

“I will not stop.  I will not be deterred.  I will not give ground when it comes to keeping us safe.  Securing the border might not be Arizona’s principal job, but we have no choice.  We must show resolve and courage where those who have failed to protect us have shown only weakness and delay.”

After signing SB 1070 into law she dismissed protesters’ concerns over racial profiling as “overreacting” and categorized opponents as “alarmists” and “cynics.”  Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union as well as the Mexican-American Defense Fund have already vowed to contest SB 1070’s constitutionality in the courts, before its anticipated late July-early August implementation.

Fighting SB 1070

Opponents of SB 1070 have called for various measures to protest the passage of this new law in Arizona.  Some have promised to boycott the state by avoiding travel or business into its borders until SB 1070 is declared unconstitutional, a candlelight vigil is planned for this evening in Washington, D.C. at Dupont Circle, a social media based petition urging President Obama to take action against the new law is circulating Twitter, and a nationwide March for Dignity and Respect for All, which was scheduled for Saturday, May 1, 2010, has taken on a new purpose and strength.

So far nonviolent demonstrations have been the focus of protesters, but some speculate this could change as tensions rise in Arizona over the next few days.  In Houston, organizers are calling all individuals who support human rights and civil liberties to participate in a May 1st March for Dignity and Respect for All, scheduled to begin at the intersection of Bellaire Blvd. and Renwick Dr. at 4 p.m.

“We are faced with an unprecedented choice,” says Cesar Espinosa, president of Immigrant Families and Students in the Struggle (FIEL).  “We can stay silent and let our community continue to be trampled on or we can say enough!  The time for people to stand up is now.  The time to stop to Arizona and other copy cat states is now!”

FIEL is one of the leading groups organizing Houston’s May 1st March for Dignity and Respect for All.  Local blogger and activist, Stace Medellin believes inaction is an invitation for further violations of human rights and civil liberties in Houston and across the nation.

“Yesterday’s action by the state of Arizona proved that Congress and President Obama must make comprehensive immigration reform the top priority.  The May 1st Marches around the United States have been given a boost by the fact there are groups who are more than willing to violate individual civil rights and liberties of specific groups of people” he said.  “There’s no doubt that these types of actions can lead to other groups being targeted as history has shown us, so it is important that we show a united, diverse front in calling for federal reform that is fair and humane.”

For more information about Houston’s May 1st March for Dignity and Respect for All, text the word “MARCH” to (832) 497-5035 to receive updates, or visit the website www.houstonmarches.info

©Juan of Words