As the November general elections near, the international boycott of Arizona has become a central issue in several key elections, including the race for Arizona governor. This is not only because of the dramatic loss of revenue to the state from the cancellation of concerts, conferences, conventions, drop in tourism and cancellation of contracts, but also because Arizona ranks second to last in national poverty rankings according to a recently released Census report. Sound Strike supporters and opponents of SB 1070 break the eerie silence with massive protests and heated battle.
What Governor Brewer and detractors of the boycott fail to realize is that the Arizona boycott is not just about SB 1070. The simple truth is attacks on migrants in Arizona didn't start with SB 1070 and won't end with the partial injunction granted to the Obama administration. It is time to end all federally funded partnerships such as the 287(g) program, Secure Communities and other ICE policies designed to marginalize and repress immigrant families and communities. Many of these policies are in the hands of President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary, and Former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano; they can end the nightmare immediately. Until then, boycotters will continue to withhold tax revenue to racist and fear mongering state governments such as Arizona.
Boycotts have played integral roles in reversing discrimination all over the world. Where would we be today if the late great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and civil rights organizations in Birmingham, Alabama, had not called for a bus boycott in protest of racial discrimination? In fact, the Montgomery Bus boycott became a symbol of racial segregation, inequality, political disenfranchisement, and persecution of blacks in the South. Just like the Montgomery Bus boycott was about more than where blacks could sit on a bus, the Arizona boycott is about more than SB 1070.
The human impact of what is happening to immigrants and their families in Arizona calls into question the same moral and ethical imperatives that the civil rights movement did. Are we all equal before the law? To what extent can states and local law enforcement officers engage in human and civil rights violations against an ethnic group that has been completely vilified in the eyes of the white political majority?
The Arizona boycott is about the cruel and inhumane approach Arizona has taken and the cruel human impact that not only affects migrants, but brown-skinned communities in general. Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio has become the symbol of this persecution. He does this in calculated political moves to distract us from his poor law-enforcement record, federal investigation, strong allegations of civil and human rights abuse, and corruption. However, Arpaio's world may be crumbling as top deputies of his have been put on leave over allegations of pressuring officers to engage in cover ups and abuse of power. Another investigation is looking into alleged misuse of up to $80 million. Let's not forget the ongoing Department of Justice investigations on many fronts. Still, Arpaio maintains strong support among whites because he agitates them in shameful propaganda and lies about the negative impact of migrants in our communities.
Arpaio operates like a warlord whose indiscriminate abuse changes lives in seconds, particularly the children of migrant detainees. Maricopa County is a place where parents make pacts to look after one another's children in the event of detention. Sheriffs carry stuffed teddy bears and toys to calm the nerves of children whose parents are pried away from their arms by law. Arpaio does not hide his views. He has said on national TV it is an "honor" to be compared to the KKK and has called his "tent city" jails concentration camps. Arpaio's description is frighteningly appropriate. The tent cities can reach temperatures of 130 degrees, inmates are fed rotting 30 cent meals, have inadequate medical treatment, and denied the most basic rights such as sanitation, public defenders, mail and bail, if they are undocumented. Arpaio's cruelness reaches epic proportions when detained pregnant woman are forced to give birth handcuffed to gurneys.
Arpaio's goal is to break our spirits, to drive migrants out by attrition. But we resist and we fight back. We are not afraid. So long as there is a 287(g) agreement with local police; So long as the Federal Secure Communities program is in local jails; So long as federal programs are used to make Arizona a modern apartheid state empowering the governor and state legislature to violate civil and human rights. The resistance of organizations, artists, writers and governments will continue. The boycott of Arizona will not stop, and we will expand our struggle locally, nationally and internationally asking all peoples of conscience to join. La Lucha Sigue (The Struggle Continues).