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Thousands Protest In Phoenix Rally

 New America Media, News Report, Valeria Fernandez 


PHOENIX, Arizona. In the second largest march in Arizona’s history dozens of thousands of people took to the streets of Phoenix in opposition to SB 1070 on Saturday.

The law that will take effect on July 29 would make it a crime for a person to be an undocumented immigrant in Arizona.

“We are not afraid to come out. If we didn’t, the risks are the same. We could be deported any day,” said Gloria Ruiz, 40, an undocumented immigrant from Chihuahua, Mexico who came to march with her daughter and husband.

For Ruiz and many other undocumented immigrants in the five mile march there was a sense of urgency because despite wide opposition to the new law from some police departments, some officers on the ground are already putting it into effect.

Phoenix Police Department reported that 50,000 people participated in the event. But organizers estimated it could have been between 100,000 to 200,000 people. Regardless of the count, aerial pictures showed a huge mass of people that stretched over seven Phoenix blocks and grew as it reached its destination - the State Capitol.

Even by conservative estimates, it surpassed by thousands any recent march in Phoenix. The last march in the city that came anywhere close in scale was on April 10, 2006 and it brought 250,000 people to protest against Congressman James Sensenbrenner’s immigration bill, very similar to SB 1070, which would have made it a federal crime for a person to be illegally in the U.S.

“This was a punch in the liver of SB 1070,” said Salvador Reza, with the PUENTE movement, one of the main organizations that coordinated the massive march. For Reza the march was only the beginning of what will become an effort to create a national movement to oppose the criminalization of undocumented immigrants and stop the spread of similar initiatives in other states.

He said PUENTE is planning the Freedom Summers to bring people from other states to organize communities a neighborhood at a time. Several other groups are planning protest actions on July 29th. Thousands of people are planning to come on a caravan to Phoenix riding in buses without documents in a form of civil disobedience, said Dawn Page, a spokesperson for the Laborer’s International Union of North America (LIUNA).

Despite the message of the organizers, people converged on the march with different messages. Some were students calling for the passage of the DREAM Act. Among them was a group facing deportation because of their involvement in a civil disobedience act two weeks ago at Sen. John McCain’s office. Ethnic groups and religious organizations were more visible than in 2006.

For some people like Martha Rojas this was also an opportunity to demand President Obama to fullfill the promise he made during his campaign that he would support immigration reform.

Others expressed their frustration against the use of racial profiling.

“We are in a country that is not ours and we have to respect the laws. But we can’t allow ourselves to be humiliated,” said Gerardo Morales, an immigrant from Michoacan, Mexico. “We’re fed up of being followed because of the color of our skin, just because we are brown, knowing there are Irish and Russian migrants but they’re not followed.”

SB 1070 currently faces five lawsuits in the courts challenging its constitutionality. Recently there have been reports that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is drafting a possible lawsuit against the new law.

Reza questioned the expediency by which the Obama administration could act, considering it’s been over a year since they started an investigation on Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio over allegations of racial profiling with no result.

The march attracted caravans that come from all corners of the nation including, California, New Mexico, New York and Texas.

“There’s already a national movement and we are seeing it with the number of protests, civil disobedience and economic boycotts taking place at the national level. We need to organize it and channel it,” said attorney Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC). Hincapie emphasized that what SB 1070 proposes has already been taking place informally especially in those parts of the country were local law-enforcement has agreements known as 287(g) with ICE.

“I think everyone recognizes that what’s happening in Arizona could go easily to other states.”

On Saturday there was also a rally in support of SB 1070 organized by Tea Party supporters in the city of Tempe.



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