SF protests Arizona’s SB 1070

November 3, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO--Two hundred immigrant rights supporters gathered downtown on November 1 to demand the repeal of Arizona's anti-immigrant law SB 1070.

The lively march and rally, organized by local community groups, marks the beginning of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hearing on that law. The rally was organized by Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, Mujeres Unidas y Activas and the San Francisco Organizing Project, and was joined by a similar rally organized at the same time and place by the BAMN coalition.

The multi-ethnic crowd belted out chants of "El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido" ("The people united will never be defeated") and "¡Sí, se puede!" ("Yes, we can!")

That chorus drowned out the cries of "Take your rally back to Mexico" and "Let's go, Phoenix" from two dozen anti-immigrant bigots, who met the march at the courthouse. Their banners, which read, "Stop the Invasion" and "Jan Brewer for President," were soon surrounded by placards calling for the repeal of SB 1070, and demanding justice for immigrants.

The court hearing is not about whether SB 1070 is constitutional. Its focus is on whether or not U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton acted properly earlier this year in blocking Arizona from enforcing several sections of the law, while the case makes its way through the legal system.

While that may be the focus in the court, the issue on the street is far more basic and urgent--can immigrants to this country live in equality and dignity, or will they be criminalized, scapegoated and hunted?

This question faces not just immigrants and their supporters, but everyone involved in the fight against the emerging right wing on the streets, and the anti-worker agenda of the federal and state governments. The fight against racial profiling of immigrants in Arizona is connected to the efforts against racial profiling of Black youth around the country, and the struggle to maintain ethnic studies programs in universities and school systems.

The movement against budget cuts on the campuses and the fight to defend public-sector unions will fail if they're divided by racism--which is a part of the reason why both mainstream parties maintain the blame game in regards to immigrants. They're trying to use racism to confuse and divide our side.

THOUGH THE bigots were outnumbered today, the economic crisis has created an opening for racist and nativist politics. Enter the Tea Party, Jan Brewer, the Minutemen, Tom Tancredo and their ilk. The misery that millions of people face now due to layoffs, foreclosures, school closings and so on creates an opening for the explanations the right has on offer, such as "greedy unions" and "criminal immigrants."

In the absence of big, powerful movements to push back and fight for the common interests of all working people, those backward ideas can take hold.

But as scary as the Brewer-Tancredo-Tea Party lot is, the anti-immigrant charge is actually being lead in most cases by the Democratic Party. Was it the Tea Party that deported nearly 400,000 people last year? No, it was the Obama administration.

Was it Jan Brewer who sent 1,200 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico during the battle over SB 1070 in the spring? Nope, it was President Obama. Which party does the tough-on-immigration California Attorney General (and soon to be Governor?) Jerry Brown belong to? The Democrats.

Fortunately, a growing number of people are actively trying to build solidarity among the movements, and a fight against the pro-corporate agenda.

Hiba, a young Palestinian woman from Bethlehem, who has been in the U.S. on an exchange program, attended the pro-immigrant rally. She was explicit about the racist nature of SB 1070, and talked about the death of the dream that brings so many people to this country.

"People come here looking for a better life, for something better for their children," Hiba said. "The U.S. has been a dream for people around the world; this is a country with a long history of immigration. Immigrants are not the problem."

The November 1 rally was great, but we need more organizing and more of a fightback to get what we want, to push back against the right wing when they show up in the street; and against the governors, presidents and senators when they come to slash social spending to fund corporate bailouts and war.

In the words of Israel Alvaran, an organizer of the anti-SB 1070 rally, "We're showing solidarity with immigrants, not just in Arizona, but around the country. Whatever happens in the courts, this struggle continues. [It's a struggle] we will win in the streets."

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