Before the Dream students made their historic stance in Tucson, Arizona last week – to stage a sit-in in Sen. John McCain’s office, and thereby subjecting themselves to deportation proceedings – this sun city had already been in the eye of the storm. The perfect storm.
And yet, they were not the only ones to take a powerful stance that week; several hundred Indigenous peoples from throughout the world rallied at the Tucson Immigration Department Headquarters, protesting Arizona’s new racial profiling law; it was followed by the dramatic takeover of a Border Patrol station in Tucson by more than a dozen members of the statewide O’Odham Solidarity Across Borders Collective. They were protesting the state’s draconian and nation’s anti-Indigenous immigration policies. Six were arrested.
That law confirmed that Arizona is governed by extremist politicians. On the day it passed in April, nine human rights activists chained themselves to the capitol building. The anti-ethnic studies law, which was signed in May – resulting in 15 arrests as a result of the takeover of the state building – proved that the state has returned to the Dark Ages as this law sets up a mechanism to censor books and curriculums (it was preceded by a siege of the Tucson Unified School District Headquarters by middle and high school students).
Two days before the racial profiling law passed, 800 military-clad federal agents swooped into South Tucson looking for human smugglers. This unprecedented action, along with the two laws, had precipitated protests, walkouts, marches, community forums, boycotts, vigils and runs in both Tucson and Phoenix.
Now, as Dream students gathered in Tucson, something even bigger was about to happen. Dream students from throughout the country – students deemed to be without U.S. legal documents, in this country since they were children – had decided to intentionally turn themselves in so as to bring awareness regarding the approximately 65,000 Dream students who graduate annually and cannot continue their higher education. In the realm of civil disobedience, subjecting themselves to deportation was unfathomable.
But as they spoke of their proposed action, they stated that their historic action was to be taken because they could no longer wait for others to act for them; the leadership of their movement would hereafter be in their own hands. And if they did enter deportation hearings, they believed they might be able to remain in the country between 3-5 years – enough time to bring about passage of the Dream Act.
The Dream Act, in its original form, was first introduced in 2001. The logic of the act is that children are not responsible for the acts of their parents, meaning that to break a law, one must be conscious that one is breaking a law. Many of the Dream students were brought to this country as infants, and thus were incapable of breaking any law. The Dream Act seeks permits such students to continue on with their higher education.
The calculated gamble by the Dream Students has paid off. Since then, other Dream students have stepped forward nationwide. Just but a few weeks ago, the true identity of Dream students was a closely guarded secret. Now, they are confronting Sheriff Arpaio himself (June 3) and are leading marches nationwide, including the massive march and rally in Phoenix last week (Filming from a fixed point – a 4-lane street – it took 1.5 hours to film the march. The media is notorious for underreporting numbers, but the travesty in this case is that the media made the number of counter-protestors – a few hundred – appear to be comparable to the more than 100,000 marchers).
The dramatic developments over these past two months in Arizona – along with an international boycott of Arizona – reveal that resistance has entered a new phase. And with the addition of Indigenous peoples sending the world a dramatic message – regarding who is legal on this continent – it is clear that, indeed, Arizona is rushing toward legal apartheid.
Despite more than a dozen copycat states, those who fear a Brown nation have decided to make their stand in the Arizona desert. Next year, legislators will attempt to revoke the 14th Amendment in Arizona, which guarantees citizenship to all born in this country. The state’s undocumented [unelected] governor, Republican Jan Brewer, is one of those with this fear. Appealing to the nation’s anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant sentiment, she has established a nationwide fund to support her legal retrenchment into the Dark Ages.
Morally, Brewer – akin to George Wallace of a generation ago – is on the wrong side of history.