From the Heart of Arizona, We Still Have a Dream

Following the news that
a federal judge has struck
down what are essentially the worst parts of Arizona's immigration law, SB
1070, there is a sense of vindication and relief on the part of many who have
been working for justice in regard to immigration issues. Still, there remains a
basic recognition that this ruling is only a temporary piece of the larger
puzzle, and that SB 1070 itself -- while symbolically and politically central
to the debate -- is likewise merely one aspect of a larger struggle for human
rights, dignity, and a morally-tenable immigration policy in this country. So while
there is cause for celebration, this is not a moment to sit back and rest on
one's laurels -- in fact, advocates and activists should be emboldened by the judge's
well-crafted decision
, and take this as a sign to forge ahead.

Among the key items that
the judge struck down are provisions relating to warrantless arrests, required
immigration status checks, and the "where are your papers?" aspects of the law
that would require people to carry documentation with them at all times. Judge
Susan Bolton observed that many of these
provisions would increase "the intrusion of
police presence into the lives of legally-present aliens
(and even United States citizens), who will necessarily be swept up" in
their logic. The judge further noted that the requirement to carry one's papers
and present them on demand has been roundly rejected as a legal and moral
framework in our society: "The United
States asserts, and the Court agrees, that 'the federal government has long
rejected a system by which aliens' papers are routinely demanded and checked.'"

Perhaps most critically,
the judge struck the controversial "reasonable suspicion" aspects of the law
that would require "that an officer make a
reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of a person stopped,
detained or arrested if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is unlawfully
present in the United States." The decision further rejects the provision of SB
1070 "requiring verification of the immigration status of any person arrested prior
to releasing that person." What is remarkable is that these
conclusions were reached purely on "federal preemption" grounds and without any
resort to concerns about "racial profiling" or the like, with the judge concluding
in the end that "it is not in the
public interest for Arizona to enforce preempted laws."

The ruling does leave
intact for now other problematic provisions regarding harboring or transporting
undocumented aliens, and it is important to recall that this is only a
temporary injunction that will be followed by fuller hearings and likely
appeals. Unquestionably, though, it is an important moment in the immigration
debate, and it affirms many of the arguments being advanced by people concerned
about immigrants' rights in particular and the totalitarian implications of
Arizona's legislative actions in general. By itself, however, the judge's
decision does not solve the larger issue, and it is unlikely to dissuade
Arizona's lawmakers from pursuing their present path.

Thus, the 29th
of July will still be a critical date in the history of civil and human rights
struggles in America, despite the fact that only a watered-down version of SB
1070 will take effect then. I am reminded of the words of Martin Luther King,
Jr. when he opened his famous "I Have a Dream" speech by reflecting upon "what
will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the
history of our nation." As King recognized, despite the fact that legal decrees
had outlawed slavery and overt discrimination in America, the quest for freedom
and justice was still an elusive one requiring constant vigilance. And so he used
his soaring oratory to join with others "to dramatize a shameful condition" and
"to make justice a reality for all of God's children."

King cautioned against a
creeping contentment in which people might view the modest gains made as
sufficient to stem the tide of agitation for full recognition as human beings.
He spoke directly to those who believed that people "needed to blow off steam
and will now be content," noting that they "will have a rude awakening if the
nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor
tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The
whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until
the bright day of justice emerges."

In his call for
continued pursuit of the aims of justice, emancipation, and human dignity, King
further cautioned that "we must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane
of dignity and discipline," and that "we must not allow our creative protest to
degenerate into physical violence." He gave a particular nod to white allies
and advocates, many of whom "have come to realize that their destiny is tied up
with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is
inextricably bound to our freedom."

Before turning to the
most famous parts of his speech, in which he elucidated the dream, King
directly addressed the question oftentimes raised: "When will you be
satisfied?" Bluntly, he stated that people would never be satisfied as
long as they remained the victims of "the unspeakable horrors of police
brutality," as long as their "basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a
larger one," and as long as their "children are stripped of their self-hood and
robbed of their dignity" by an apartheid system.

King's dream remains
elusive in America today. It was never merely about the rights of one group or
the struggle over one particular issue. As he famously said, "injustice
anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," and thus our destinies as human
beings are thoroughly intertwined. It was, and still is, about the liberation
of humankind as a whole, regardless of categories, borders, or differences.
This quest for a deep recognition of our shared destiny and common humanity is
just as poignant today as it ever was, and in many respects we may be closer to
realizing it despite all of the obstacles placed in our path.

Like those who have
struggled for justice before us, we can affirm (as King did) with heads held
high and hearts emboldened that, "even though we face the difficulties of today
and tomorrow, [we] still have a dream." Now the work continues to turn that
dream into reality.

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