Arizona Adopts ‘Jimenez Crow’ Laws: Direct and Indirect Civil Disobedience

by NEPHTALI DELEON

Next week, Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 will go into effect.

This bill, among other things, requires local law enforcement to check an individual’s immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that said individual is undocumented. Another provision of SB 1070 requires immigrants to carry papers denoting citizenship at all times while in the state.

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a suit against Arizona, citing the bill as discriminatory. (For more on the law and comprehensive immigration reform, please see Sojourners’ great campaign Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.)

As the action heats up in Arizona, we’ve got a “teachable moment” about what nonviolent direct action looks like when taken directly against an unjust law — as opposed to symbolic civil disobedience that often breaks a smaller law to highlight the injustice of a larger situation.

Will Travers’ article A Rare Opportunity for Direct Civil Disobedience in Arizona provides an excellent outline for this conversation.  Will’s a scholar of nonviolence with a degree from the University of Michigan. He works with the NYC-based band/nonprofit, Lokashakti, promoting peace and social justice through collective nonviolent action. Here’s an excerpt:

… Not since the end of the draft in 1973 has there been a law in the United States that seems to render itself so well to direct civil disobedience. Arizona SB 1070 requires non-citizens to keep registration documents on them at all times and forces police officers to inquire about immigration status during any kind of arrest or routine stop if they encounter “reasonable suspicion” that the person might be in the country illegally. In addition, the new law gives police leeway to arrest someone solely on the basis of there being probable cause that they may be undocumented, at which point they’re to be turned over directly to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

This basically boils down to the police in Arizona having new license to stop anyone looking remotely Hispanic — for no other reason than that they look remotely Hispanic — demand papers from them, and take them into custody if satisfactory documents are not immediately produced. Predictably this has led some people, such as Roman Catholic Archbishop Roger Mahony, to draw parallels to the lives of those in Europe forced to live under the Nazi regime. Additionally — and this concerns all of us — the new Arizona law makes it a crime to “transport or move,” or “conceal, harbor or shield” undocumented immigrants, reminding me more of something out of the Fugitive Slave Acts from this country’s dark past. Against such blatantly unjust, potentially far-reaching legislation, at least we’re armed with a chance for everyone to participate in its direct disobedience, instead of just abandoning our undocumented brothers and sisters to their fate.

In a relatively short amount of time, Martin Luther King Jr. became somewhat of an expert on unjust laws. In a speech he delivered before the Fellowship of the Concerned in 1961, King defined an unjust law as “a code that the majority inflicts upon the minority, which that minority had no part in enacting or creating, because that minority had no right to vote in many instances.” Although close to 50 years old, this definition holds up in modern-day Arizona quite well. The undocumented minority, having virtually no recourse to its voice being heard, is at the mercy of the majority — in this case that of the Arizona Senate — 60 percent Republican and 100 percent white.

King places upon his definition one condition: that the law the minority is compelled to obey is not binding upon the majority. This indeed rings true again, as one would have a very hard time imagining members of Arizona’s white community consenting to being stopped because of their skin color, questioned by police, and immediately forced to prove their legal status under penalty of detention. On the necessity for civil disobedience when faced with such a law, King writes in his Letter from Birmingham Jail that:

[A]t first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

While it’s difficult for me to speculate as to exactly how this unjust law should best be disobeyed, the inspiring example is already there of the five students and community organizers who staged a sit-in at Senator John McCain’s office in Tucson after the bill’s April signing. Remarkably enough, three of the five were undocumented and knowingly subjected themselves to possible deportation, finally undergoing arrest, then detention by ICE, before thankfully being released the next day. …

Read Will’s whole article here.

Video: Join the 200,000+ Who Marched for Immigration Reform

For those of you who couldn’t be in Washington, D.C., last weekend for the pro-immigration reform rally, here’s a 2-minute video.

I helped lead the Sojourners worship service in the morning, then spent the rest of the afternoon on the Mall people-watching and selling SojoSwag.

You’ve Got Mail: Barack Sends His Thanks to YOU

President Barack Obama signs the healthcare reform bill Tuesday in the White House as 11-year-old Marcellus Owens looks on. CHARLES DHARAPAK / AP
President Barack Obama signs the healthcare reform bill Tuesday in the White House as 11-year-old Marcellus Owens looks on. CHARLES DHARAPAK / AP

This morning I had a doctor’s appointment at Kaiser. I was sitting in the waiting room when the CBS special report came on the TV announcing that the President of the United States was making a speech before he signed into law historic legislation to reform how health care is delivered in this country.

All the hum of talk died down and everyone turned toward the television. “It’s about time,” said one. “Them Southern states are gonna fight it,” said another. “Let ’em try,” chimed in some one else. “Is this gonna help with my mother’s prescriptions?” somebody asked. And the whole room cried out, “Yes!”

When President Obama finally signed the bill (and signed and signed and signed it with all those “historic” pens), everyone sitting around me gave a little cheer — nurses, patients, doctors, janitors, everybody.

In the President’s speech today, he thanked YOU. Because it’s been the push from every corner of the country that kept health care reform from dying. It’s not a perfect bill. It’s not universal coverage. It leaves out the undocumented workers among us. But in order to build a new house, you first have to pour a foundation. That’s what this bill is — a solid foundation on which to build. I know you all are working hard out there on many issues that you care about. But take a moment to savor this change and to drink in a President of the United States telling you thanks for your good work. Here’s an excerpt from his speech:

After a century of striving, after a year of debate, after a historic vote, health care reform is no longer an unmet promise.  It is the law of the land.  It is the law of the land.   And although it may be my signature that’s affixed to the bottom of this bill, it was your work, your commitment, your unyielding hope that made this victory possible.  When the special interests deployed an army of lobbyists, an onslaught of negative ads, to preserve the status quo, you didn’t give up.  You hit the phones and you took to the streets.  You mobilized and you organized.  You turned up the pressure and you kept up the fight. When the pundits were obsessing over who was up and who was down, you never lost sight of what was right and what was wrong.  You knew this wasn’t about the fortunes of a party — this was about the future of our country.

And when the opposition said this just wasn’t the right time, you didn’t want to wait another year, or another decade, or another generation for reform.  You felt the fierce urgency of now. You met the lies with truth.  You met cynicism with conviction.  Most of all, you met fear with a force that’s a lot more powerful — and that is faith in America.  You met it with hope.  Despite decades in which Washington failed to tackle our toughest challenges, despite the smallness of so much of what passes for politics these days, despite those who said that progress was impossible, you made people believe that people who love this country can still change it.  So this victory is not mine — it is your victory.  It’s a victory for the United States of America.

For two years on the campaign trail, and for the past year as we’ve worked to reform our system of health insurance, it’s been folks like you who have propelled this movement and kept us fixed on what was at stake in this fight.  And rarely has a day gone by that I haven’t heard from somebody personally — whether in a letter, or an email, or at a town hall — who’s reminded me of why it was so important that we not give up; who reminded me why we could not quit. …

Now, as long a road as this has been, we all know our journey is far from over.  There’s still the work to do to rebuild this economy.  There’s still work to do to spur on hiring.  There’s work to do to improve our schools and make sure every child has a decent education.  There’s still work to do to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  There’s more work to do to provide greater economic security to a middle class that has been struggling for a decade. So this victory does not erase the many serious challenges we face as a nation.  Those challenges have been allowed to linger for years, even decades, and we’re not going to solve them all overnight.

But as we tackle all these other challenges that we face, as we continue on this journey, we can take our next steps with new confidence, with a new wind at our backs — because we know it’s still possible to do big things in America —  because we know it’s still possible to rise above the skepticism, to rise above the cynicism, to rise above the fear; because we know it’s still possible to fulfill our duty to one another and to future generations.  So, yes, this has been a difficult two years.  There will be difficult days ahead.  But let us always remember the lesson of this day — and the lesson of history — that we, as a people, do not shrink from a challenge.  We overcome it.  We don’t shrink from our responsibilities.  We embrace it.  We don’t fear the future.  We shape the future.  That’s what we do.  That’s who we are.  That makes us the United States of America.

Read the whole address here.

The DREAM Walkers: Undocumented and Unafraid

I am undocumentedThere were 250,000 people on the National Mall on Sunday to demand comprehensive immigration reform for the United States. One story that touched me deeply was that of the DREAM Walkers: Juan, Carlos, Felipe and Gaby. Four undocumented students who walked nearly 1,500 miles from Miami to Washington, D.C. to stand up for undocumented people.

“Throughout our journey, we have listened to the same repeated stories: mothers being afraid of driving their kids to school because of the ever-present fear of getting detained and/or deported, and high school seniors feeling completely hopeless on graduation date because they can’t continue their studies in higher education. We think about how millions of people undergo the same fear everyday because of their undocumented status and this has to stop. That’s way we’re walking to DC; that’s why thousands gather in DC on Sunday and millions celebrate this historic day throughout the nation.”

During their journey, nearly 25,000 people signed on (you can sign on too) to support their call for leaders to fix our failed immigration system. They also faced down the Klan in south Georgia and collected stories of uninvestigated hate crimes against undocumented workers.

These brave kids–from Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia–were brought to the U.S. by their families when they were young, have excelled in school, worked hard, and contributed to their communities. They all face the threat of being deported. They have no access to funding for going to college. So they walk in support of the DREAM Act (“Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2009”). Juan, Carlos, Gaby and Felipe chose to walk because they have run out of options. There are currently no legal pathways for them to gain citizenship, which is why they are calling on President Obama and other leaders to do everything in their power to pass real reform this year.

Here’s a 2 minute video of their trip.

More Healthcare: Leading U.S. Catholic Newspaper Stands With Sisters on Healthcare

hcr-is-pro-lifeIn more late-breaking news, the nation’s leading Catholic newspaper the National Catholic Reporter, released an editorial backing the passage of the current health-care reform bill before Congress. “Congress, and its Catholics, should say yes to health care reform,” states NCR.

This move aligns NCR with thousands of Catholic sisters and millions of lay Catholics (see Catholic Nuns Pick Up Where Bishops Fall Down) , but puts it at odds with U.S. Catholic bishops, who said earlier this week that they could not support the current bill.

We do not reach this conclusion as easily as one might think, given the fact that we have supported universal health care for decades, as have the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Health Association and other official and non-official organs of the Catholic church. There are, to be sure, grave problems with the bill the House will consider in the next few days. It maintains the squirrelly system of employer-based health care coverage that impedes cost reduction. Its treatment of undocumented workers is shameful. It is unnecessarily complicated, even Byzantine, in some of its provisions. It falls short of providing true universal coverage.

Nevertheless, NCR sees passing healthcare reform as a giant step forward in correcting a failed system and putting the country on the right track for continued improvements. NCR acknowledges that much of the heated debate as we get closer to victory will be around the abortion issue.

All sides agreed to abide by the spirit of the Hyde Amendment, which for more than 30 years has banned federal funding of abortion. But the Hyde Amendment applies to government programs only, and trying to fit its stipulations to a private insurance marketplace is a bit like putting a potato skin on an apple. Pro-choice advocates could not understand why a government that currently subsidizes abortion coverage through the tax code should balk at subsidizing private plans that cover abortion in the insurance exchanges the bill establishes. They have a point. Pro-life groups understandably worry that opening the door to federal funding of abortion, even indirectly, risks further encroachments on Hyde. They have a point, too.

NCR also addresses the diverging opinions this week between the pro-passage stance taken by Catholic Health Association and Network, a Catholic social justice lobby representing more than 59,000 Catholic sisters and the anti-passage stance taken by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. I appreciated NCR delineating the different roles each sector plays.

[The Catholic Health Association] actually knows how health care is provided at the ground level. The USCCB’s inside-the-beltway analysis is focused on possible scenarios, many of them worst-case scenarios. The U.S. bishops’ conference is right to worry about such things and the sisters are right to put those worries in perspective.

In the final analysis, NCR reiterates that the current legislation is not “pro-abortion,” and there is “no, repeat no, federal funding of abortion in the bill.”

What is being debated is not the morality of abortion but the politics of abortion, concludes NCR, and there is plenty of room for honest and respectful disagreement among Catholics about politics. Amen to that!

Beyond Health Care Debate to Viable Reform

James Smith, left, waits at the Wise County Fairgrounds to access a health clinic that offers free medical, dental, and vision care on a first-come, first-served basis, so lines start early and get long quickly. By Michael Williamson (Washington Post)
James Smith, left, waits at the Wise County Fairgrounds (VA) to access a health clinic that offers free medical, dental, and vision care on a first-come, first-served basis, so lines start early and get long quickly. By Michael Williamson (Washington Post)

Below is a good article, A Leading Health Researcher Looks Beyond the Reform Debate, on health care reform options beyond the hype. It’s out of the RAND Corporation – which has used its excellent researcher skills for ill (e.g. how to more effectively kill North Vietnamese and the most efficient way to nuke Soviets), rather than good at times.

But much of RAND’s current research provides balanced look at economic realities and long-term viability. RAND is going to err on the side of what’s good for business rather than care for “the least of these,” but it’s important to have as much information as possible as we wade through the issues.

I’d also recommend checking the RAND Compare Web site and and their hot health care legislation issues Web site for more on sorting through the health care debate.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Meet Elizabeth McGlynn.  Associate director of RAND Health and one of the top 100 U.S. health care “innovators,” according to healthspottr.com, McGlynn is also codirector of the Comprehensive Assessment of Reform Efforts (COMPARE) initiative, which includes an online tool, developed at RAND, to help policymakers, the press, and others understand, evaluate, and design proposals for health care reform, not just for the current legislative session but also over the long term.

“Much of the information being provided in the health care debate comes from individuals or organizations that are advocates or opponents of particular ideas for fixing the health care system,” said McGlynn. In contrast, the COMPARE initiative offers “objective analysis from a neutral third party about the likely effects of policy choices on cost, quality, and access at the national level and for different stakeholders.”

She explained that the health care debate in Washington today revolves around two of the key pressing issues: expanding health insurance coverage and decreasing health care costs. “There is a philosophical debate about how best to fix the system,” said McGlynn. “Some people believe we should get everyone covered and that this will make it easier to control costs. Others believe that until we figure out how to reduce health care spending, we should not bring anyone new into the system.” McGlynn went on to observe that both issues, coverage and cost, would have to be addressed simultaneously.

Another key issue – health care quality – has received less attention in the current health reform discussion than have coverage and cost. Numerous RAND studies have shown that the United States faces a substantial gap between what is known to work in health care and what is actually provided. For example, McGlynn and colleagues have shown that American adults receive just half of recommended care for the leading causes of death and disability and that American children receive less than half of necessary care.

Read more here.

Who Lit The Fire Under the Right-Wing ‘Populists’ Against Healthcare Reform?

obamacareBy now, we’ve all seen the angry “regular Americans” who are rising up to resist health-care reform. They are demonstrating loudly at town hall meetings. They are holding rallies. They are e-mailing all their friends and family about the absolute horrors that will accompany any gov’t run program of Obama-Care.

Who are these people? Where did they come from? Is this really how Americans feel about healthcare reform?

I started digging a little into organizing strategy behind this “grassroots” movement and found … wait for it … Ralph Reed!

You remember Ralph from the Christian Coalition, right? He was the political strategist for the far-right Republican wing and handed the political far-Right a “faith-based” cover for their political agenda. More recently, he ran for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia in 2006 but lost due his involvement in the Abramoff Indian gaming and Congressional bribery scandal. In 1997, Ralph started Century Strategies, a political consulting firm for Republican candidates and causes. His clients have included Enron, online gambling companies, Indian gambling firms, and the cable industry to fight decency standards proposed in Congress.

So, when far-right political operatives and insurance industry giants wanted to defeat major health-care reform, who did they call? Their old buddy Ralph Reed.

Ralph’s friend, and former Century Strategies’ business exec, Tim Phillips, was tasked to head up Americans for Prosperity, a right-wing PR firm funded primarily by Koch Industries (global energy firm that runs coal plants, agribusiness, major oil refineries, etc. Papa Koch was a card-carrying member of the John Birch Society, according to BusinessWeek). AFP is part of a handful of corporate industry front-groups that are leading the propoganda campaign against health-care reform. AFP’s health-care targeted subsidiary is called Patients First. PF is launching bus tours against health-care reform right now. It’s AFP who brought you “Joe the Plumber,” the “Drill, Baby, Drill” rallies, the “tea-bagging parties” (ahem), and most recently the “Survivor” TV ad with the Canadian woman who had to sneak into the US to get her cancer treated, because “in Canada, treatment is delayed or denied.” Wrong.

Here are a few of the groups: Club for Growth is a right-wing lobbying organization that represents the Wall Street elite.  RecessRally.com is the network getting people out to the townhall meetings. It’s a subsidiary of the American Liberty Alliance, whose excutive director is Eric Odom, a far-right media strategist and president of Strategic Activism, his online political strategizing company. RecessRally is networked with American Majority, a right-wing non-profit that is staffed primarily with conservative Christians who came out of the Bush administration and the Generation Joshua project (a Christian youth league training students in conservative activism).

So, that’s a rough roundup of who’s leading the so-called “populist uprising.” As Rachel Maddow said in her excellent expose, “Corporate interests do this ‘fake grassroots’ movement as an industry. This is a professional PR campaign to line their own pockets. It is professional, corporate-funded Republican PR  and should be named and reported as such.”

I recommend reading Lee Fang’s article Tim Phillips, The Man Behind The “Americans For Prosperity” Corporate Front Group Factory. And, in the interest of full disclosure, Fang works for the Center for American Progress, a think-tank full of operatives for the Dems. But Lee is a really good researcher. Here’s a bit of his article:

The rate at which the Koch Industries funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP) churns out front groups to promote its right-wing corporate agenda sets the organization out among similar conservative “think tanks.” This week, AFP created their latest front group called “Patients United Now,” an entity set up to defeat health care reform. Patients United follows a familiar pattern AFP has used for their other front groups: create a new stand alone website, fill it with lines like “We are people just like you” to give the site a grassroots feel, and then use the new group to recruit supporters and run deceptive advertisements attacking reform.

Access to adequate health care is a human right. Human rights generally are antagonistic to corporate interests. As people of faith we are called to stand up for human dignity and human rights. Now would be a good time to go ahead and shine the Light on these corporate con artists, especially the one’s masquerading as Christians.