Federal Judge rules racism out of Arizona's controversial immigration law

From Restore Fairness blog. Yesterday, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction on some of the toughest portions of Arizona’s anti-immigration law SB1070 including the power for police to detain anyone “suspected” of being in the country illegally.  While the ruling is a victory, immigration law enforcement still needs reform

 

 

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Arizona’s Law and the Bennett Law

The recent signing of Arizona’s harsh anti-immigrant bill reminded me of another law passed a while ago. Commonly called the Bennett law, it aimed to make the teaching of English mandatory in all public and private schools. Like Arizona’s law, it constituted a response to large immigration, ignited by nativist sentiment.

The Bennett law reacted to similar anti-immigration feelings as those present in Arizona today. To many Americans, immigrants were unwanted foreigners taking away American jobs. They spoke a foreign language and came from a foreign land. They did not speak English and were accused of refusing to do so. They had a different culture and stayed together amongst themselves; assimilation did not seem to work with them. They seemed less loyal to the United States and more loyal to their homeland. At core, they seemed “un-American.”

I am speaking, of course, about German immigrants in Wisconsin.

The year was 1890, and America was faced with a massive, unprecedented inflow of immigrants. They were coming from all over western Europe – Germany, Ireland, Norway and Sweden. Many were Catholics – a religion some did not consider Christian in those times. Others considered drinking alcohol as quite normal, in contrast to American norms.

Bennett’s law came about because of these cultural clashes. Originally an ordinary school reform, it became engulfed in controversy when Assemblyman Michael Bennett of Dodgeville added an amendment requiring all schools to teach English.

During this time, many German-Americans went to private, parochial schools set up by the immigrant community; these were especially prevalent in rural Wisconsin. Because many did not teach English, the Bennett law posed an existential threat to these German schools. The Democratic Party, which had a substantial base amongst immigrants, came out strongly against the law; the Republican Party, dominant in Wisconsin at the time, strongly favored it.

Republican supporters, including Governor William Hoard, argued that learning English was vital to succeeding in America. Mr. Hoard stated:

I have, I believe, as friendly a feeling towards our German-American population as any man in this country; and if I did not believe that the Bennett Law would assist in the advancement of their youth I would certainly oppose its continuance upon our statute books. I want the little German boy and girl, the little Norwegian, the little Bohemian and the little Pole, the children of all foreign born parents, to have the same chance in life as my children. Without a knowledge of the English language they can not have this chance.

They also appealed to good-old American patriotism and the much-admired American tradition of the “little red schoolhouse.” One newspaper wrote:

The little district school-house is very dear to the American heart, and whoever lays the hand of violence upon it will evoke a storm of wrath which no power on earth can withstand. It is impossible to tell what motive may lurk behind this opposition to the Bennett law, but if its opponents are preparing for an attack upon our public schools, let them beware.

Opponents, on the other hand, called it an unconstitutional intrusion of the government into private affairs. They argued, moreover, that the Bennett law was pointless; German-Americans were quickly learning English anyways.

The main contention, however, was that the Bennett law constituted an attack on the German-American immigrant community. One German newspaper heatedly claimed that:

To such people who will recognize as “Americans” only those whose ancestors lived here during the war of the revolution, the German who clings to his home customs and to his glorious native tongue is an annoyance. It is not sufficient for them that we should become Americanized – we want to do that in the proper manner, of course – but they want us to become de-Germanized. And they think that can be accomplished first by destroying German schools. Their calculation is certainly a correct one. Aside from immigration, which it is sought to restrict in every possible manner, the German element in America has its greatest strength in the German schools. In destroying these, as the Bennett law seeks to do, the German element would lose one of the main conditions of its existence.

Matters came to a head in the 1890 gubernatorial election, when Republican Governor William Hoard, a powerful advocate of the Bennett law, faced re-election. Mr. Hoard lost by an overwhelming margin to Democratic candidate George W. Peck, backed by the angered German-American community.

In the following years the Republican Party’s dominance upon Wisconsin politics was severely disrupted. Their 7-2 House congressional majority was upended, turning into a 8-1 Democratic majority. Democrats gained a two-to-one majority in the state legislature, and Wisconsin voted Democratic in the 1892 presidential election (for the first time since 1852). Although other factors, such as an unpopular tariff, were also responsible for this, the Bennett Law certainly played no small role. It was promptly repealed in 1891.

Fortunately for the Republican Party, German-American loyalty to the Democratic Party did not last. Their self-consciousness as an immigrant community gradually faded away as they were absorbed into the American melting pot. Today individuals with German heritage tend to vote Republican. Some undoubtedly are influenced by nativist sentiment against those supposedly foreign, non-English speaking, assimilation-resistant Latino immigrants flooding into the United States.

But if the history the Bennett Law tells one anything, the Latino immigrant of today is the German immigrant of yesterday. In half a  century labeling Latinos as “foreigners” may sound as strange as talking about a German-American immigrant community.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

Weekly Diaspora: Obama Deploys Troops to Border Amid Rising Civil Disobedience

by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday that he would be deploying 1,200 National Guard troops to the Mexican border to beef up security along the Río Bravo. This surprise move has garnered criticism from immigrant rights supporters, who argue that it will dehumanize and endanger immigrant and Latino communities.

Julianne Hing at RaceWire offers more details on the plan, reporting that an extra $500 million has also been allocated to law enforcement along the border.

“Obama is reportedly asking for these troop increases in anticipation of Republicans’ demands on a war spending bill this week,” Hing writes. “But Obama’s already outpaced his predecessors in spending on border security and military presence at the border.”

With the militarization of the border there is a heightened sense of danger not only for immigrants, but also for residents. It’s happened before. Esequiel Hernández, a US citizen and high school student, was wrongfully killed by Marines 13 years ago, near the border in Texas after increased militarization.

The deportation race

Even more disheartening, John Morton, Assistant Secretary for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, boasted that deportations of undocumented immigrants had already increased by 40 percent this year alone, and were sure to surpass last year’s total of 400,000, according to Suzy Khimm at Mother Jones.

“At the same time, a breakdown of the deportation numbers makes it clear that it’s not just criminal immigrants that federal immigration officials are targeting,” Khimm  writes. “There’s been a small decrease in the number of non-criminal immigrants who’ve been deported, but they still make up a large majority of deportations.”

A storm of civil disobedience

In response to inaction on immigration reform and the increased enforcement, a civil disobedience campaign to pressure ICE and the White House to stop deportations continues. At the Real News Network, Jesse Freeston documents the growing civil disobedience relating to immigration reform, which at the beginning of the month included a 35 protesters sitting down “ in front of the White House fence, where they were eventually arrested. This included [Democratic] Congressman Luis Gutiérrez of Chicago, who has been heavily critical of the president’s inaction on these issues.”

Immigrant rights advocates in New York City demonstrated outside of Federal Plaza this week, with more than 35 people peacefully arrested. These demonstrations follow arrests in Washington DC, Seattle and Arizona for similar actions.

AlterNet notes that those arrested in New York included state assembly member Adriano Espaillat, City Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito, and dozens of other reform allies with unions, churches and community groups.

Consequences looming large

Make no mistake—there are political consequences for states like Arizona, where ultra right-wing politicians have passed a new laws targeting undocumented immigrants. As Steve Benen writes in the Washington Monthly, Latinos voters in Colorado and Arizona are quickly moving  to support Democratic candidates.

Benen reports that a new “NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo poll shows a similar trend at the national level, where ‘Latinos, once a semi-swing group of voters, now have swung overwhelmingly for President Obama and the Democratic Party, and younger Hispanics are moving to the Democrats in even greater numbers.’”

‘Skin heads and Nazis’

On a different front, former Colorado Congressman and anti-immigrant polemic Tom Tancredo is apparently too radical for many anti-immigrant groups. Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC), a national right-wing group that has linked Latinos and immigrants to rapists and murders on its website, parted ways with the ex-lawmaker.

ALIPAC has pulled out of June 5 anti-immigration rally in Phoenix, citing Tancredo’s supposed connections to white power groups, according to John Tomasic at The Colorado Independent.

Tomasic writes that “[ALIPAC director] William Gheen, who has battled accusations of racist associations in the past, explained that he had raised concerns with Tancredo about event organizer Dan Smeriglio, an activist with long unabashed ties to ’skin heads and Nazis,’ as Gheen put it.”

Great power, many responsibilities

In light of increased enforcement, The Uptake has video of Obama explaining his position on immigration reform. “Government has a responsibility to secure the border and enforce laws,” Obama said. “Washington has an obligation to set clear, common-sense rules, including rules that no longer punish and divide families that are doing the right thing and following the law.”

But Yes! Magazine columnist Kety Esquivel cites different responsibilities. “If history has taught us anything, it is that once human rights are eroded—once we allow ourselves to overlook the humanity of certain groups of people—we have stepped onto a slippery slope,” she writes. “If no one stands up to the injustice, the erosion of human rights continues.”

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.

 

 

Oh Arizona! Jokes aside, how many racist laws can we deal with?

From the Restore Fairness blog.

The British band Massive Attack played in New York City last night, and while their entire performance was framed by high-tech LCD projections against war, racism, corporate monopolies and violations of civil rights around the world, the specific moment at which the audience erupted in cheers was when the visuals denounced the harsh new law targeting immigrants in Arizona. In addition to inspiring creative forms of old-school activism, it looks like Arizona’s giant fiasco around the highly controversial and potentially racist anti-immigrant law, SB1070, has inspired some interesting (and appropriately ridiculous) humor. In the name of satire, the ACLU has launched a glorious new website called “The Deprofiler” which offers free “white people” masks that promise to protect against the threat of “reasonable suspicion” that Arizona’s new law places on people that are not white, and especially on the Latinos that account for 30% of Arizona’s population. Their pitch reads-

Being Brown was never easy. But now, due to SB1070, it can get you thrown in jail. Deprofiler.com allows you to print a mask of a friendly white person’s face to wear while you’re in Arizona. Now you can bask in the freedom and confidence of knowing you’ll never be harassed by the police. Get yours.

So if you’re worried, just select the mask of your choosing (they offer a selection of “whites”), print out a pdf, cut to holes in it for eyes, attach a piece of string, and you’re ready to go. Their sharing tools urge you to help keep a friend out of jail so “help a friend be white today!” Hysterical as it is, it’s more than just laughs; the final step asks users to take action and learn more about the issue by going to the Reform Immigration for America website.

A group of filmmakers who are concerned about the backward turn that lawmakers are taking when it comes to making informed decisions that respect the values of freedom and equality that this country stands for, created this PSA ridiculing Arizona’s SB1070. The video shows a police officer in Arizona chasing down a car in which the driver is obviously drinking. The officer asks him for his “papers” (including license, registration, social security card, birth certificate and work permit), but when the camera zooms out, we see that instead of questioning the drunk driver, he is questioning his sober Latino friend. Check it out for yourself-

Ridiculous as the scenario in the video is, it is not as far from the truth as it should be. Jokes apart, Arizona’s law, that makes it a crime to be undocumented and mandates that police officers stop and question someone based on how they look, seems to have unleashed a spate of state laws that aggressively threaten the equality, dignity and healthy co-existence of this country’s diverse population. Following the passage of SB1070, Gov. Jan Brewer has signed off on a bill that bans schools from teaching “ethnic studies,” classes that teach students of color about their heritage and history. The bill bans these classes based on the logic that they promote “resentment,” and encourage students to want to “overthrow” the U.S. government.

State schools chief, Tom Horne, who has been advocating for this bill (HB2281) for many years, believes that the Chicano and Mexican studies classes taught in the Tuscon school district (the first district where this bill will be implemented) teach Latino students that they are “oppressed by White people.” The Tuscon School district program offers its students, who are 56% Hispanic, courses on African-American, Mexican-American and Native-American studies that include the history and literature of specific ethnic group. According to Horne, these programs promote ethnic solidarity, “ethnic chauvinism” and racial resentment towards whites, rather than treating the students as “individuals.”

According to school district officials, the programs simply teach students the background to historical events, rather than promote resentment and hate towards other ethnic groups. This is what the Racism Review had to say about it-

An honest discussion of the history of whites’ racial oppression targeting Mexican Americans, Native Americans, African Americans, and other Americans of color in the southwest and elsewhere will be out of the question when and if this legislation goes into effect. Truth-telling about our white-racist history, and resistance to it by Americans of color, that gives people honest understandings (and/or group pride) will actually be illegal, as seen in this legislation of the folks in the Arizona legislature.

Sean Arce, director of Tuscon’s Mexican-American studies program, is disappointed that the state has decided to censor an academic program that has proved extremely successful. Judy Burns, who is on the Tuscon district’s governing board says she will refuse to comply with the law, and will not end the program that focuses on Chicano literature, history and sociology, and currently has a significant percentage of students enrolled in it. Once the law comes into effect (on December 31st, districts that do not comply with it could lose 10% of their State funding every month.

It is frightening that these legislators in Arizona believe that teaching young people about their history and cultural heritage is akin to promoting resentment between ethnic groups. Instead of encouraging a society built on freedom of thought, accessibility to knowledge and honest discussion, laws such as this one simply serve to deny the rich and diverse culture that is integral to the fabric of this country. To show your support for bringing back human rights in Arizona and protesting the spate of hateful laws, join AltoArizona for a Mass Mobilization on May 29th!

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

 

 

 

Is the person next to you being racially profiled?

From the Restore Fairness blog.

Roxana Orellana Santos was sitting by a pond and enjoying her lunch when two officers walked over to her and asked her for identification. They immediately took her into custody, detained her, and very soon she was handed over to government agents for possible deportation. For the month and a half that Roxana then spent federal custody, she was separated from her son, who was a 1 years old. She was released after 46 days.

Immigrant advocates later filed a civil rights lawsuit on her behalf, challenging her arrest, stating that neither of the police officers who questioned Roxana Santos had any authority to arrest her based on her immigration status. As Jose Perez from LatinoJustice (a New York-based nonprofit civil rights organization) said in the Washington Post-

Since there was never any suggestion of criminal activity by Ms. Orellana Santos, her questioning and detention were clearly based on one element: her ethnic appearance…This is the essence of racial profiling.

Why did the officers walk up to Roxana on that particular day? She had no criminal record and her information was not previously in the system. It seems to add up that she was asked for her identification purely based on her ethnic appearance. Unfortunately Roxana’s story is far from unique. Racial profiling is a very real and serious problem in the United States, and its integration with immigration enforcement in the past year has increased it by horrific leaps and bounds.

Racial profiling affects members of many communities across the country, including Latinos, African Americans, Arab Americans and Native Americans. Researchers at the Center on Race, Crime and Justice recently analyzed data provided by the New York Police Department (NYPD) examining the demographic trends of their stop-and-frisk policy and found that in 2009, African Americans and Hispanics were stopped at a rate that was 9 times higher than whites, even though they account for only 27% and 24% of the population of New York City. And once stopped, they were far more likely to be frisked and faced with physical force than whites who were stopped.

Even though profiling people on the basis of their race and ethnicity is a deeply alarming trend, a recent study found that subjecting the issue to public scrutiny is one of the most effective ways to reduce racial profiling. Heightened coverage in the media has proved to reduce racial profiling practices of police officers in routine traffic stops, making it important to highlight individual stories and put pressure on the authorities to respect civil rights.

Make a difference by writing a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Assistant Secretary John Morton in ending an egregious immigration enforcement program that has led to many racial profiling and civil rights abuses. Take action now.

Photo courtesy of allpsychologycareers.com

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

 

 

 

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