Arizona Latinos Prepare for Civil Disobedience as Supreme Court Reviews Immigration Law

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Common Dreams

Arizona Latinos Prepare for Civil Disobedience as Supreme Court Reviews Immigration Law

Common Dreams staff

Protesters march against Arizona's illegal immigration law SB 1070 in April. (Matt York/AP)

In Arizona, Latino communities are preparing for acts of mass protest and civil disobedience ahead of Monday's Supreme Court ruling on the controversial immigration law SB1070. Should the law go unchallenged, police will be allowed the power to investigate the immigration status of any person they may have "reasonable suspicion" of being undocumented.

"No one, from the governor down, has provided any guidance on what constitutes 'reasonable suspicion'," said Allesandra Soler Meetze, ACLU's director in Arizona. In the absence of proper training, she added, "police officers will rely on their own prejudices and go by how people look and speak. That will push law enforcement into racial profiling."

As the Supreme Court ruling on the law is expected by Monday, civil rights advocates and groups have begun working with communities across the state. One of the planned actions will be for a mass refusal to carry papers even if one is a full US citizens. The idea "would be for as many as possible of the more than 1 million Latinos living in Arizona with full citizenship rights to refuse to carry papers with them as they went about their business. If they were stopped because they looked Hispanic or spoke Spanish, the police would be duty bound to arrest them and explore their immigration status, which if replicated thousands of times would snarl up the system to such a degree that the new provision would become unworkable," reports the Guardian/UK.

"The aim would be to make the law so difficult to enforce that there would be a reconsideration of it," Alfredo Gutierrez, a former state senator in Arizona, explained.

In addition, Spanish-language videos are being circulated that explained what to do should someone be stopped by police, and a hotline that operates 24 hours a day to help people in trouble with the law is also being expanded.

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The Guardian: Arizona: Latinos ready to resist as supreme court reviews immigration law

Groups working with Latino immigrant communities in Phoenix and other cities across the state are actively discussing protest measures – from mass demonstrations to a refusal to carry papers even if they are full US citizens – in preparation for what they fear will be the introduction of blatant racial profiling by the authorities.

The deliberations come as Arizonans anxiously await the decision of the US supreme court, possibly as early as Monday, over the state's controversial immigration law SB1070 that imposes a swingeing attack on undocumented immigrants, most of whom are of Mexican origin.

State authorities are equally actively preparing on their side to implement some of the most hotly contested and feared aspects of the law, which was introduced in 2010 with the express aim of making life in Arizona so uncomfortable for undocumented immigrants that they would quit the state.

In particular, all eyes are on section 2b – dubbed the "show your papers" clause – that requires police officers to investigate the immigration status of any person they come in contact with should they have a "reasonable suspicion" that the individual is undocumented.

Jan Brewer, Arizona's governor, has ordered police chiefs to redistribute a training video that was prepared in 2010 when SB1070 was enacted. It purports to educate police officers in how to enforce the "reasonable suspicion" clause without straying into racial profiling which would be in breach of the US constitution.

Brewer's executive order is a clear indication that she believes that section 2b will be allowed to stand by the supreme court. It has been on hold for the past two years awaiting the court's judgement.

When the supreme court considered SB1070 in April, the skeptical questions by many of the nine justices suggested that they were minded to uphold the "reasonable suspicion" clause.

"The governor is optimistic that the heart of SB1070 will be upheld and implemented," Matthew Benson, Brewer's press spokesman, told the Arizona Republic. [...]

Groups working with Hispanic communities have been deliberating on how to react should the "show your papers" clause be upheld amid a mood of growing dread ahead of the supreme court ruling. Alfredo Gutierrez, a former state senator in Arizona and a newspaper columnist, said the discussions focused on possible acts of non-violent resistance.

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