||Immigrants marched in Phoenix this past weekend to protest the state’s new anti-immigrant law.
Arizona’s new anti-immigrant law has “paved the way for assaults on the basic human rights of women and created an environment in which violence against women and children has been state-sanctioned.” But immigrants and people of conscience are steadfastly resisting the law, a group of women activists said this week.
At the same time, religious groups, political leaders and sports teams are calling for the law to be repealed.
The Women’s Emergency Human Rights Delegation, which includes civil and women’s rights leaders, journalists, union leaders and organizers from the AFL-CIO, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), the National Domestic Worker Alliance (NDWA) and Jobs with Justice (JwJ), visited women at community centers in Phoenix on Mother’s Day to document the experiences of women in Arizona in the wake of the signing of the law. Ana Avendano, an assistant to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, was among the delegation. Read the delegation’s statement here.
The law requires a police officer to demand proof of immigration status when the officer has “reasonable suspicion” to believe the person is not authorized to be in the United States, regardless of whether he or she is suspected of a crime. The law puts Arizona’s entire Latino population—the great majority of whom are U.S. citizens or legal residents—at risk of arrest.
The delegation called on Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to immediately withdraw the authority that she has given to Arizona to enforce federal immigration laws, what’s known as the 287(g) program.
Today, Trumka and Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCR), made the same request of Napolitano. As the two leaders explained in a letter:
Unless DHS (Department of Homeland Security) terminates all 287(g) program agreements in Arizona, the federal government will be complicit in the racial profiling that lies at the heart of the Arizona law.
The momentum to repeal Arizona’s anti-immigrant law is gaining strength. Four major conventions set for Phoenix have been canceled and others are on the brink of being pulled, with Phoenix standing to lose $90 million in convention revenue as calls grow for a boycott of the state. Today, two of Mexico’s top soccer teams canceled a match in Arizona in July because of the Arizona law.
An emergency delegation of seven prominent religious leaders from Arizona is now in Washington, D.C., to ask Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and White House officials to set politics aside and take immediate action on comprehensive immigration reform. And yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council voted to boycott Arizona businesses, making Los Angeles the largest city to take such action to protest the state’s immigration law.
Writing in Huffington Post today, Ellen Bravo of Family Values @ Work and University of California-Santa Barbara and professor Grace Chang, two of the members of the women’s delegation, say the law is ripping apart families in Arizona:
The testimony we heard makes clear in vivid and haunting detail how [the Arizona law] constitutes a violation of every principle we hold dear to safeguard women as mothers, workers and leaders in families and communities.
Women and children courageously recalled traumatic experiences. Their testimony reveals the horrific consequences of raids, harassment and detention of family members in migratory communities—as well as incredible resistance.
The delegation heard from women and students taking action to challenge the law. One young woman described a weeklong spiritual fast by students at various colleges, including Arizona State, against the law before it was signed. Another young leader read from her poem:
And there is no need to debate, because my dreams are much larger than your hate.
I am not the criminal,
I am not the one to blame.
I am not an “illegal”
I am not the other,
I am you…
and your ancestors reaching this land.
The delegation also heard stories from women and children like nine-year-old Catherine, whose parents were both arrested in a workplace raid by U.S. immigration officers. Catherine was unable to sleep or eat for months, her grandmother, Sandra, said. But Sandra added the new law has led to more activism among the supporters of real immigration reform:
They have wakened a giant.
Her granddaughter agreed. When asked what advice she has for women and girls, Catherine said, “Luchar!”—”Fight back!”
Silvia, who works with immigrant women at one of the community centers, told the delegation that undocumented parents might not report a sexual assault because they cannot trust their supposed protectors. She quotes one woman who put it this way:
If the law goes through, I don’t think any woman will call the police again. It will be chaos. It will be terrible.
The delegation also called on the leaders of the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues to hold a hearing for the women of Arizona to come to Washington, D.C., to tell their stories. They also requested that First Lady Michelle Obama commit to meeting with them and hearing the testimony.