Saturday April 23rd 2011 marked the one year anniversary of the passing of SB1070, the racist anti-immigrant law in Arizona. When this law passed it gained national and even international attention, protests sparked up through the USA, artists boycotted the state (the Sound Strike), and even major American cities decided to boycott Arizona (Los Angeles, Oakland, New York, to name a few). Other states have also followed Arizona’s anti-immigration push; Utah have passed a similar bill; Georgia is awaiting their governor’s signature; Alabama has had the legislature pass in both chambers; South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Indiana have had the legislature pass in one chamber; the legislation has been introduced and passing through committees in Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Illinois; Kansas has introduced the legislation but there have been some set-backs in committee; Mississippi, California, Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kentucky have introduced legislation but they are not really a threat. This is something that we can not ignore, I remember that a year ago this was all over the news, but as time has gone there have been more “newsworthy” stories that have occurred and SB1070 has lost its importance in the eyes of the media.
In February I read a story about a business group that had started an anti-SB1070 tour, this unfortunately was not based on the basic fact that this is a human rights debate, but the economical backlash that can occur with the passing of such a law. I guess the saying is still true; to hurt them where it hurts the most, and for most people it is their wallets! It is said that in the last year Arizona has lost $410 millions in tourism revenue. They also stated that if 50 000 immigrant families leave the state a billion dollars in revenue goes with them. It is calculated that 100 000 Latinos left Arizona last year, some of them legal and illegal immigrants. In September, Utah’s Lt. Gov. Greg Bell traveled to Arizona on a “fact-finding” trip to gauge the fallout from the state’s illegal immigration crackdown. In Utah, a group of bipartisan lawmakers and business leaders, along with the Mormon church, signed a petition saying they think immigration law should be left to the federal government. The main legislative champion of an Arizona-style crackdown in Utah, GOP state Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, has revised his legislation’s original wording after groups estimated it would cost the state more than $5 million to enforce. The new version of his bill, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, will no longer mandate police officers to check the immigration status of suspects; it makes such identification checks optional for Utah cops.
As hundreds of protestors marched in Phoenix on Saturday, some sad and infuriating news came from our friends at the Sound Strike. Los Angeles, one of the cities that have vowed to boycott Arizona based companies (which has cost the state more than $140 million in lost revenue) until this racist law was overturned, has decided to award $106 millions of tax payer money to an Arizona based company, Honeywell International. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Council President Garcetti, and other council members are about to break their promise, and betray their communities in the process. On the website of the Sound Strike you can sign a petition to remind them of a promise they made less than a year ago. This money is for their bid to maintain the LA Waste Water Treatment Plant, the Honeywell division that is bidding for this is based in Arizona, along with its 4 major divisions of this corporation. Honeywell also has a record of broken air-quality and hazardous-waste laws on hundreds of occasions, and has exposed its workers to hazardous waste. With a track record like this, there must be a competent company that is able to do the job which is not based in Arizona.
In the last year, over two dozen immigrant hate bills have passed and unjust deportations are increasing. LA is home to the biggest latino community in the US, it should be a model for the rest of the country on standing up for immigrant rights. When the boycott passed last year, the City councilor was told to draft a ordinance restricting city contracts with Arizona based companies, this was never done. Honeywell is now working this loophole to its advantage, they are hiring lobbyists to help push their agenda on city council members.
What is most dangerous in human right struggles is when people forget, this is what Arizona wants to happen. We must keep speaking up against these hate laws, just because this story is no longer coming into your living room, it is still happening and people are still struggling. Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. This will not change unless we stay united and make sure that we let Arizona know that we have not forgotten and we will keep fighting until this law is overturned! For all the Canadians out there, we are in the midst of a federal election, look into your candidates campaigns and their stance on immigration. This could very easily happen to us if we are not careful and elect a government that believes that all human beings are to be treated with respect and dignity. On May 2nd when you are voting, remember to think of the struggle of the people of Arizona, vote for a pro-immigration party! We are all immigrants (except for native americans of course) and we should never forget that!
Here is a short film about the Sound Strike and the artists that have decided to boycott Arizona! Please take the time to check it out and make sure that others take a look… We must continue to pressure until this law is overturned!