Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Racism in the desert

Xenophobia in the Desert:
Racist Fever Becomes Law in Arizona

June 7, 2005

Reacting to a barrage of anti-immigrant messaging and
misinformation, Proposition 200 was approved by 56% of
Arizonavoters on November 2, 2004. Prop. 200 forces all
Arizonans to present proof of U.S. citizenship, such as
a birth certificate or passport, to receive basic
publicservices and to register to vote.
Arizona's Attorney General has limited its application
to five public benefits programs, but Prop. 200's most
far-reaching impact has been one of widespread fear
and intimidation. Immigrants are afraid to access even
programs to which they areentitled. The voter-
registration component of Prop. 200 constitutes
a modern-day poll tax that often keeps low-income people
and communities of color from voting.

Since Proposition 200 passed last fall, its backers have
presented an alarming 20 bills targeting immigrants in
the Arizonalegislature, have cheered the vigilante
Minuteman Project on the Arizona-Mexico border, and have
worked to sponsor similar bills in other states. But
there isa growing grassroots mobilization against the
resurgence of racist policies in Arizona, and the
threat of an international and national boycott of the
state looms.

Prop. 200 Passed After a Campaign Rife with
Xenophobia and Half-Truths

In 2004, anti-immigrant groups nationwide with intimate
ties to white national istorganizations focused their
attention on Arizona.Residents there were frustrated
with low-wage jobs, poor healthcare, and funding being
directed away from schools and public benefits
programs. Extremists joined with a handful of fringe
local groups to promote a hateful agenda of blaming
immigrants for the state's woes.

By the time election season rolled around in 2004,
Arizona voters had already been primed foran anti-
immigrant message thanks to a campaign of lies and
race-baiting thatbuilt upon a decade of intense border
militarization. Early polling in August of 2004 showed
high rates of approval for Prop. 200.1 However, local
communityorganizations mobilized against fringe groups
from outside the state, and by mid-October,approval had
dropped from 64% to 42%, and appeared to be falling

Backin the spring of 2004, signature-gathering to place
Prop. 200 on the Novemberballot was waning. A fringe
group calling itself, "Protect Arizona Now," had
initiated the signature-gathering with support from
national anti-immigrant figureheads and organizations.
When Protect Arizona Now'sefforts lagged, the
Washington, DC-based Federation for American
ImmigrationReform (FAIR), an anti-immigrant
organization with white supremacist ties, moved into
Arizonaand began paying signature gatherers, investing
$500,000 to ensure Prop. 200would appear on the
ballot.3 FAIR also wooed voters with a bogus study
allegingthat undocumented immigrants "cost Arizona $1.3
billion per year." Their study, among other
inaccuracies,misleadingly included $810 million per
year worth of state spending on education provided to
children of immigrants who were U.S. citizens.4FAIR
refers to such children as "immigrant stock," language
that offersa glimpse of the white supremacy inherent in
their analysis of immigrants.5

Infact, immigrants, both documented and undocumented,
contribute heavily to Arizona's economy. The Thunderbird
School of International Management and Wells Fargo
Bank, in theirreport Economic Impact of the Mexico-
Arizona Relationship, demonstrated that immigrants make
enormous tax contributions, paying annually $300
million more than they receive in services in Arizona.6
In 2001, Mexican immigrants in Arizona paid $1.5 billion
in mortgages and rent, and Arizona banks and
other financial institutions received $57 million in
transaction costs and fees from remittances sent to
Mexico from the state. In addition, Mexican
immigrant purchasing power in Arizonawas estimated at
$3.9 billion in 2001.7

Further contradicting FAIR's numbers, the New York Times
recently reported that the 8to 10 million undocumented
immigrant workers in the U. S. are now providing the
Social Security system with a subsidy of as much as $7
billion a year. This money willnever be collected by
undocumented immigrants themselves and will help fund
theretirement of U.S.citizens for decades to come.8
Nevertheless, FAIR continues to peddle its
ownstatistics to promote Prop. 200 copycats in other
states, scapegoating immigrants--not the federal
government--for the severe cutbacks in state social and
health services.

Sincethe approval of Prop. 200 by Arizona
voters, immigrants have come under further attack from
the Arizona legislature. This legislatives ession there
were more than 20 anti-immigrant bills that sought to
expand Prop. 200's application and many of them have
been approved or are still pending.

"The Minutemen vigilantes have diverted the attention of
the public and the mediawhile their counterparts
sporting suits and ties in the State Capitol
promoteracist laws," said Luis Herrera, an organizer
with the St. Peter's Housing Committee in San
Francisco."A war against immigrants and people of color
has been declared in Arizona."

Voting Rights of U.S. CitizensUnder Attack

Prop.200 backers also made unfounded accusations that
undocumented immigrants votedin Arizona. Their true aim
was to suppress voting by people of color. They openly
declared during a televised debate, "Too many Latinos
are voting." The impactof Prop. 200 identification
requirements on voter registration has been staggering--
in Pima County, over a two-week period early this
month, 423 of 712voter registration forms were
rejected, or 59% of new voters. Last year, when 6times
as many people were registering because of the
presidential election, novoter registration forms were

Arizona isalready red-flagged by the U.S. Justice
Department (USDOJ) because of its history of widespread
voter intimidation against people of color.
Consequently,all changes to the state's voting laws
must be approved by the federalgovernment. Despite
Prop. 200's blatant discriminatory intent, in January
2005the USDOJ ruled that forcing people to show proof
of citizenship whenregistering to vote does not deter
people of color from voting.

Arizona is now the first state in the U.S.to require
that anyone registering to vote present a birth
certificate, passport, or tribal identity card. In
Arizona, approximately one-third of the Latino and
African American populations live inpoverty. Citizens
who cannot afford to purchase a birth certificate ($15
in Arizona), or passport($85) will be prohibited from
registering to vote. Civil rights leaders saythis is
eerily reminiscent of racist poll taxes. Prop. 200 also
wipes outclipboard voter registration drives because
making copies of the requireddocuments at a potential
new voter's doorstep is practically impossible. A number
of bills currently before the legislature seek to
further restrict voting rights and are sponsored by the
same anti-immigrant contingent of legislators.

Arizona Becomes the Vanguard State for Anti-Immigrant

Prop.200's legalization of racial profiling has had a
detrimental impact onU.S.-Mexico relations, as well as
earned Arizonaa reputation for intolerance within the
United States. Recent headlines in Arizona's Spanish-
language newspapers included, "Enriesgo imagen de
Arizona [ Arizona'sImage at Risk]," and "Peligroso
racismo en Arizona[Dangerous Racism in Arizona]."Harry
Garewal, the president of Arizona's Hispanic Chamber of
Commerce, warnedthat Arizona is being singled out at a
national level as the most intolerant and racist

InMarch, a 7-member delegation of Mexican senators
visited Arizona to investigate the effects of Prop.200.
The senators, seeking to analyze the law and its
effects on Mexicannationals, had appointments with
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard and Phoenix Mayor
Phil Gordon. However, Governor Janet Napolitano, a one-
time opponent of Proposition 200, announced her refusal
to receive the delegation and later Mayor Gordon, also a
one-time opponent of the measure, canceled hismeeting
with the Mexican legislators.11

Followingtheir three-day visit to Arizona,their
official report described a "desolate panorama" of
rising anti-immigrant sentiment. "The anti-Mexican
atmosphere that prevails there, far from diminishing, is
being felt with ever-increasing force,"delegation
member Miguel Sadot Sánchez noted.12

Prop.200-like legislation is actively being promoted by
FAIR and other anti-immigrant organizations around the
country. Emboldened by Prop. 200'spassage in Arizona,
Arkansas,Colorado, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee,Virginia,
and Ohio are all facing similar measures. In Arkansas,
Joe McCutchen recently became the chair of "Protect
Arkansas Now," a group supporting the "Arkansas Taxpayer
and Citizen Protection Act,"closely modeled on
Proposition 200. A recent report by the Southern
Poverty LawCenter notes that Joe McCutchen was a member
of the white supremacist Councilof Conservative
Citizens (CCC) in 2001, according to the CCC's

A Post-Prop. 200 Nightmare

The Arizona legislature is now debating 20 additional
bills that seek to criminalize and further marginalize
immigrant workers and their families.

*HB 2030 expands Prop. 200 to prohibit undocumented
immigrants from attending public universities and
community colleges, as well as Adult Education and
Family Literacy programs. It also blocks access to
utility and child care assistance. It is based on the
false premise that immigrants are a net economic drain
onthe state. HB 2030 passed the Arizona Legislature and
was vetoed by theGovernor.

*HB 2592 bans state funding for day labor centers. It
would prohibit cities and towns from maintaining or
building a day labor center if it is used to "facilitate
the hiring of undocumented workers." Day labor
centers provide safe, organized, and convenient
locations for both workers andemployers. HB 2592 passed
the Arizona Legislature and has already been signedby
Governor Napolitano.

*SB 1306 allows for police and Border Patrol
cooperation. Police would be ableto detain immigrants
for the purpose of calling Border Patrol, creating
further abuse and policing in low-income communities of
color. SB 1306 passed the Arizona Legislature but was
recently vetoed by the governor.

*HB 2709 would build a private prison in Mexicoto jail
undocumented immigrants arrested in Arizona. Private
prisons are already cashingin on immigrant detention
and are notorious for human rights violations. This
bill would require a new treaty between the U.S.and
Mexico.HB 2709 passed the Arizona Legislature and was
vetoed by Governor Napolitano.

*SB 1511 prohibits public entities from accepting the
matrícula consular as aform of identification. The
matrícula consular is an official I.D. card issued by
the Mexican Government through its consular offices. SB
1511 passed the Arizona Legislature and was vetoed by
Governor Napolitano.

National and International Boycott of Arizona Imminent

Prop.200, the rapid advance of its legislative
offspring, and the upsurge of armed paramilitaries on
the border, have prompted communities in Mexico,
Arizona,and across the United Statesto begin organizing
a boycott of Arizona. The boycott will target
Arizona businesses, conventions, and tourism, and will
ask individuals and businesses to shop, travel, and
conduct business elsewhere.

The communities most affected by Prop. 200 and its
offspring bills in the Arizona Legislature wield
considerable economic power. Mexican tourists alone
spend anestimated $1.6 billion in Arizonaevery year,
and Mexican immigrant purchasing power is close to $4
billion.Mexicans who might normally visit Arizonato
shop would be asked not to purchase anything in the
state. In addition, immigrants, Latinos, and their
allies in Arizonahave begun to engage in work
stoppages, and are considering boycotting
specificindustries or companies that support anti-
immigrant legislation.

The boycott will coincide with a petition drive to
repeal Prop. 200. Arizonans helda series of community
meetings in May, 2005, to decide what industries
theboycott will target and to consult the communities
that would be most impacted by such an action.

Inthe early 1990s, Arizonans challenged white
supremacists with a boycott andwon. When a ballot
initiative to recognize the Martin Luther King Jr.
holidayfailed to pass, local and national civil rights
groups initiated a national boycott of Arizona. The year-
long boycott cost Arizona$200 million, its reputation,
and an NFL Superbowl. When given the chance tovote on
the holiday again, Arizona voters approved it.

Arizona currently isat the epicenter of a national and
international struggle to defend the humanrights of
immigrants and U.S. citizens of color. The passage of
Prop. 200 here marked the kick-off of adangerous state-
by-state drive to hide a racist campaign behind a
strategic front of blaming immigrants for economic and
social ills.

Almost completely missing from the heated contest
playing out in Arizonaand nationally is a discussion of
the unjust U.S. trade policies that propel migration.
Immigrants suffer increasing imprisonment and policing
for simply crossing a border. Instead of imposing
harsher restrictions on the First World's exploitation
of Third World peoples, U.S. laws punish the victims of
theglobal economic system even further.

"Wesee the effects of these free trade policies every
day in the faces of the workers at our Centers," said
Salvador Reza, director of the Macehualli Work Center in
Phoenix, a day labor center that could soonbe banned
under HB 2592. "Prop. 200 and its henchmen have got to
bestopped, or this place is in for a boycott."

Margot Veranes and Adriana Navarro are members of
Defeat 200 in Tucson, Arizona.For more information on
Prop. 200 and similar bills currently before the
Arizona Legislature, the Boycott of Arizona, and
other ways to support immigrantrights campaigns
in Arizona,please contact Defeat 200 at


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