The impassioned pleas directed at Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer by thousands of students, adults, faith organizers and elders who gathered at the Arizona capitol for a week of round-the-clock protests against a bill they defined as xenophobic, racist and anti-Hispanic, have fallen on deaf ears.
At an afternoon news conference April 23 a few miles away, Brewer signed SB1070, which can require persons to carry proof of legal residency, gives local police officers authority to arrest anyone they suspect might not be here legally, and punish individuals who give aid to an undocumented person.
Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles likened such police powers to “Nazism.”
Students, Hispanics prominent among them, united their chants, making more than 80,000 texts and phone calls to Brewer’s office in the hope that their voices would be heard.
Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, the lone Hispanic on the five-member Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, broke the news of Governor Brewer’s decision to the petitioners rallying outside the capitol. The county is one quarter Hispanic.
“The governor did not listen to our prayers. She did not listen to your cause,” Wilcox told the vast crowd. “Even when President Obama declared ‘this bill needs to be vetoed, these children are correct,’ she signed the bill.”
Defying White House custom by speaking out on a single piece of state legislation, Obama commented during an April 23 citizenship ceremony for immigrant war veterans at the White House, as he once again urged Congress to pass comprehensive immigration legislation this session “to avoid irresponsibility by others,” that the law undermines “basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans.”
Wilcox urged the students to keep the faith, reminding them of the theme that had been at the center of their protest — non-violence and the legacy of César Chávez. “We cannot let this stop us from continuing to fight,” she said.
After the Governor’s announcement, national Hispanic and civil rights organizations began preparing court actions challenging the constitutionality of various elements of the law, which takes 90 days to go into effect.
Phoenix attorney Antonio Bustamante told Hispanic Link News Service to expect SB1070 to have repercussions internationally as well as nationally.
“It’s highly likely that there will be massive boycotts of every product produced in the state,” Bustamante said. “There are talks in Mexico of boycotting Arizona and buying and trading products with other states.”
Mexico’s foreign ministry quickly expressed its concern about the rights of its citizens and the country’s own relations with Arizona.
Even with the many outcries, the bill apparently has much popularity within the state. A recent poll by Rasmussen Report found 70 percent of Arizonans favored it while only 23 percent opposed it.
Locked in a tight Republican primary re-election battle this year, Sen. John McCain, who once led the bipartisan support for immigration reform in partnership with late Sen. Ted Kennedy, now applauds his state’s effort. He called the proposal “an important step forward.”
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon had informed the protesters that if Brewer signed the law, he would work to appeal it. “This is clearly unconstitutional. This is clearly immoral,” he said.
After Brewer signed it, Gordon stated in a Washington Post commentary, “I do recognize those responsible for this humiliating moment. They are bitter, small-minded and full of hate, and they in no way speak for Arizona.”
(Luis Carlos López, of Washington, D.C., is editor of Hispanic Link Weekly Report. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org)