A horrific anti-immigration law (SB 1070) was passed last week in Arizona. Under the new legislation, local and state police officers will have the authority to stop anyone and demand identification, without a warrant All they need to do this is have a so-called “reasonable suspicion” that the individual is an immigrant without legal status. After asking for identification, police can immediately arrest and detain anyone who does not have proof of citizenship or legal status.
What this law really means is immigrants and any people police think look like immigrants from Mexico or Central and South America, will be harassed even more. This law does nothing but further terrorize immigrants, making people even more fearful of police harassment and deportation.
Immigrants, with or without legal status, have just as much a right to be in this country as anyone else here. The U.S. has always been a country of immigrants, either directly or as the descendents of immigrants. The U.S. began by immigrants coming to this land and committing genocide on the native people, the only group that can truly say they are not immigrants to this area. The birth of industry and agriculture in this country was done by the labor of immigrants and slaves. The U.S. is truly an immigrant country.
Most people who come here have little choice. They are pushed out of their countries by the terrible poverty in their homelands and by the violence of dictatorships and the repression they face. These conditions are the result of the policies of the U.S. government and its goal to insure the profits of big corporations in these countries. For example, U.S. agri-businesses can sell livestock and crops in Mexico for less than it costs Mexican farmers to raise or grow them. This is possible because the corporations are subsidized with our tax dollars and because of the trade agreements like NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).
Farmers in Mexico lose their land because they can’t compete with the giant, subsidized, corporate farms. They can’t pay taxes on the land and they can’t feed their families. There are no jobs available, so people come to the U.S. looking for work. Others are drawn from the cities and towns in the hope of being able to escape the grinding poverty that is their only future. Right now, with the declining economic situation all over the world, the poverty and desperation is only getting worse.
Immigrants, especially those without papers, are usually forced to work poorly paid jobs, with unsafe conditions and long hours. The bosses try to use the workers’ fear of their legal status to get them to accept this situation. They treat workers like property – with no regard for their dignity or rights as human beings. The bosses act like these new workers are like a water faucet, turning it on to bring workers in when they need them, and turning it off to throw them out when they don’t need them.
This new law is just another way for politicians to try to play U.S.-born workers off immigrant workers, saying immigrants are stealing jobs and resources, and ruining the economy. As unemployment keeps increasing, as more people lose their homes, as more and more cuts are being done to social services, as people’s overall lives are becoming more difficult – people want answers and solutions. And this kind of anti-immigrant propaganda is what is being offered up as the cure.
But we can’t buy into it. The only people sucking up resources, stealing the wealth, kicking people out of work and their homes are the greedy bosses and bankers and the politicians who serve them. It is their system run for profits that has created this crisis and put all working people at risk, not immigrant workers.
All workers, regardless of what region we may happen to be born in, make this system run. If we allow ourselves to be divided in anyway, by race or nationality or gender, we weaken our forces. And only when we are organized and united together will we be able to fight to improve our lives.