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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Arizona Refuses to Take Backseat to History

By Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

Sometimes columns just seem to write themselves. The world is aflame, particularly in North Africa and the Middle East, and as a result, extremist Arizona legislators seem to be getting a complex… nobody seems to be paying as much attention to them compared to just several weeks ago. Even Wisconsin has managed to upstage the rogue Arizona legislators. Utah too. As such, the Arizona rogue legislators have stepped forward to once again capture the 19th century spotlight.

Arizona put itself on the map last year for passing several bills that appear to send out the message that brown people are not welcome. The bill, SB 1070, the one that compels local police to seek out the legal status of suspects based on the nebulous concept of “reasonable suspicion,” is as close to official ethnic cleansing as one can get. Because the “migra” or immigration services have long had that power, on the streets, “reasonable suspicion” translates to brown skin and the use of the Spanish language.

The HB 2281 bill is an attempt to deny the teaching of Ethnic Studies in Arizona. Its first target is Tucson’s highly successful Mexican American Studies K-12 program. The attack on this program amounts to cultural genocide, though many people bristle at that description. Yet, how else to describe an attempt to forcefully assimilate any population?

But all that is so 2010.

2011 in Arizona began with not simply declaring Mexican American Studies illegal – with an April 18 deadline to dismantle the program – but with a flurry of bills that make both of these bills seem Mexican-friendly.

The following will give you an example of the environment we are living – this, in the midst of a huge nationwide state-by-state budget crisis in which Mexicans always become convenient scapegoats.

Several of the bills, include:

SB 1611. This so-called omnibus immigration bill is the equivalent of a free-for all. It is a collection of all the most extreme anti-immigrant ideas under one bill. Among its many features, it prohibits students from enrolling in K-12 without proof of U.S.-birth certificates or naturalization documents. This bill goes contrary to the Plyler v. Doe 1982 Supreme Court decision. It does the same for community colleges. It also permits the state housing authority to evict all residents of a public housing unit if one of the occupants is undocumented. “Driving while undocumented” would hereafter be a crime and the driver would lose the vehicle they are driving. It also forces companies to use the voluntary E-Verify system or lose their business license.

SB 1308 and SB 1309. These bills call for the nullification of birthright citizenship, reinterpreting the 14th amendment as no longer operative in Arizona. These bills would result in the creation of two types of birth certificates; one for citizens and one for those whose citizenship of the parents cannot be proven.

Truthfully, these two bills seem to be the holy grail of the 2011 bills. The rest appear to be subterfuge. The state legislators know that even when passed, they would be automatically challenged in court. But that’s the objective; if they were to succeed – via a Supreme Court decision – it would accomplish the objective of creating a larger deportable population. This is not an Arizona plan either, but the plan by many dozens of extremist legislators from throughout the United States to overturn the 14th Amendment, an amendment they claim only should have applied to the descendants of slaves.

SB 1097: This bill forces students to identify the legal status of their parents and also punishes school personnel if they don’t facilitate this identification process.

SB 1490: Requires food service workers to provide proof of citizenship.

SB 1406: Authorizes the creation of a wall using private funding and inmate labor.

SB1405: Requires hospitals to check for legal documentation before accepting patients.

SCR 1006: This would proclaim, contrary to all available data, the border as lawless and crime-ridden. It would call for further militarization of the border.

SB 1117/HB 2537: This would authorize Senate President Russell Pearce and House Speaker Kirk Adams, the unlimited power to use state funds to defend SB 1070.

Aside from creating an extremist slush fund, perhaps anticipating lawsuits or other court action, legislators have also proposed two even more mind-boggling laws:

SB 1443: This legislation creates a joint 12-member legislative commission to examine which federal laws are applicable to Arizona. The commission would determine which federal laws are unconstitutional.

SCR 1010: This would exempt Arizona from international laws, most of which concern themselves with the protection of peoples’ inherent, inalienable and universal human rights.

Again, this is just a small sampling of this year's bills thus far, in part compiled by Derechos Humanos, an Arizona-based human rights organization. Until the political equation is altered, we can expect a flurry of more bills that will continue to be challenged in court, while stimulating calls to once again boycott this state – seemingly the last bastion of Manifest Destiny.

Now for the bad news out of Utah… 3 more bills:

HB 497: Think Arizona and SB 1070. Same draconian racial profiling measures. For it to be implemented, it would have to survive a court challenge.

HB 116: Utah’s very own Bracero Program. Would require a federal waiver. Without one, states currently cannot create their guest worker program.

HB 466: Permits Utah to enter into agreement with Mexican state of Nuevo Leon to facilitate federal migrant worker program.

These three are up for the governor’s signature (or veto) next week.

The rest of the country seems to have slowed up, perhaps simply waiting for Arizona to take the lead (to exhaust its finances on defending these draconian bills in the courtroom).

The good news in all this is that Precious Knowledge, a film that documents the inspiring story of the threatened MAS-TUSD program will have its U.S. nationwide premier on March 24.

Rodriguez, a professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at:

Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez
Column of the Americas
PO BOX 3812
Tucson, AZ 85722


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