Gini Courter: Complying with SB1070 Violates Our Faith
In response to the Supreme Court ruling on Monday that upholds the provision in SB1070 that requires police to ask for proof of citizenship–a provision which will invariably lead to racial profiling–UUA partner the Puente Human Rights Movement immediately organized a rally and protest at the regional (Immigrations & Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters in downtown Phoenix. The UUA Board was still in town for our meeting after Justice GA and the board members who had later flights answered Puente’s call to help out.
At the Puente center we were quickly put to work sending emails and making phone calls in English and Spanish to notify the community about the protest. A half an hour before the protest Carlos Garcia gathered people around a white board and delegated tasks: NDLON attorney Chris Newman would speak at the rally about the ruling, Carlos would speak on what the community needs to do. Others were identified as emcees and stage manager to manage the program and introduce speakers from partner organizations. Volunteers were quickly lined up to bring water, bullhorns, and to sell Puente T-shirts. It was done in 10 minutes and then we were all out the door headed for ICE. The crew who set us up for our vigil at Tent City joined us in front of the headquarters and set up the sound system and tables and got cumbia music blasting. Here I am, pictured with UUA Trustee Natalia Averett, along with some chanting, and Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray:
Soon people began pouring in from all directions. Some were active Puente supporters and others were people who felt compelled to be there to speak out against racial profiling and to stand up for the rights of migrants. There were Somos America, Code Pink and Occupy activists, UUs in ‘Love’ shirts, people from the barrios and from around the Phoenix area. A dozen media outlets were there. People were chanting, ‘We will not comply–this is what democracy looks like. And ‘No SB1070, no racial profiling – stop the deportations!’
Carlos Garcia of Puente said:
“We will not stand for more racial profiling against our communities. If the Supreme Court decision goes into effect, it will create a State of Emergency in Arizona that President Obama can prevent immediately. Our communities are organized and fighting back and we call on the President to stop racial profiling in its tracks by cutting off Secure Communities in Arizona. If President Obama does not act immediately, he will be an accomplice in the human rights crisis that SB1070 creates.”
There are several suits against SB1070, including one by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network that challenge the court’s decision on the basis of civil rights violations.
Luis Avila, a board member of Somos America talked to the crowd about knowing their rights. Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray called on those with papers to stop carrying them as an act of solidarity. I spoke about how it violates our faith to comply with SB1070 and that we are called to resist the mass detention and deportation of migrants.
In every town and city across this country we need to join with partners and call upon city and town councils, police chiefs and sheriffs to refuse to hold people for ICE.
Puente is calling on President Obama to shut off Arizona’s access to the ICE Secure Communities program and refuse to deport SB1070’s victims. Please sign their petition: http://bit.ly/potus1070.
Everyone who has just returned home from Justice GA is returning to states that the Supreme Court has now ruled can require police officers to ask for papers. The Department of Homeland Security has said that all communities will be enrolled in the Secure Communities program by 2013. This program is not mandated. It is not a law that Congress or any of our communities voted on. It is a policy of a federal agency.
My hope is that Unitarian Universalists will connect with migrant rights and faith leaders in their communities and offer to help with their efforts to ask counties, town and city councils, police chiefs and sheriffs, to refuse to participate in the Secure Communities program and stop holding people in jails for ICE for removal to a detention facility. A few counties and communities have already done this but we need many more to build a mass movement to stop mass detention and deportation and to break ICE’s hold on our communities.
As the protest was ending, a bus full of people heading for detention rolled up to the ICE building. As we stood outside the fence shouting words of resistance and support, I truly felt that I was standing outside a concentration camp. It was chilling. It was the warmth and solidarity of our gathering that sustained me in that moment. What would sustain the dozens of people who vanished in to the ICE building?
Standing on the Side of Love is holding a webinar with Grassroots Leadership on July 25th about how to start a visitation program at the detention center nearest you. Please join me. We showed our commitment at Justice GA. Now it’s time to take it home.
Photos Courtesy of Suzi Spangenberg.