Students to protest Ariz. law enaction

The students will travel to Arizona and meet with immigrant rights organization Puente Arizona to participate in the Arizona Freedom Summer.

Miranda Taylor

Four University of Minnesota students piled into a station wagon Tuesday, setting off on a cross-country road trip to add their voices to the protest against Arizona’s new immigration law.
The four set their sights on Phoenix, where they will join activists from across the nation Thursday as the controversial Arizona State Senate Bill 1070 goes into effect.
“It’s really important to have this really big demonstration on the 29th … just to show the Arizona government that people are not going to tolerate racist laws,” Emily Maple, a University senior majoring in English, said of the protest.
Organized through Students for a Democratic Society, the trip includes three students from SDS and one student from the University’s Women’s Student Activist Collective.
The students will travel to Arizona and meet with immigrant rights organization Puente Arizona to participate in the Arizona Freedom Summer, named after civil rights movements of the 1960s called “freedom summers.”
The University students will join SDS chapters from across the nation and Arizona grassroots organizations as they participate in two days of Arizona Freedom Summer and Puente activities.
While in Arizona, the students will stay in communal housing arranged by Puente, and their fundraising should cover almost all of their trip expenses.
After one month of planning and coordinating with SDS, the 50-hour round-trip drive time means they will spend more time driving to and from Arizona than actually in it.
Jess Lynch, a member of WSAC and recent University global studies and gender studies graduate, doesn’t like the way immigration reform is going.
“I have concerns about how this law really creates a second class of people in the country who are expected to carry papers and can be really risking their lives and their family’s livelihoods at any second [if] they’re stopped,” Lynch said.
SB 1070, referred to simply as “the Arizona immigration law” by most, was passed by the Arizona State Senate and signed into law by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in late April.
The bill has the potential, as do similar measures proposed in other states, to affect the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States, said Katherine Fennelly, an immigration expert and professor in the University’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.
SB 1070’s initial passage provoked waves of controversy and protest across the nation as concerns about its potential to induce racial profiling by police who are asked to identify undocumented immigrants on sight.
Among other provisions, SB 1070 will make it a misdemeanor to fail to provide immigration documents when prompted to do so by a law enforcement official.
The bill’s supporters point out that officers cannot use race as a factor in asking for proof of citizenship.
On July 6, the federal government filed suit against Arizona, claiming the measure violates federal law.
“Just as we can’t have states writing their own foreign policies, we can’t have states enacting legislation that determines who’s going to be deported or who can be arrested,” Fennelly said as she explained the alleged violation.
However, the failure of bipartisan efforts on the federal level to provide comprehensive immigration reform in 2007 has led to states creating their own immigration policy, said Erika Lee, an associate professor of history and Asian American studies at the University, who is also an expert in immigration.
Whether Arizona has the authority to enact its new law will be inconsequential Thursday, because Fennelly, among others, does not expect the federal government to intervene directly with SB 1070 until after the November midterm elections.
Thursday has also been dubbed a “National Day of Non-Compliance” by immigrant rights groups in Arizona.
Although not their primary intent in going to Arizona, participation in the day of boycotting basic purchases and organizations that support SB 1070 seems very likely for the four University student activists.
“I don’t think we’ll be shopping or buying gas [while there] … but I’m not really sure to what extent we’re going to participate on the 29th,” Maple said. “I think [we’ll participate] as fully as possible without getting in trouble.”
The group has ruled out civil disobedience in an effort to stay safe.
The group intends to door-knock in order to amass support against the law and to alert Arizona residents to what is being simultaneously enacted and protested across the state. The group also expects to receive further instruction from Puente about where volunteers and activists are needed upon arrival.