by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger
Memo to Congress: The gloves are coming off. Three undocumented students were arrested this week after organizing a nonviolent sit-in at Republican Sen. John McCain’s congressional office in Tucson, Arizona. The sit-in was part of an effort to pressure lawmakers to support comprehensive immigration reform, and it’s only the beginning. Reform Immigration For America, one of the nation’s leading immigrant rights coalitions, has just called for a sustained civil disobedience campaign to bolster support for reform.
As Todd A. Heywood reports for the Michigan Messenger, five individuals peacefully occupied the McCain facility on Monday before four of them—three undocumented and one a legal citizen—were arrested at the scene and “charged with trespassing by Tucson authorities.”
The undocumented youth were supposed to be released earlier in the week, Heywood writes, “but Immigration and Customs Enforcement stepped in” and detained them. As of this writing the three young people—Mohammad Abdollahi, Yahaira Carrillo, and Lizbeth Mateo—have been released by the agency, but could still face deportation.
The protest was meant to urge McCain to not only support immigration reform, but to specifically back the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act), a bipartisan bill in Congress that would offer a path to citizenship to certain undocumented immigrants who were brought into the United States as children.
McCain used to be a key ally on immigrant rights. He even sponsored a reform package with the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy in 2007. But recently, McCain has backed away from his previous stances now that he is facing a contentious GOP primary battle with archconservative J.D. Hayworth in Arizona. Hayworth has major backing from anti-immigrant “Tea Party” activists. In response to the arrests, McCain’s camp released a statement noting that the Senator “understands the students’ frustrations, but elections have consequences.”
Similar nonviolent tactics were executed during rallies around the country on May 1, a few days after Arizona lawmakers passed the notorious Senate Bill 1070, which requires immigrants to carry papers and forces local police to detain someone when there is a “reasonable suspicion” that the individual is undocumented.
At the same time, Arizona’s Republican Governor Jan Brewer is feeling the political heat. “Brewer is increasingly under fire for signing Arizona’s draconian immigration law, so she’s called in some high-profile help,” Suzy Khimm reports at Mother Jones. “This weekend, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin stumped for Brewer’s re-election campaign–and for the state’s controversial immigration crackdown.”
More civil disobedience
Arizona continues to stand out as a lightning rod for the immigration reform debate. The state is basically a paragon of everything that’s broken in the immigration system. In response, grassroots groups are upping the ante and are preparing more civil disobedience to pressure Congress to pass reform.
In Yes! Magazine, Kety Esquivel explains how anti-immigrant laws in Arizona have recently spurred civil disobedience. “As a result of the Arizona immigration law, this year’s May 1 marches took on a distinctly different flavor,” Esquivel writes.
“Even politicians turned to nonviolent civil disobedience rather than speeches and promises: Representative Luis Guiterrez [D-IL] was arrested, along with a group of other leaders, after declaring that he would not move from the fence in front of the White House until comprehensive immigration reform was passed.”
This week Reform Immigration For America, the large coalition that worked this year to bring hundreds of thousands of people to Washington D.C. to rally for reform on March 21, released a statement this week announcing the beginning of “sustained campaign of civil disobedience.” While no specific plans have been released yet, the coalition did also state that “We are calling for strong and demonstrative intervention by the President and constructive, serious Republican leadership.”
On another front, immigrant rights supporters are doing everything in their power to oppose SB 1070 in Arizona. It’s looking like a boycott of the state is beginning to have an impact. Zachary Roth reports at TPMMuckraker that “the City of Phoenix—a convention hot-spot—is facing a ‘near economic crisis’ caused by lost revenue stemming from organizations canceling events in response to Arizona’s controversial immigration law, according to its mayor.”
This week, a number of legal groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, also filed a lawsuit demanding a federal court find the immigration law unconstitutional. As William Fisher at the Inter Press Service writes: “The groups charged that the law ‘violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law because it unlawfully invites the racial profiling of Latinos and other people who look or sound ‘foreign-born’.”
This was a busy week for immigration reform. For more news, check out these links:
- Arizona Students Protest New Law Banning Ethnic Studies Classes – Democracy Now!
- DREAM Activists Tam Tran and Cinthya Felix Remembered – RaceWire
- How Age is Changing the Immigration Debate – Campus Progress
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