By Cristina Tzintzún, Executive Director of Workers Defense Project
The recent decision by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton to uphold the constitutional rights of day laborers in Arizona and block the implementation of part of the SB1070 law that sought to make it illegal to seek work in public, is a victory for the immigrant rights movement. As some of the most visible among the immigrant community, day laborers have become an easy target of hate-based legislation. This decision knocks out another pillar of the infamous SB1070 bill, which helped legalize racial profiling in the state by forcing all Arizona police to act as immigration enforcement agents, converting police officers into a force to be feared rather than a source of protection for immigrants.
The decision comes as the constitutionality of SB1070 awaits a hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court in April. On the surface, the hearing is a positive development — yet many immigrant rights groups are skeptical, believing the court will leave much of the law intact. The reality is that bills like those seen in Arizona, Georgia, and Alabama are the regrettable result of a broken immigration system, the products of a concerted effort on behalf of the right-wing to create a climate of fear within immigrant communities. Unfortunately, they have chosen to legislate hate and create some of the most draconian “solutions” that have only resolved to create a climate of distrust, xenophobia, and racial divisions that will take years to untangle.
While the Obama Administration has opposed anti-immigrant bills at the state-level, his administration has lacked the bold leadership necessary to truly change our country’s immigration system. He has taken a somewhat schizophrenic position: on the one hand he has bowed to right-wing pressures to get tough on “national security,” deporting more immigrants than President George W. Bush deported during his two terms in office. On the other hand, he continues to pay lip service to his campaign promise to create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Obama has left 11 million undocumented immigrant families disillusioned, and national Latino advocacy groups at a crossroads.
During the 1960s, civil rights leaders aligned themselves with the Democratic Party. Yet, while they found support for their efforts behind closed doors, they had to push party leaders to address their long-standing promise for equal rights and representation. Latino and immigrants rights organizations should take note of this important lesson. It’s time to hold President Obama to his word, and call upon him to show the leadership and courage required to ensure that immigrants in this country can live without fear.
It is often said that the true measure of a country is how it treats its most vulnerable. The current landscape makes me ashamed of our country. We often hear that the immigration system is “broken” — and it is. It is broken for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants and their families. I, for one am tired of waiting, tired of being promised solutions that fail to materialize, tired of leaders who turn a blind eye to the suffering of immigrant families. I am not waiting anymore. It’s time to push back against anti-immigrant forces in this country and hold those who promise a better tomorrow for immigrants accountable. It’s time for an immigration system that puts immigrants and their families first.
Cristina Tzintzún, is the Executive Director of Workers Defense Project, a statewide immigrant workers’ rights group and she is part of a mixed status family. She lives in Austin, Texas where she works to ensure her sister, friends, and family will soon have the same rights she has. She’s also editor of the forthcoming book “Presente! Latino Immigrant Voices in the Struggle for Racial Justice.” For more information about immigration issues in Arizona visit www.altoarizona.org[Photo By madden]