SB 1070 Implementation Day: a view from the front lines in Arizona

by Pollyanna Sunshine

In her Tuesday column in the Arizona Republic website, columnist Laurie Roberts noted that

We are now less than 48 hours until Senate Bill 1070 becomes the law of the state – unless, of course, Judge Susan Bolton nixes the whole thing. . . Already, the barricades are up at the Sandra Day O’Connor Federal Courthouse . . .  Busloads of folks will be coming in from California to join with Arizona opponents of the new law.

[Ed. Note: Judge Bolton issued an injunction against key portions of the law this afternoon.]

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a notorious immigrant-hater who has for many years been violating the civil and human rights of  citizens and non-citizens alike, has just drawn his own line in the sand.

Thousands of people will reportedly descend upon Maricopa County this week in support of or in protest to SB1070.  Intelligence gathering leads us to believe that several acts of civil disobedience are planned – here at my office headquarters in the Wells Fargo Bank high rise in downtown Phoenix; at the jails including Tent City and at Thursday’s crime suppression operation which will be conducted by my deputies and posse members.

Activists and their celebrity sympathizers who wish to target this community and this Sheriff by attempting to disrupt our jail and patrol operations will be unsuccessful as we will be fully prepared to meet those challenges head on with appropriately staffed personnel and resources.

Roberts concludes:

Angry protestors, an angry sheriff and plenty of TV cameras.

This has trouble written all over it.

I don’t know what Thursday’s protests seek to accomplish.  What I do know is that they won’t change a thing.  If fact, if anything the foxholes on both sides will just be dug in all the deeper.

As one of the thousands of local folks who plan to join our “celebrity sympathizers” in taking to the streets on Thursday, I would like to offer an explanation for our unruly behavior to Ms. Roberts, the clueless nativists filling up the comments on that column, and anyone else who may be wondering.

What Thursday’s protests hope to accomplish is precisely the same thing that civil rights protests of the early 1960s hoped to accomplish: to raise local and national awareness of the outrageous injustices being committed against innocent people in the name of “law and order” and “the American way of life,” in the hopes that such awareness will result in the overturning of laws that violate both the explicit guarantees of the US constitution and the most minimal sense of human decency.

These protests are not about competing visions for effective immigration policy, although indeed those issues are certainly circulating around here.  These protests are the f(@%!#g Montgomery bus boycotts and Woolworth’s sit-ins of the early 21st century, and the people streaming into our state this week are its Freedom Riders.

What these protests are about is simply this: the right of every single U.S. citizen, legal resident, and authorized or unauthorized visitor to walk across the street or drive a vehicle down the interstate highways  or  otherwise peacefully go about the normal, peaceful, and mostly law-abiding course of our daily business—without being subject to detention and questioning by any law enforcement officer who believes s/he has “reasonable suspicion” that you might not be a legally authorized resident or visitor, and subject to arrest and immediate jailing unless you can immediately provide one of the specific forms of identification deemed acceptable under the new law.  From there on, you are welcome to sweat it out in some of the most dangerous jails in the nation, until such a time as your immigration status (or lack thereof) can be officially verified by the federal government.

In other words, you could be this guy, a US-born citizen truck driver who pulled into a weigh station on the highway about 20 minutes from my house, provided both a commercial drivers’ license and a social security card upon request from some random government official, and somehow ended up cooling his heels in the ICE office until his wife could find his birth certificate and bring it in.  (And that was before SB 1070 was even passed!)

Please note that if you dare to get excessively cranky at these violations of what you thought were your rights under the 1st, 4th, 5th, and several other amendments to the United States Constitution, they will probably add on a few extra charges for disturbing the peace or resisting arrest, and in the current climate you are likely to find yourself face down on the ground with a baton or gun barrel pressing down on your neck.

And please note that you may now, under SB 1070, also be at risk of arrest and prosecution if you “conceal, harbor or shield” an undocumented immigrant or if you “know or recklessly disregard the fact” that the person does not have all their papers in order.   Which makes this the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 all over again, and any individual U.S. citizen who fails to report their friends or family members or patients or clients or students to the proper authorities a de facto outlaw as well.  [NB: This provision was NOT covered by today’s injunction, so it still goes into force on 7/29.]

So what part of “illegal” don’t YOU understand, mis amigos?

While I would note that as in the 1960s Southeast, much of the heavy lifting is being done by local folks here in the churches and community organizations that have been struggling over these issues for years. I will say on behalf of the concerned residents of Arizona, “Bienvenidos a Arizona, mis hermanos y hermanas! And howdy, ya’ll!”  It’s about time you started paying attention, because things here are about to get even uglier than the already quite ugly we’ve been seeing for years, especially here in Maricopa County, and the ugliness seems to be threatening to spread nationwide if somebody doesn’t stop it before it jumps the firelines into California and Colorado and Texas and from there spreads like wildfire across the nation. And if there is anything that we Arizona residents know more about than racist hatemongering and fearmongering and badly crafted legislation, it is how fast and how far a tiny little wildfire can spread during a long hot dry summer and how unbelievably thoroughly it can scorch the land.

For those of you haven’t been paying much attention to our little state, I am working on a primer with some helpful links to the background and significance of this law, and I will be posting those later this week.

For those of you who are already in AZ, or on your way, or sitting out there somewhere far away wondering what you can do to help, here are some quick links to what’s going on this week:

General suggestions for supporting the cause, courtesy of AltoArizona, with specific suggestions for self-organized protesters both in and out of state: National Week Against Criminalization and National Day of Non-Compliance.


This morning, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton has issued a preliminary injunction preventing several sections of Arizona’s new immigration law from becoming law, at least until the courts have a chance to hear the full case.

However, all this means is that some parts of the law won’t go into effect until after all of the relevant lawsuits can work their way through the courts. So the Thursday events are all still on, and we can still expect Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s goon squad to be out there doing their utmost to sweep the streets of brown people whose ancestors have, in most cases, been in this state since long before there even was a Bill of Rights, let alone a state of Arizona.

But Pollyanna is feeling quite vindicated in her cockeyed optimism that the good ol’ checks and balances system is still more or less functional even in this sunburned neck of the Tea Partying woods, and that reason and justice and sensible public policy considerations may still prevail over hatred and fearmongering, especially with the Obama administration actually stepping up to the plate on this.  And I’m looking forward to a protest mood that is much more hopeful and jubilant than depressed and terrified.

¡Sí, se puede!  Juntos somos fuertes! Oh, yes, I do believe that we shall overcome SOMEday!

Ya’ll be careful out there tomorrow, because it’s going to be a hot one, both literally and figuratively.  Or as we say here in the Sonoran Desert every time we take leave of anyone from May to September, stay cool!

I’ll be there with my camera, and blogging everything I see or hear, and giving away awesome free t-shirts to the first 25 righteous compañeros who catch my eye.  Because Pollyanna is just that kind of grrl, and she is crazy psyched to have discovered a means of non-armchair liberal activism that dovetails so nicely with her penchant for online shopping, her love of really clever graphic design, and her personal preference for mostly hiding out in air-conditioned cafes and only occasional stepping her toe out onto the actual streets. I figure I can empty a box in less than 60 seconds and be free to roam around with my camera and my giant bottle of ice water.

Stay tuned, folks, I’ll be here all week!  Coming soon:

  • Out of my armchair and onto the streets; or, what’s a nice little gringa like me doing in a place like this?
  • Open letter to my conservative friends and loved ones, re: why SB 1070 is not actually the common sense solution to actual immigration policy problems that you seem to be laboring under the delusion it is.

8 replies »

  1. The requirement to carry your papers around reminds me more of Apartheid than anything else.

  2. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that people who support this measure have never had their papers checked by one teenager while two more point assault rifles (safeties off) at their torso.

    Unfortunately, i expect this to get much worse before it gets better. In the current political and economic climate scapegoats are necessary. The Chinese and their currency are too far away – and realistically too powerful – to be effective for political usage. That leaves brown people from south of the border.

    The only upside is that the issue clearly marks all the budding fascist totalitarians among us.

  3. And I just heard from my wife that the President of the Unitarian Universalist Association (and former pastor at Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colorado), Peter Morales, was arrested in an Arizona protest.

    Good for him.

  4. The unofficial count circulating through my work channels puts Rev. Morales in the company of 20-30 other Unitarian Universalist ministers and lay leaders (mostly ministers, I’m told) who have been arrested today in Arizona.

  5. Will update soon, but yes, president of UUs and a bunch of others from that group. Last I heard there were over 80 protestors arrested. Things were really winding down by 9, so probably not a lot more, although I’m sure MCSD is out looking for any brown person or California license plate they can conceivably find an excuse to pull over.