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SB1070: A Story of Resistance and the Demise of Russell Pearce (Part I)


Chris Griffin • Jun 07, 2011

Crafted by an extreme anti-immigrant movement with the unsaid goal of forcing a max exodus of a people out of Arizona and eventually the US, SB1070 serves as a large piece of a far right agenda.   As the law itself states, the goal of SB1070 is to create “attrition through enforcement.”

Putting that another way, the goal of the law was and is to make conditions in Arizona so oppressive and harsh that it would begin to gnaw at and grind away the undocumented population in Arizona.  Unfortunately, before the law was even passed, it was clear that it had already begun to create high levels of fear and anxiety in migrant communities and in other communities, particularly Latino communities.

Various institutions, like schools, churches, and businesses also expressed deep concerns and fears as they too, found themselves becoming increasingly entangled in this anti-immigrant web.  In fact, this was even true of many public officials, state, city and county agencies and members of law enforcement who were being politically handcuffed by SB1070.  Built within it was a mandate that would allow anyone to sue any agency, officer or other public official that failed to enforce it to the fullest extent “permitted” under federal law.  When Kris Kobach – working for the legal arm of FAIR - and State Senator Russell Pearce crafted this legislation, they obviously knew that the only way to get counties, cities and other agencies to enforce it, would be to use the threat of legal penalties.

While passing SB1070 proved a long, difficult process it would ultimately make its way through the Arizona legislature as a result of strong politicking by Pearce, lobbying efforts by the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Corrections Corporation of America, and the shooting of rancher near the Mexico border.  The law that looked to define Pearce’s career, had become a very real and frightening reality.  Pearce and the anti-immigrant movement won themselves an enormous victory and they seemed poised to take it even further.   However, there has always been another side to SB1070 and it has its own story to tell.
The day SB1070 was signed into law was a very hard day for many.   However, it was not a day that belonged to Pearce, SB1070 or its supporters.   It was a day that would instead seem to become a sort of fitting prologue, foreshadowing the story that continues to evolve.

Pearce and Governor Jan Brewer would have liked the signing of SB1070 to be a celebratory matter with the law itself dominating the headlines.  Instead, there would be no celebration, not even on the law’s birthday.  The day Brewer signed SB1070, thousands of students, despite threats of suspensions from school officials, had walked out of school and marched to the state capitol in protest of the law.  The students had cast a giant cloud over the law’s signing and stolen the spotlight from Pearce, Brewer and the handful of supporters that were on hand.  The presence of the students even forced Brewer to postpone her announcement that she had signed the Bill till later that day, when coincidently a few more supporters of the law would arrive.

Now that SB1070 was signed into law, it would be a little more than 90 days until it could be enforced.  During those ninety days however, communities and groups came together to resist SB1070 and the entire movement the law represented.  Groups from different cities and backgrounds, who had never really engaged with each other before, found themselves working together.  Hundreds of volunteers from all around the country also poured into Arizona to join in as well.  The summer that followed the signing of SB1070 became a summer of freedom and resistance in Arizona.

While SB1070 undoubtedly told a nearly disheartening story of intense fear, pain and loss, it is also told an inspiring story of a resilience and perseverance.  The story spoke of many people overcoming fear and fighting tirelessly for the simple freedom to live, love and work.  It is a story of families and communities across the state that came together, stronger than ever before, to support one another and to find ways to resist as one.  It is a story of many people and businesses that refused to accept any part of SB1070 by signing pledges of non-compliance with this law and any other law that would try to force them to treat migrant families with anything other than human dignity and respect.

And it is a story of the many people that took to the streets and refused to back down even when it meant being arrested, sending a loud and resounding message that we will not comply!  This tremendous story is one that continues to transcend the story the anti-immigrant movement wants to write.

(Read part II of this series here)

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