Crossing over - Page 2

Arizona law changing the political dynamics on immigration, in SF and across the country

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Thousands poured into the streets on May 1 to march for federal immigration reform
PHOTO BY REBECCA BOWE

"If globalization policies were not so unbalanced, millions of campesinos [country people] and workers would not be in a position right now where they had to leave their families in order to work," Cardona said. "When you have armies of unemployed people without a prospect ... people will take desperate measures."

Giselle Perez, a young woman who participated in the rally, said she was there in support of workers who risk their lives to come to the U.S. "As a child of immigrant parents, I feel our attention should be toward the forces that have created this destruction, and we shouldn't be persecuting those ... who are just coming here to work and to provide the services that we all benefit from," Perez said.

But even in San Francisco, there were signs of how divisive the immigration issue is. As speakers and hip-hop groups took turns onstage at Civic Center Plaza, a crowd of at least 20 counter-protesters set up camp across the street in front of City Hall, standing behind police barricades and displaying banners which read "We need more ICE at this fiesta" and "Golden Gate Minute Men."

A self-proclaimed white separatist organization calling itself the Bay Area National Anarchists (BANA) — pinpointed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and bitterly hated by local anarchists — made its presence known. A scuffle occurred when BANA members wound up in a physical clash with a group of individuals as they left the rally, resulting in two arrests.

In the wake of the boycott announcement, Herrera was deluged with angry e-mails from throughout the country, expressing angry sentiments toward "illegal aliens" and threatening to boycott the city of San Francisco.

 

CHANGING DYNAMICS

SB 1070 empowers police officers to detain and arrest anyone they have "reasonable suspicion" to believe is in the country without immigration papers. The bill makes transporting and employing undocumented immigrants a crime. And it allows individuals to sue municipalities where they believe law enforcement is not pursuing undocumented immigrants.

Reactions to the Arizona law continue to reverberate nationwide. And the uproar has forced the debate about federal immigration reform into the headlines and created a string of potential pitfalls for politicians just ahead of the 2010 elections.

President Barack Obama immediately called the law "misguided" and ordered the U.S. Department of Justice to determine whether the new law violates people's civil rights. Former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano — whose January 2009 decision to resign to become Obama's Homeland Security Secretary caused then-Lt. Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, to ascend to the state's top post — framed SB 1070 as a "cry of frustration" from state and local officials who need federal immigration reform.

"They've already amended the law over the course of the week, so even the Arizona Legislature is starting to recognize there are problems," Napolitano said last week.

But the amended bill, which is scheduled to go into effect later this summer, has already opened up a Grand Canyon-sized rift within the Republican Party: GOP officials in at least seven other red states, including Texas, Colorado, and Oklahoma, have vowed to introduce similar legislation. Their pronouncements have forced even some conservative Republicans like strategist Karl Rove to make statements critical of the law.

In Phoenix, opponents of SB 1070 smeared the state building with swastikas made of refried beans. Around the nation, online social media networks rocked with a gale-force response. More than 1 million SB 1070 opponents banded together on a dozen Facebook pages clamoring for boycotts, a demand championed by a galaxy of civil liberties groups.

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