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By Sarah Gold*
A Mother’s Day Delegation of feminists and labor activists from around the country convened in Arizona a few weeks ago to document the impact of the recently-passed SB 1070 legislation and existing policies, such as 287(g) on women and children. In a climate already steeped with anti-immigrant sentiment, these pieces of legislation authorize violence against women and children, ruthlessly separating family members and criminalizing mothers who came to the United States simply to support their children.
287(g) is a program that gives local law enforcement officers the authority to act as immigration agents. SB 1070, an extension of this policy, has several alarming components, including
- making it a misdemeanor for a non-citizen to be in Arizona without registration documents
- obligating police officers to attempt to determine a person’s immigration status, essentially legitimizing racial profiling
- and making it a crime for anyone, regardless of their immigration status, to provide transportation, shelter, or employment to an undocumented individual.
Since its passage, SB 1070 has encouraged other states to consider adopting similar legislation.
In a report-back hosted by the Ms. Foundation for Women this Monday, participants of the Mother’s Day Delegation shared their findings and discussed plans for further action. On their first day in Phoenix, the Delegation met with women and children throughout the city, collecting testimonies and visiting Sheriff Joseph Arpaio’s tent city, an extension of the Maricopa County Jail where many undocumented individuals have been detained in temperatures that regularly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The following day, delegates participated in a march to the capital to protest the civil and human rights violations inherent in 287(g) and SB 1070.
The testimonies collected provide a disturbing glimpse into the brutality of local law enforcement, as well as implications of SB 1070 for women and girls living with sexual and domestic violence. Stories of children being ripped from their parents’ arms, excessive force during raids and arrests, and unprovoked violence inflicted on detainees in Arizona jails paint a vivid portrait of the grisly reality for immigrants in Arizona. Many interviewees beseeched delegates to be their microphones and to ensure their testimonies not remain buried in the Delegation’s forthcoming report. Amidst the fear and anxiety, however, the testimonies reveal an incredible sense of courage and pride, fueling a spirit of resistance that is truly awe-inspiring. Delegates discussed the relevance of this resistance movement to all communities of color and marginalized groups, juxtaposing the criminalization of communities of color in Arizona with the state-sanctioned racism exposed by Hurricane Katrina.
In preparation for the possible implementation of SB 1070, which would take effect on July 28th, teams of high school and college students, emerging community leaders, and trained community organizers are providing ongoing outreach and educating community members about their rights. This is a resistance movement that requires everyone’s support. Skilled community organizers, media professionals to help with documentation, and legal support are in high demand.
A National Day of Action is scheduled for May 29th and there are plans underway to mobilize a women’s delegation for this event. To get involved and to learn more about the situation on the ground in Arizona, you can visit www.altoarizona.com or www.puenteaz.org. Plans are also underway to develop a website specifically aimed at identifying the impact of SB 1070 on women and children. The delegation is asking supporters to sign petitions posted on www.altoarizona.com. They have also requested a congressional hearing, a meeting with Michele Obama, and that President Obama nullify SB 1070.
*Sarah Gold has worked as a Domestic Violence Case Manager and Community Organizer in New York City for over two years. She is currently a research intern with the National Council for Research on Women.