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Arizona Awaits Supreme Court Ruling: Interview with Alfredo Gutierrez on Next Phase of SB 1070

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With the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Arizona's SB 1070 "papers, please" immigration law expected any day, civil rights activists in the state and across the country are preparing for the fallout over the ruling.

So is Gov. Jan Brewer: Earlier this week, she issued an executive order for law enforcement agencies to refresh their memories on SB 1070 provisions.

Over the past four decades, former Democratic State Senate leader and activist Alfredo Gutierrez has been on the front lines of Arizona's civil rights and immigration battles. His father, a U.S. citizen, was deported during the anti-immigrant hysteria of the Hoover administration. Gutierrez's new book, To Sin Against Hope: Life and Politics on the Borderland, will be released later this fall and chronicles his life's work in Arizona.

As local and national human rights organizations plan their post-SCOTUS campaigns this week, Gutierrez offered his own views on the Obama administration, and local and national responses to SB 1070.

Jeff Biggers: As we await the U.S. Supreme Court decision on SB 1070, do you see this as a battle for Arizona, or a national battle?

Alfredo Gutierrez: Until the passage of SB 1070 the anti-immigrant hysteria that has seized the country has supported legislation that specifically targets the undocumented. 1070 changes that dramatically. By making anyone who is "reasonably suspicious" of being an "illegal" it targets the entire Latino community in Arizona. The provision that allows any person to bring a lawsuit against any police agency that does not enforce the law will guarantee that Latinos will be subject to constant questioning throughout the day. If this provision is allowed to stand, groups like NumbersUSA, FAIR and CIS, who trace their founding to eugenics and racial theorists at the Pioneer Fund, will advocate for adoption of similar legislation throughout the United States. As recent history has shown they will find an enthusiastic audience in the post-Confederate south.

JB: Do you anticipate a SCOTUS ruling in favor of AZ's SB 1070, and if so, do you feel Democrat promises -- such as the one made by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer in April to pass federal legislation to overrule SB 1070 -- provide any hope for the future?

AG: Sen. Schumer is a grandstanding opportunist with little interest in resolving the immigration issue. His concern is strictly political. He assumes, unfortunately perhaps correctly, that Latino Democrats will ignore the ferocious anti-immigrant policies of the Obama administration and aim their resentment solely at Republican members of Congress.

JB: Would you support a renewed boycott of the state, and how would you propose carrying out a boycott campaign different than in 2010?

AG: The experience I gained as past Chairman of the Boycott Committee leads me to question a general boycott of the state. I would very much support boycotting certain corporations, artists, etcetera that have openly sided with the anti-immigrant forces that have fueled the hate in Arizona, but even that will be difficult. Witness for example the United Farm Workers accepting a sponsorship from Budweiser while Budweiser's Arizona distributor is a major contributor to the very legislators who voted for SB 1070 and the Governor who signed it.

JB: Should Democrat and all candidates in Arizona, including the Obama administration, be held accountable to make SB 1070 a key issue in their 2012 elections, and do you have any faith in the Arizona Democratic Party to challenge the fallout over the Supreme Court ruling?

AG: Indeed they should but Democrats have watched the Obama administration wage the most destructive anti-immigrant campaign in the history of this country and they have (with rare exception) offered mild milquetoast critique at most. The Obama administration continues with its policy of mass deportation and aggressive harassment of immigrant communities while blaming Republicans and prominent Latino Democrats and the Washington D.C.-based immigrant advocacy groups continue to swoon over him. Recently, for example, Congressman Xavier Becerra, the senior Latino in the House, stated in an interview with Juan Williams that Obama "must enforce the law" as if the president of the United States had no discretion, no influence, no power... simply a cog in the machinery of government.

JB: While various law suits will continue to challenge SB 1070 provisions in the courts, do you think there is enough support from Arizona residents -- and their outside allies -- to launch a mass movement for wide-scale non-compliance and actions to halt deployment of the law? And if so, in terms of the "show your papers" clause in SB 1070, for example, what sort of mobilizations of resistance could challenge or even derail such an effort by law enforcement?

AG: This is an important question that will be answered only if and when the "reasonably suspicious" standard in the law is upheld. I can say that the subject of mass resistance is a major topic amongst activists. Prominent Latino Democrats are very concerned that such mass action will bring attention to Obama's hypocritical statements and the ugly reality of his policies, Secure Communities for example, and argue for forbearance and participation the November election. Latinos already disillusioned by Obama's hypocrisy will be less likely to vote and more open to resistance.

JB: Brewer issued an executive order this week, which required all law-enforcement agencies to view a training video released two years ago, despite objections by legal experts that the video training left a "host of unanswered questions about the nuts and bolts of SB 1070 enforcement." A report by the Immigration Policy Center referred to such SB 1070 policy as a "state of confusion." Do you think such measures by Brewer foretell the planning of an intensified crackdown if the SC upholds 1070?

AG: Yes, it reflects their intent, their plan and their fondest hope.

JB: Do you think it would be worth the time to meet with any law enforcement agencies or fraternal associations, especially those who were less favorable of the state law, and hold community forums on the terms of policing engagement?

AG:
Yes, many such meetings are taking place with urban police chiefs.

JB: How can local and national civil rights and non-profit organizations educate residents about the implications of the new law, the rights of residents?

AG: Please keep in mind that the Department of Justice's challenge to 1070 is based on preemption of Federal Constitutional authority and not the violation of civil rights and blatant discrimination. Perhaps they chose to limit their case because in every instance of abuse on the part of Sheriff Arpaio for example the federal government in the form of ICE is complicit in the detention and ultimate deportation of the undocumented. The case has to be made nationally that the Obama administration has to stop its indiscriminate campaign to destroy immigrant families. The administration may claim to be targeting "criminals" but the evidence is clear that its actions target whomever their ever larger dragnet traps.

JB: The Brewer administration says "racial profiling is police misconduct" and won't be tolerated. What leads you to believe this statement is true, or illusory, or even false?

AG: The law itself opens the door, indeed requires racial profiling. Brewer's comments are silly nonsense.