Migrant Rights: Coming Out of the Shadows

Charlie Parke March 8, 2013 0

By Charlie Parke
Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org

In Arizona migrants have been on the defensive for a number of years. Laws like Arizona SB 1070, sometimes called the “Show Me Your Papers” law, passed first in Arizona and spread to other states. Some other laws that have made life difficult for migrants include tougher laws on IDs and enforcement of checking employee backgrounds. Recently, the political climate seems to have begun shifting in favor of increased acceptance of the migrant community.

In July 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down portions of Arizona SB 1070.  The court ruled against a state law requiring migrants to carry federal ID and provisions making seeking work illegal. Provisions of the law that allow police to check immigration status remained in effect. On March 4, 2013 a federal appeals court decision ruled in favor of migrants seeking employment. This decision blocks enforcement of an Arizona law that would have made it illegal for employers to approach those looking for work from a car because it might block traffic. The court noted blocking traffic was already illegal and that no need existed for a specific provision for migrants.

Organizations such as Puente, ACLU and Occupy have brought national attention to the issue of immigrant rights through campaigns such as the “No Papers, No Fear” and calling for an end to family separation caused by deportations. An increasing Latino voter turnout may have been behind President Obama announcing deferred action, which allows youth to apply for temporary legal status.  Perhaps in reaction to the growing Latino population immigration reform seems to have become a key goal of both parties in Washington D.C. for 2013.  Plans appear to have been drafted, indicating interest in increasing border security to decrease new border crossing while allowing a much easier path to citizenship for those migrants currently in the United States.

Photo by Robert Haasch

Another Arizona racial controversy over teaching ethnic studies in Tucson high schools seems to have come to an end in 2013.  The program, aimed at teaching a diverse cultural heritage to engage students, seemed to be behind increased graduation rates and improved test scores but was felt by some to encourage radical views that might lead to distrust of current government and/or resentment toward a race of people.  Tom Horne, Arizona superintendent of public instruction, pushed for a ban on the program and the Arizona legislature passed HB 2281 preventing ethnic studies courses.  In early 2013 a federal judge declared culturally relevant courses like ethnic studies legal in Tucson and it appears the courses may return in the fall of 2013.

While the federal decisions seem to favor migrants the Arizona legislature focusing on new efforts seemingly aimed at stopping border crossing.  HB 2583 establishing a Arizona joint operations intelligence unit passed the house with 55 votes in favor and 0 against with 5 not voting. If the bill passes the Senate and is signed by Governor Brewer it would create a new force to patrol the border, enter into compacts (or agreements) with other states and coordinate efforts with county sheriffs, border patrol, local law enforcement and others.  Some members of the Arizona legislature sought immigration reform in early 2013 introducing SR 1001 – sponsored by Senators Gallardo, Ableser, Bradley, Hobbs, Jackson Jr., Landrum Taylor, Lopez, Pancrazi, Tovar and Farley – asked for federal rather than local solutions and stated “Currently, there are millions of immigrants who have been here for several years and who pay taxes, raise families and contribute to their communities, including many who do not yet have authorized immigration status.”  A similar house measure HR 2002  was introduced by Representatives Quezada, Cardenas, Gallego, Mendez, Steele, Wheeler, Senators Gallardo, Tovar: Representatives Alston, Dalessandro, Escamilla, Gabaldon, Gonzales, Larkin, Otondo and Saldate.  Both items seem to have died in committee without being assigned a public hearing or a vote but seem to indicate support by many legislators for working migrants, families and a shift from local governments dealing with migrants to relying on federal policy.

March 2013 has been declared National Coming out of the Shadows month for migrants.  Calling for the undocumented along with civil rights allies to march and rally. Organizers stated their goal is to “humanize those targeted by immigration laws, and expose the inhumanity of current immigration policies”. “The events are part of a national push to make the first step on the path to citizenship a moratorium on the approximately 1,400 daily deportations that continue as the immigration debate proceeds.” In Arizona events will take place in Flagstaff on March 9th, Phoenix on March 11th and Tucson on March 17th.