Weekly Diaspora: What the #$@!, Arizona?

by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

While federal lawmakers cautiously mull over the possibility of dropping a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year, legislators in Arizona have passed yet another law that criminalizes undocumented immigrants. What’s more, the Arizona House is advancing a bill that would require the Arizona Secretary of State to review President Barack Obama’s birth certificate before his name is allowed on any ballots.

The Arizona crackdown

Arizona lawmakers just passed the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighbourhood Act, which is arguably the toughest immigration law in the country. It forces local police to check the immigration status of people if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they might be undocumented. The bill is an invitation to racially profile residents.

The bill, which now goes the states’ Republican Governor Jan Brewer for final approval, has sparked an organized campaign to defeat the measure over concerns that the bill is inhumane would discriminate against Latinos.

Valeria Fernández with the Inter Press Service reports on the bill, which “includes a number of provisions that go beyond authorizing the arrest of undocumented immigrants on ‘reasonable suspicion.’ It targets day laborers by making it a crime to look for work on the street, and would fine anyone who harbors or transports an undocumented immigrant, including family members.”

Outbreaks of civil disobedience have accompanied the bill. “On Tuesday, nine students were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct after they chained themselves to the entrance doors of the capitol building in an act of civil disobedience against the proposed law.” Fernández reports. “Authorities arrested them as soon as they said they wouldn’t leave until the governor took action on the law.”

John Tomasic with the Colorado Independent also notes that “On Capitol Hill, Prominent Latino Reps. Luis Gutierrez [(D-IL)] and Raul Grijalva [(D-AZ)]denounced Arizona’s controversial immigration bill and urged [Brewer] to veto the legislation. “

Eyes on Washington

While anti-immigrant legislation passes in Arizona, optimism for federal immigration reform this year is growing dimmer. While a proposal has already been introduced in the House of Representatives, the issue of citizenship for an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants could be shelved indefinitely if a bill isn’t introduced in the Senate soon.

The Senate will need time to debate the issue, and if it isn’t introduced in the next few weeks, potential fallout from the upcoming Congressional elections may make passing reform even more difficult.

ALIPAC attacks

As Kai Wright notes over at RaceWire, the congressional debate is not off to a civil start. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the only Republican Senator openly working on a bipartisan immigration reform bill, was verbally attacked by anti-immigrant groups this week.

“The rabidly anti-immigrant group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) has launched a campaign professing to out Graham as gay,” reports Wright. “In a speech to a Tea Party rally — which is making the web rounds via YouTube — the group’s leader, William Gheen, speculated that Graham’s being blackmailed into participating in immigration reform because of his ’secret.’ ‘I need to figure out why you’re trying to sell out your own countrymen and I need to make sure you being gay isn’t it,’ Gheen said.

McCain veers right

Mother Jones reports that ALIPAC is also targeting Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a lawmaker who co-sponsored a immigration reform bill in 2007 with the late Ted Kennedy. The 2007 bill didn’t pass, and since then McCain has backed away from vocally supporting reform now that he’s facing a primary challenge to his Senate seat.

“The motivation for McCain’s rightward shift is obvious,” Suzy Khimm writes. “The Arizona senator authored the Senate’s last comprehensive reform bill, which included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. His Tea Party-backed primary opponent, J.D. Hayworth, has attacked him relentlessly for doing so. Hayworth has been endorsed by [ALIPAC], a right wing anti-immigrant group that’s trying to stir up Tea Partiers to revive the conservative crusade against ‘amnesty.’”

Just this week, McCain introduced a bill in the Senate that would 3,000 National Guard troops to patrol the border, “an intervention that critics say would be both costly and ineffective,” according to Khimm. McCain also come out in support of Arizona’s news anti-immigration law.

But despite vicious attacks from the right, there is still hope. Immigration reform supporters are planning rallies in dozens of states on May 1 to keep pressure on the Senate to propose a bill. To organizers working on the ground to pass reform, Arizona exemplifies why the broken immigration system needs to be fixed on a national level, and now.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

 

Weekly Diaspora: Immigration Opponents Take a Turn for the Worse

By Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

As grassroots support for the pro-immigration reform March for America grows, anti-immigration groups and their allies are trying to use racial tension to stop the momentum. Opposition groups like NumbersUSA and the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC announced plans this week to partner with Tea Party activists in response to the event, which is expected to draw as many as 100,000 people to the National Mall on March 21.

Their hope? To scare the public into opposing a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

NumbersUSA, a mainstream group that was instrumental in defeating reform in 2007, has discussed the idea of calling immigrant women from Mexico “the new welfare queens,” while others are spreading paranoia that immigrants are trying to “steal the next election.” The White House is holding a bipartisan meeting on immigration legislation this week and the possibility of reform is worrying opponents. They are now desperately attempting to block reform by appealing to frustration and fear.

Amplifying hate

Along with actions to flood Congress with phone calls and faxes, anti-immigration forces are also spreading misinformation and proposing ways to dehumanize immigrant communities. As Stephanie Mencimer notes in Mother Jones, operatives on the far right are pushing a conspiracy theory that the Obama administration is using immigration to steal the 2012 election.

The magazine reports that the WorldNet Daily, a publication which bills itself as “conservative news website,” has come up with an elaborate scheme in which a secret “illegal immigrant registration” will “open the floodgates to fraud.” That’s despite the fact that undocumented immigrants are legally barred from voting in the first place.

On top of that, in a conference call organized by anti-immigration group NumbersUSA, an organization that is routinely quoted by the mainstream media to oppose reform, participants suggested calling immigrant mothers with Mexican heritage “the new welfare queens.” As I report for Campus Progress, NumbersUSA, which worked to kill immigration reform in 2007, held the call this week to coordinate actions against the immigration march.

“I feel the new welfare queen in America today is women coming from Mexico with a bunch of babies,” said one caller.In response, NumbersUSA conference moderator Chad MacDonald said “Thank you very much. I appreciate that.”

Right after that, another caller suggested that anti-immigration activists not use the word “babies,” because it was “emotional.” Said the conference participant, “They aren’t babies. They’re dependents. … They have dependents. We have babies.” While NumbersUSA claims to be against “immigrant bashing,” they made no efforts to stop the hateful statements that their supporters spewed over the phone.

Smart politics

While incendiary rhetoric from immigration opponents is alarming, Kai Wright writes in The Nation that such radicalism could be a good impetus for Democrats to embrace immigration reform. “The great thing about racists is they’ll always take the bait,” claims Wright. “You won’t get far into an immigration-reform debate, for instance, before the GOP’s more zealous legislators start doing things like criminalizing priests and calling Miami a ‘third world country.’”

Politically, most Americans will probably be turned off by hateful and racist language used during the immigration debate, much like they were during the lead up to the confirmation of Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor. In the end, the disgust factor could end up helping Democrats—if they let it.

“Immigration reform is an issue where Democrats are served better politically by picking a fight with the GOP than running from one,” Wright explains. “The long-term politics are plain: Latino communities nationwide are young, growing and increasingly ready to show up at the polls. And the certain-to-be xenophobic reaction of the GOP’s loudest voices today will not only motive Latinos this November, it will alienate independent voters as well.”

Out of patience

This week, pro-reform grassroots groups held a press conference on Monday to denounce what they said was increased enforcement under the Obama administration, as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency reported at least a 5% increase in deportations for 2009. New America Media reports that advocates at the press meeting pointed out that “livelihoods were lost, local economies affected, and families split apart.”

“These are the same enforcement practices that we marched against during the Bush administration,” said Angelica Salas, director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, who was quoted by New America Media. The outlet also notes that advocacy groups “contended that the immigration audits or ‘paper raids’ that have replaced workplace raids under Obama are just as damaging to immigrant communities and the businesses that depend on them.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

 

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