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Vol. 74/No. 28      July 26, 2010

U.S. gov’t tries to blunt
protests of Arizona law
(front page)
The U.S. Justice Department went to court July 6 to overturn Arizona’s widely criticized new anti-immigrant law. “Arizonans are understandably frustrated with illegal immigration,” asserted Attorney General Eric Holder. “Diverting federal resources away from dangerous aliens such as terrorism suspects and aliens with criminal records will impact the entire country’s safety.”

Thousands of workers and young people in Arizona demonstrated against the law even before it was passed. The law gives a green light to police to question the immigration status of anyone they stop for any reason, if cops suspect they don’t have proper documents.

Outrage over passage of the bill fueled large participation in this year’s May 1 immigrant rights demonstrations across the United States. Many carried signs saying, “Driving while brown,” “I’m Mexican, pull me over,” and “We are not criminals” or asked, “Do I look reasonably suspicious?”

The main argument put forward by the U.S. government for overturning the SB 1070 law is that state governments have no right to make federal immigration decisions. The suit points out that the Arizona law could lead to the detention and harassment of U.S. citizens and immigrants with papers.

An Associated Press article notes that “on paper, Arizona’s controversial new immigration law is not that different” from existing federal laws and practice.

But in the face of protests, the White House calculated that the Arizona law went too far and could backfire. The Barack Obama administration has used existing federal legislation to intimidate undocumented immigrants and maintain a superexploited workforce for factory bosses and big growers across the United States.

Since taking office in January 2009, the Obama administration has expanded programs begun under previous presidents, including E-Verify, which allows bosses to instantly check on employees legal status; 287(g), which trains local cops to act as immigration agents; and Secure Communities, which aims by 2013 to check the fingerprints of every prisoner in federal, state, and local jails across the country against a Homeland Security immigration database, even if they are being held for a misdemeanor.

In a move that received little media attention, the Secure Communities program was expanded in May to include New York State.

While Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has scaled back high profile-factory raids, it has expanded immigration audits, which have led to mass firings of thousands of undocumented workers. ICE has ordered immigration audits at more than 2,900 companies in the last year, almost six times the 503 audits ordered in 2008. The audits have become so common that bosses are calling them “silent raids.”

Reform Immigration for America, a group that helped organize the March 21 immigrant rights march in Washington, D.C., said that the Justice Department’s lawsuit against the Arizona legislation is “a first step” and a “down payment” on Obama’s promise to push immigration “reform.”  
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