This Spring, the global community condemned the measures being taken in Arizona such as the racial profiling law, SB 1070. Upon its passage, Cardinal Mahoney reflected, “I can’t imagine now reverting to German Nazi techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to authorities based on any suspicion….”
Yet, despite the outcry and court battles, even the federal government is replicating the Arizona policies and creating Sheriff Arpaios in all our communities. Through 287g and the Orwellian-named “se communities” programs, federal immigration authorities are enlisting local police in racial profiling and indiscriminate dragnets leading to massive deportations, divided homes, and polarized communities.
In Cobb County, NC, the 287g program has inspired even school security guards to check students’ papers. In Florida, they are proposing a law that requires immigration checks with the exception of those who can display Canadian or European documents. And in far less blatant form, the federal government is quietly converting each jail into a detention facility for anyone who is booked regardless of the cause of arrest or conviction.
Judging from this past election season, more than migrant communities have reason to worry. What has been packaged as a debate about immigration policy is showing itself to be much more. In my last post, I wrote about Sheriff Arpaio and his self-proclaimed “concentration camps” for migrants. The actions of law enforcers like Arpaio seem to embolden people like those who sent Rep. Grijalva of Arizona a poisonous package decorated with swastikas. When paired with the author of Arizona’s SB 1070, Russell Pearce, who is known for his association with white supremacists, one begins to observe a startling trend being promoted from legislators, law enforcers, and right-wing extremists.
When my organization launched an effort to turn the tide, it was not just against the unconstitutional policies being promoted. We hope to turn the tide away from hate and scapegoating and toward solutions that benefit us all. To turn away from criminalization and toward a recognition of the dignity of the human person. The questions posed before us as a country today are far larger than the themes packaged in thirty second political commercials.
In a country that has had a history of both George Wallace and Dr. King, D.W. Griffith and Harriet Tubman, David Duke and Cesar Chavez, we have a choice of which legacy we will live in today. Will we continue to close our doors to difference or will we open our arms and welcome the stranger? In times with little relief in sight and rhetoric continuing to escalate, will we each be a part of turning the tide?
Pablo Alvarado was forced to flee his native El Salvador and came to the US with other refugees looking for odd jobs at low pay on street corners in L.A. Now, he is the director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, an organization dedicated to building a grassroots movement achieve civil and human rights for low-wage migrant workers and all people.