The Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s immigration law shredded the law’s radical premise — that a state can write its own foreign policy, impose its own criminal punishments on the undocumented, set its own enforcement priorities and oblige the federal government to go along. That should be the final warning to Arizona and copycat states like Alabama: stop concocting criminal dragnets for civil violators. It’s not your job and you can’t do it.
There’s a wonderful example going on right now in the United States. And it’s making me rethink some things about strategy and action. That’s the Dream Act students. You may or may not know that just two Fridays ago, the President announced a two-year moratorium– giving maybe two million undocumented students in the US – mostly from Central America, Latin America and Mexico, but also from Africa and Asia, even from Europe – a two year period where they can do their work and go to school without being deported.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, whose trial in a class-action civil-rights lawsuit continues this week in Phoenix, didn’t get to be America’s most notorious anti-immigrant lawman by being shy. The camera and microphone are blood and oxygen to him. Where he goes, he trails TV crews, a gallery of rabid followers, posse volunteers and, every four years, supplicating Republican presidential candidates. The tent-city jail he calls his “concentration camp” is meant to signify brash, unchallenged power. In the blistering landscape of Phoenix, he blots out the sun.
The bus is always the center of attention. Partly because it's a hulking 1970s tour bus that somehow made it from Arizona all the way to Charlotte, but mostly because of what's inscribed on the side of it in thick, black letters. "Sin Papeles, Sin Miedo," it reads in Spanish. "No papers, no fear."
THE outpouring was intense this summer when President Obama announced that his administration would temporarily stop deporting many illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children. On Aug. 15, thousands of young immigrants flooded churches and community centers to apply for deferral. Then, for many, came the hard news that they were not eligible.
The immigrant rights movement, for all its vibrancy and depth, has been losing the policy fight. That’s because the movement has also been losing the profoundly racialized cultural fight over the nation’s identity, limiting our ability to frame the debate.