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“Am I Reasonably Suspicious?” Reflections on SB 1070

July 22, 2010

by: Enrique Ruiz

“Am I reasonably suspicious?” “May be illegal.” “I am Mexican and I am not running”

Today in Arizona the Hispanic people and their allies are fighting for equality, rights, and their dignity. The topic of immigration is at a pivotal point in our country’s history. I would like to preface by saying that I do not by any means have the merits to answer the questions that come up in the dialogue of immigration; however I do believe being part of history today is not to be taken lightly. I believe it is crucial to be educated on the topic. Not being so is otherwise suicide when one attempts to defend ones stance.  Being able to see how our country is taking on the topic of immigration is vital to understanding the times we live in. In this post I will attempt to not go much into the “law” when it comes to being in the shoes of an attorney. I will simply be giving you a testament of what I have lived in these last few months.  Thus far these are the moments I have experienced.

History in Arizona was never the same after Governor Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill -1070.  Emotions ran through the people of Arizona as the bill was signed. Using YouTube, not the news, I could see how real the momentous signing was for people. The masses took to the streets in protest, the state capitol swarmed with people emotionally reacting to the signing of the bill. While all of this was occurring I awaited my college diploma in Newberg. Coming home to Arizona had never tasted so bitter sweet. Diploma in my hand, and second in my family to graduate from college, it should have been a time of celebration for my family; yet coming home to such saddening times for the land where I have been raised made my highs of graduating college quickly leave my system. My summer journey began. Protests, rallies, conversations, news, you name it; my world was swirling in immigration. The only question I could think was, “How do I help my community?”

Soon after the signing of the bill many people decided to take action.  Reverend Al Sharpton came to Phoenix giving a powerful speech on how he would react if the bill was made law. The Reverend exclaimed that he would travel to Arizona and not show his documentation to the authorities. In essence the Reverend was stating that he was willing to get arrested if the bill was passed into law. The people cheered for him and supported him. I pounded my fist in the air and added to the energy of the crowd. Others as well began to take action against Senate Bill 1070 states, organizations, individuals, and others decided to boycott Arizona. And others bent by the oppressive bill decided to go forth and practice civil disobedience, resulting in people getting arrested.

There have been marches put together against SB-1070, two of which I have been a part of. People gathered by the thousands, the helicopter views showed the sea of people moving together towards the capitol. Yelling chants, pounding fists, sweating in the Arizona heat. During the march as the U.V. rays crashed against the plethora of people, my mind would linger in the midsts of everything, I would think about how Martin Luther King, Jr. felt when he marched, and he dealt with the elements of protesting against oppressive laws. Or how Cesar Chavez organized the people to raise their voices for a cause. I became motivated by the thought that we could change history by raising our voices. If Dr. King and Mr. Chavez could stand up and say no, why couldn’t we?

So what does SB-1070 consist of? What does the law create? What is the social impact of the bill?  In the Senate fact sheet we read:

Requires law enforcement officials and agencies to make a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of a person involved in a stop, detention or arrest in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien and is unlawfully present, unless the determination may hinder or obstruct an investigation.

We can find language similar to the language above throughout the Bill. The intricacies, language, and presentation of the bill to the public can leave one in a place of skewed understanding. In essence, SB-1070 gives officials the right to question a person who they have had lawful contact with, for their proper documentation. The question that arises: “What is reasonable suspicion?” comes into dialogue immediately. Today in Arizona we are still yet to know what reasonable suspicion is. How can an officer tell by looking at a person that they are not properly documented? The question is not one that is put in the arena to baffle one. It is simply a continuation of the chronic cycle of our countries way of oppressing a group of people.

Our media has skewed the minds of the American public in the way it communicates immigration to the American people. “Aliens, invaders, the wave of criminals, the illegal’s.” The way in which we talk about immigration has created a thick film of misunderstanding for America. The reality is that it is impossible to look at a human being and conclude that they are not legally documented to live in America. The sad truth is that SB-1070 legalizes racial profiling. We are, in a way, going back in time. If you compare the black and white films from the late 40’s early 70’s of protests, to today’s HD scenes of protests in Arizona, one can argue that there is no difference: a group of people being oppressed by laws, fighting for equality, their rights and dignity.

Today we wait to see if the bill gets passed into law. We wait as the federal government, and others file suit against the bill. And as we wait, the masses immigrate to other states, back to their native land. Leaving what they know as home here in Arizona. Local businesses are going out of business, homes, apartments, and tangibles are being abandoned. Students are sitting on their college diplomas, unable to infuse their knowledge into the workforce. The days in Arizona are sad, long and hot. However I remain with hope and faith that the people being oppressed will overcome and that there will be justice in Arizona.

Enrique Ruiz, raised in Arizona and a 2010 graduate of George Fox University, is currently the Program Coordinator of Anytown at the Y, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting young leaders through diversity awareness education.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Deborah Berho permalink
    August 21, 2010 3:14 am

    Orgullosa de haber sido tu profe, Enrique! Si se puede!

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