Friday, April 23, 2010
Protesters decry AZ bill at Nogales, Sonora rally
By Jonathan Clark
Waving banners that said “We are border residents, not criminals,” and encouraged by the approving honks of passing motorists, people from both sides of the border raised their voices against Arizona’s tough new immigration bill at a protest Tuesday in Nogales, Sonora.
“At this very moment, the Arizona Legislature is passing a law that is completely against us as migrants, as Mexicans and as Latin Americans,” Nogales, Ariz., resident Gustavo Lozano told the approximately 40 protesters – many of them recently deported migrants – who gathered just south of the Dennis DeConcini Port of Entry.
“We are here to send a message to the elected officials of Arizona that we reject this law that criminalizes all of us.”
The gathering was part of a series of protests against the measure that stretched from Phoenix to Tucson and Nogales, Sonora on Tuesday, the day after it was approved by the state Senate. No similar protests were visible in Nogales, Ariz.
The bill, which now awaits Gov. Jan Brewer’s signature, would make illegal immigration a state crime and would require local police to ask people about their immigration status when there are reasonable grounds for suspicion.
Advocates of the plan say it will allow the state to address a problem that the federal government has failed to confront. Opponents, such as those at Tuesday’s protest, say it will promote discrimination and other rights abuses, and foment fear in immigrant communities.
Nogales, Ariz., resident Salvador Flores, spokesman for the civil rights advocacy group Fronteras Desiguales (Unequal Borders), said the fact that local police are not trained in immigration enforcement could cause them to consider a person’s physical characteristics as an indicator of immigration status.
“We feel that it will be a case of racial profiling, and that’s called discrimination,” Flores said, as the protesters around him struck up a chant of “Frontera, escucha, el pueblo esta en la lucha “ (“Listen, border, the people have joined the struggle.”)
Others, such as Sister Maria en Gracia Robles, a member of the Catholic migrant aid charity Iniciativa Kino Binacional para la Frontera (Kino Binational Border Initiative), worry that the law will result in more migrant deaths and give border-crossers more reason to fear.
“Migrants go (to the United States) because of hunger, because they want to work, and they are not going to stop because of this law,” she said. “But there are going to be more deaths in the desert because they are going to go by more dangerous, more isolated routes.”
Robles said the new law would further damage Arizona’s image among Mexicans, making it look like a “Hitler-esque state.”
Protester Gerardo Lozano, a 32-year-old Chevrolet employee from Nogales, Sonora, warned that the law will be an insult to Sonorans who support the Arizona economy by crossing the border legally to shop, but who may now face increased scrutiny over their immigration status.
Lozano, whose border-crossing card recently expired, wondered if it was worth the trouble to renew it.
“I have family on the other side, and that’s the only reason now for me to renew it,” he said.
“If they weren’t there, I would have no reason.”