Supporters of immigrant rights gather at a Denver press conference on April 19, 2010 to decry Arizona legislation.Photo: AFSC / Jennifer Piper
The American Friends Service Committee, Faith and Immigrant Rights Groups to Decry Arizona Bill and Draconian ICE Action
Say to President Obama Stop Separating Our Families
The Arizona state legislature recently passed Senate Bill 1070 which would institutionalize racial profiling and the division of families. Thursday, around 1,000 law enforcement agents aggressively descended upon Arizona communities from Phoenix to Tucson, creating extreme panic. On the heels of a yet to be signed SB 1070, this raid further terrorized community members and left them wondering if they are now living in a police state. ICE claimed to be targeting a smuggling ring. While only 47 people were arrested, the impacts were felt throughout Tucson, Phoenix, Nogales as ICE vehicles and masked agents roamed the streets.
As part of a national response to these brutal actions, the American Friends Service Committee held a press conference in Denver today at El Centro Humanitario para Los Trabajadores in solidarity with the communities of Arizona resisting fear and repression.
Dr. Phil Campbell from the Iliff School of Theology, led the crowd in prayer to open the conference, while more than 60 people listened with head bowed.
People traveled from Boulder, Longmont and Greeley to the rally. “This bill is so hateful. I can’t believe I live in a time where people are asked for their papers based on what they look like, like Nazi Germany. I had to come out and show my support for Arizona communities and to stand against this kind of bill” stated Bob Norris.
Jennifer Piper, from the American Friends Service Committee spoke next, “The actions by the Arizona senate and ICE this past week do not recognize the contributions of immigrants and divide our communities. The truth is that immigrants are intricately part of our community, anything you do to them; you do to all of us. We reject this bill. We reject the raids and heightened enforcement of the Obama administration, which deported more people last year than the Bush administration did. We call on President Obama to stop the raids and put energy into passing just and humane immigration reform this year”.
Jenny, a mom and leader with Rights for All People, spoke about how dangerous legislation like this is saying “This legislation forces law enforcement to spend more time acting as ICE agents and spend less time on community safety. Victims and witnesses of crime will be even more afraid to call the police for help.” Jenny called for people to contact Arizona Governor Brewer and ask her to veto the bill.
“Already, pastors across Arizona are receiving panicked and fearful calls from their communities asking what will happen to them now” said Jeff Johnsen of Mile High Ministries “This type of legislation divides our community and puts families under greater threat. I believe in the rule of law, but I also believe as Christians we have to advocate for just laws.”
Alec, of Centro Humanitario added that workers rights are impacted by raids and enforcement resulting in bad actor employers being able to take further advantage of their employees. “We need immigration reform, not the enforcement of broken laws. I challenge the community to do more than just come to this press conference, more than just march on May 1st, get involved with a group and make your voice heard”, said Alec.
In addition to the humanitarian and community safety reasons for opposing the bill, many law enforcement groups in Arizona opposed the bill based on cost. According to the Arizona newspaper Phoenix New Times, Yuma County Sheriff Ralph Ogden said “that his county would have to pick up the tab for training costs related to the legislation, and the cost of holding more inmates on state charges in his facilities. "We don't have enough people to be doing what we're supposed to be doing anyway. But you have to prioritize. And if you start spending less time on property crimes and personal crimes, you don't want to do that." Secretary Napolitano, in response to letters from law enforcement opposing SB1070, came out against the bill in March saying it took away law enforcement’s ability to prioritize.
Adding insult to injury, ICE conducted massive visible raids on Thursday in Tucson and Phoenix in “Operation Plain Sight”. More than 1,000 heavily armed law enforcement officials descended into local communities, many of them wearing masks. In a press release from an Arizona, Kat Rodriguez of Derechos Humanos described ICE's chaos, "There was a massive show of force, with helicopters, dozens of agents, police vehicles, and weapons, assaulting our community in a fashion never seen before." She continued, "This raid marks a new low in the Obama Administration's lack of accountability".
Reverend Woodliff-Stanley, board member of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado closed asking “Who is important in our community?” The crowd answered “Everyone!” Rev. Woodliff-Stanley ended by saying “The timing and scope of these raids almost seem designed to maximize fear in the community. We are all one community, one human family, and we all deserve respect and to have our inherent dignity recognized”.