Arizona’s elected officials have decided to officially scapegoat Latinos for the economic crisis facing that state and the entire country. On July 29th, Arizona’s SB 1070 will require police to ask any person who looks “reasonably suspicious” for their immigration papers. In effect, it will force the police to engage in racial profiling of Latinos and other people of color living in or visiting the state.
The state of Arizona is in such a desperate economic crisis that it has had to close down all of its kindergarten programs. Latino immigrants are being blamed for this situation, when the real culprits are the Wall Street banks, hedge funds, and insurance companies that stole trillions of dollars through the sale of sub-prime loan packages. When that bubble burst, the US economy went into a tailspin that has thrown millions out of work, cost millions of people their homes, tanked millions of small businesses, and created massive budget crises for every local and state budget. You can be sure of this: it wasn’t Juan or Rosalinda who pocketed billions from the sub-prime scam; it was the folks at Goldman Sachs and AIG.
Hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money were given to Goldman Sachs and the other crooks that paid themselves lavish bonuses. And the top managers of Goldman Sachs will never serve a day in jail for the suffering they have caused, receiving a “get-out-of-jail-free” card from the federal government by paying a $500 million fine. Within hours of paying the fine, Goldman Sachs stocks went through the roof, making them much more money than they paid out in the fine. What have immigrant workers got to do with this? Absolutely nothing!
Every time this corporate-run system gets into economic trouble it looks for scapegoats, so that the rest of us will blame our fellow workers instead of the greedy corporate owners and managers that loot the economy and leave the rest of us to live on food stamps. Believe it: the actions of Goldman Sachs, AEG, and the other Wall Street giants have caused a human crisis much like the environmental crisis caused by the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But in this case, the victims are not seagulls and turtles, or the fishing and tourist industries, but tens of millions of men and women who have no work, no health care, no income, and no hope.
We should not allow ourselves to get played by the rich folks. We should not fall into the trap of blaming our poor immigrant workers for the fact that most of us are up to our ears in credit card debt, or that our government is blowing up trillions of dollars of our tax money in bad wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The government of Arizona wants us to believe the racist lie that it is Brown folks who speak Spanish, or Chinese, Vietnamese or Tagalog who are our enemy. They want us to fight amongst ourselves while their corporate sponsors walk off with the cash. They want us to fight amongst ourselves while they cut off unemployment benefits, and slash spending for our schools and health care.
Immigrants are vulnerable, defenseless and easy targets because they have no legal mechanisms to protect themselves from the government, police, and ICE and racist vigilantes. The way in which Americans respond to this race baiting and immigrant bashing is also a test of America’s attitudes about social justice, human rights, equality and democracy. If racists are able to persuade the public that undocumented immigrants have no human and civil rights then the basic tenets of a democracy are eroded, and it’s a matter of time until it will be hunting season for another group of people.
Furthermore, as the debate over immigrant rights heightens, the public will be bombarded with misinformation and lies, which is a traditional tactic of right wing pundits, vigilantes and politicians. The big lie that immigrants are a burden to society and do not pay their fair share of taxes is a profound misrepresentation of who immigrants are. Many immigrants come here to escape economic or political oppression and bring many things to this nation, including a strong work ethic, cultural traditions and food. Most undocumented workers (because of their status) pay into the tax system, yet do not receive tax returns, social security benefits or access social services such as basic health care.
Additionally, since most Americans have learned a revisionist pro-settler, pro-imperialist portrayal of American history, they have been indoctrinated in the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, believing that Euro-Americans have a divine right to dominate this hemisphere. Consequently, it is believed that people of European ancestry are natural citizens of this land, whereas everyone else has no business here. In reality, everyone, no matter where in the world their ancestors came from has contributed to the development of this nation. But, at the same time, this hemisphere was originally inhabited by indigenous people, from north to South America. Yet the descendents of indigenous people are treated as foreigners in their own land. The theft of native lands and of northern Mexico by the U.S. further shaped American’s view of who is American and who is not.
This viewpoint also ignores the right of Mexicans to return to their historic homelands as indigenous people and as Mexicans returning to their stolen lands. For Chicanas/os this has major implications as they are united with their sisters and brothers from the south. For Chicanas/os this translates into potential power in the struggles for equality, justice, democracy and self determination. For racists immigration represents their worst fears because it potentially erodes complete Anglo-Euro-American domination of this nation.
It is sadly ironic (but certainly not surprising) that measures such as SB 1070 are first gathering steam in states like Arizona, states that are situated in the Southwest. States that not only share a border with Mexico, but states that occupy territory that once was Mexico. There is nothing magical about the border; it was created as the result of the military conquest of the northern territory and peoples of Mexico, land that is now called the Southwest of the US. It was this conquest, and the resulting resistance, that forged the Chicano nation. Chicanos, along with the indigenous peoples of the stolen land, have lived in this territory for hundreds of years. It’s not hyperbole when people declare: “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.”
We have got to say: No Way. We have got to say: You Cannot Play Us. We have got to be smarter than that. The fact is, most Mexicanos come to this country because our country has exploited trillions from their economy with scams like the North American Free Trade Agreement. Did you know that since NAFTA was passed, US agribusiness corporations flood into Mexico and undercut the local market for corn and other products and within five years wiped out 3 million jobs in Mexican agriculture. That’s right. While NAFTA allowed them to shift hundreds of thousands of US jobs across the border (into low wage Maquiladoras), it was also devastating the Mexican economy. What are those three million Mexicanos who lost their jobs to do? Many of them were forced to go North to stay alive and feed their families! And now, we are supposed to believe that they are responsible for the problems in the US economy. Give us a break. Even more insidious is the fact that the culture of Mexico, especially in the south, is built around corn, its growing, preparation, and seeding. So it is not just economic devastation but cultural was well!
Something else that is scary about what is going on in Arizona is the appeal to fear, especially among white people. The government and right wing folks in Arizona and elsewhere are trying to scare white working people that Latinos are “destroying the American culture,” and “ruining our way of life.” Now the state of Arizona has outlawed ethnic studies classes in their K-12 public schools. Can you believe this? They are afraid that learning about the incredible contributions of Latinos over 500 years of living in North America might threaten the “American way of life.”
This too is an old game. The problem is never the rich folks ― it’s Black people who want to vote, it’s women who want to control their bodies, and it’s gay and lesbian people who want equality. The reality is US culture has always been a diverse culture. Do you think the name of the state of Arizona came from the Pilgrims? Our culture, at its best, acknowledges that the contributions of Native Americans, African Americans, whites, Asian Pacific Islanders, and Latinos all contribute to its make-up.
There is no benefit for working people of any race if we insist and impose by force the language and culture of just one nationality. You want to know who tried this back in the day? It was the racist apartheid government of South Africa that tried to impose the Afrikaner language on the Black African citizens of that nation. That issue was one of the sparks to the movement that eventually liberated South Africa. But again, the main point for us is: let’s not get played, let’s recognize the common interests that all working people have with the Latino people and Latino immigrant workers, and stand up against SB 1070.
We should all understand that if SB 1070 goes into effect it will cause horrible fear and suffering among millions of our Latino working class brothers and sisters. Every time they step out the door, they will face the possibility of being stopped by the police because they “look like immigrants,” and if they are stopped (even if they are minors), and can’t “prove” they are here legally, they can be turned over to the feds. Families could be torn apart, people could be thrown out of work, children will be afraid to attend schools, sick people will fear going to the hospital. Is this the kind of world we want? Some right wing folks want this&mdhas; already 9 other states are considering laws like SB 1070. But how does this help us, those who are struggling to hold onto our jobs, pay our bills, take care of our kids and our seniors, get a decent education and have a life that is not always dogged by stress and anxiety?
Instead of bashing immigrants, lets join arms with them, and say NO TO SB 1070 and YES TO FULL HUMAN RIGHTS FOR ALL IMMIGRANTS. Here is what we can do:
Actions we can take to support the struggle in Arizona:
- Demand that the Obama Administration take decisive action and not comply with Arizona’s SB 1070. Call 202-456-1111 and let the President know that you support federal efforts to block SB 1070 but if it is not blocked, the federal government will refuse to cooperate with Arizona authorities. Immediately suspend and terminate all police-ICE partnerships, including 287(g) agreements and the so-called “Secure Communities Initiative.” Direct the Department of Homeland Security to refuse to take custody of anyone charged with violating provisions of SB 1070.
- Call Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to demand that they move the 2011 All Star Game out of Arizona. The National Football League moved the Super Bowl out of Arizona when that state refused to honor Martin Luther King’s Holiday. The least Major League Baseball can do is moved its All-Star game to protest Arizona’s racist law. People can take action by texting BOYCOTT to 62571 so they can receive alerts on how to get involved and make their voices heard. We can also ask people to send a letter to Commissioner Selig by visiting www.BoycottIntolerance.org.
- We can call on people from unions, community organizations, workers centers, and coalitions go to Phoenix on July 29th when SB 1070 is slated to go into effect and stand in solidarity with the communities of Arizona to stop the implementation of SB1070!
- People can help by making a donation to Alto Arizona which is helping to lead the efforts to make sure that human rights are extended to EVERYONE in Arizona. Send checks for Alto Arizona Campaign to National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON),675 Park View Street Suite B, Los Angeles, CA, 90057.
- People can use their online networks, email, IM, blogs, Facebook and Twitter to spread the word online.