October 26, 2016
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Tensions Rise As AZ Takes Effect

 Phoenix - Tensions escalated as Arizona's contentious immigration law went into effect, with both opponents and supporters vowing, "we will not comply."

Protestors wore it on T-shirts and chanted it as a rallying cry during demonstrations outside the office of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in downtown Phoenix, where they marched after attending a 6 a.m. interfaith service at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. Dozens were arrested after a standoff between demonstrators and police wearing riot gear.

Arpaio, running for re-election, launched "Operation 1070," the 17th crime sweep since 2007 to identify, detain and deport undocumented persons, despite a July 28 federal court ruling barring police officers from checking immigration status during traffic stops, detentions and arrests.

Hundreds of SB1070 opponents began the day in prayer and song, chanting 'Si se puede' (yes we can) as they marched a mile north from a vigil at the state capitol to Trinity Cathedral for the "God is Our Hope" interfaith service of prayer and thanksgiving.

The overflow gathering of Muslims, Jews and Christians spilled over into the parish hall and cathedral courtyard. The crowd responded with a standing ovation, cheers, applause and whistles as Petra Falcon of Promise Arizona declared "We gather as God's people and we will not be moved."

She and other faith leaders interpreted a federal judge's preliminary injunction against portions of the law as an answer to their prayers.

The Most Rev. Minerva Carcano, bishop of the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church, and former Arizona State Senator Alfredo Gutierrez called upon President Barack Obama and the federal government to initiate comprehensive immigration reform.

SB 1070, which aims to target and deport undocumented persons "makes immigrant families the scapegoat of every ill the state faces," Carcano said. She praised and thanked young people in the congregation for participating in 104 days of prayer vigils against the law.

The Very Rev. Nicholas Knisely, dean of the cathedral, and Bishop Kirk Smith of the Diocese of Arizonawere among those offering prayers and blessings at the two-hour service.

"This is the civil rights movement of our time," Smith said after the service. "We've been granted a slight reprieve," he said, referring to U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton's July 28 decision that crucial portions of the law simply could not be enforced.

Bolton's ruling blocked requirements that immigrants carry citizenship papers at all times and blocked a section barring undocumented workers from applying for or soliciting employment.

But Smith added that "those determined to scare people out of Arizona will continue to work to do that. So this is not the end, this is kind of the beginning of the struggle."

Knisely agreed. "It's a tense moment in the city."

He noted that police helicopters hovered above the cathedral after the service, as demonstrators marched to the state capitol. "It's interesting that we've already started getting angry phone calls. Once the service started, people were calling up very incensed that we would be hosting this ecumenical prayer service, that we would be a site of protest," he said.

"They were angry that religious leaders were speaking out as they did against the law," he said. "But that's what people of faith do. We do not withdraw from the world; we engage the world.

"Our answer to them simply was 'we're praying for you.' We are praying for everyone in the city, that everyone just calms down, and steps back from what might be a very difficult situation in the city."

State attorneys on July 29 asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal in San Francisco to expedite their appeal to overturn Bolton's decision, requesting a Sept. 13 hearing date.

Local media reported death threats against Bolton, who had said the law puts unfair burdens on legal immigrants. "There is a substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens," she said. "Preserving the status quo is less harmful."

Bolton's ruling also barred sections that: forbid police from releasing anyone arrested until that person's immigration status is determined; and allowed police to make warrantless arrests if there is a belief the person has committed an offense that allows them to be removed from the United States.

Other aspects of the law, including provisions against alien smuggling, went into effect at 12:01 a.m., sparking prayer, protest and arrests when demonstrators attempted to block traffic and to prevent people from entering one of the county jails in downtown Phoenix.

At times the protest turned personal.

"Sheriff Joe, we are here. We won't live in fear," demonstrators chanted in front of Arpaio's office in downtown Phoenix.

Martin Manteca, wearing a T-shirt bearing the message "we will not comply" was arrested for civil disobedience. He said he wanted to send a message that the immigration law will not be tolerated "and that we will be mobilizing people to vote" in November -- a recurrent theme among the protestors.

Maricopa county sheriffs made about 15 arrests during their sweep, in addition to protestors arrested for attempting to stop traffic or block entryways to one of the county jails, Arpaio told local media.

Immigrants-rights activists also staged demonstrations across the country, from New York to Los Angeles, South Bend, Indiana and New Jersey.

The numbers of demonstrators in Phoenix doubled when 11 busloads carrying members of 33 labor organizations arrived from Los Angeles.

"We are here to support the people of Arizona," said Humberto Gomez, of the Laborers International Union of North America, who made the 370-mile trip from Los Angeles to Phoenix.

"We understand why Arizona put the law into effect, because immigration laws are broken," he said. "But we want to send a message that we are the same. We are equal. We had Asians, Blacks, Russians, Latinos, Mexicans and Mexican Americans on my bus. We are equal under the law and under God."

Zakiya Khabir, a protestor said, "We won't rest until we know this law is off the books, and there's a real pathway to legalization for people."

Meanwhile, anti-immigration law activists, including the Border Action Network, said they will launch "Infórmate, Prepárate, y Únete" (Get Informed, Be Prepared and Get Involved), a statewide intensive educational campaign, on Aug. 3.

The group will go door-to-door to "ensure that we are informed, prepared and engaged in the fight against the law and that our own families and communities are protected from its impact," according to a statement released by the agency.

Similarly, the Rev. Canon Carmen B. Guerrero said the Arizona diocese has come up with a practical guide for the immigration law, to serve as an educational resource for parishioners.


-- The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a national correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. She is based in Los Angeles.


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