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The Rhetoric Stops Here

Jon Oneill,
ACLU of Arizona
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July 22, 2010

The big showdown over SB 1070, Arizona’s controversial racial profiling law, is set to start today and will feature two hearings in Phoenix federal court.

A great deal of attention will be focused on the 1:30 p.m. hearing, where Judge Susan Bolton will hear the federal DOJ make its case to stop SB 1070 from taking effect.

While the DOJ suit will take center stage, the most compelling human drama will come during the morning hearing, when attorneys representing a coalition of civil rights groups, including the ACLU, MALDEF and NILC, will show how real people will be harmed by this unconstitutional law.

More than half a dozen individual plaintiffs will join 14 organizational plaintiffs for their day in court, all hoping to see justice over a law that has dramatically affected their lives, even though it has yet to take effect.

The plaintiffs include people such as 70-year-old Jim Shee, a US citizen of Spanish and Chinese descent. He’s already been pulled over twice by officers who asked him for his “papers,” and he is keenly aware the racial profiling will only get worse.

Pastor Luz Santiago is also seeing SB 1070 fallout at her Mesa church, where many in the congregation are undocumented. Beside the fear on the faces of church members and the pall cast over the tight-knit Latino community, Santiago worries that because she is often helping the undocumented, she too may end up in jail.

Haitian teenager CM (only her initials are used because she is a minor) has been granted Temporary Protected Status as a Haitian living in the US. But since SB 1070 was signed into law, CM has been afraid that she will be detained and questioned because she is a foreigner.

Other plaintiffs have similar stories – creation of such a hostile climate was one of the main purposes of SB 1070, which seeks to make life so difficult for immigrants that they leave of their own accord. It doesn’t seem to matter to the state officials behind the law that everyone’s rights are being brutally trampled in the process.

Today, the rhetoric will finally stop and the real cost of SB 1070 will be tallied in front of a judge who, we believe, will see how devastating this law is, not just to Arizona but to the entire country.