The “total chaos” of the Trump administration’s handling of immigration on the U.S.-Mexico border is deja vu all over again for Arizonans.
The same goes for this week’s Supreme Court ruling to uphold President Donald Trump’s travel ban, a proclamation “motivated by anti-Muslim animus,” as Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted in her dissenting opinion.
Years ago, many of us warned of the Arizonification of America ― and the unhinged extremists like former Gov. Jan Brewer and disgraced former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio who manufactured a border crisis for political gain and it effectively wrote the Republican platform on immigration.
Today, from his fearmongering and racist tweets to his “build the wall” sloganeering, from his support of travel bans and the criminalization of immigrants to the growing crisis over the “tent camps,” President Trump is essentially using the Arizona playbook, page-by-page. He’s following the state’s disastrous “show me your papers” policies.
The good news: Following decades of resistance, a broad coalition of Arizonans stood up to the extremists, including long-time human rights groups and Dreamers. Today’s “Resistance” should look to Arizona’s grassroots activists to do the same with Trump. Consider these examples.
A grassroots movement took down Sheriff Arpaio in 2016, even as Trump won.
“Sheriff Arpaio didn’t lose by coincidence; he was taken down by the people he hunted,” as Puente organizer Carlos Garcia told the Arizona Republic, after Arpaio’s defeat in his bid for a seventh term as sheriff of Maricopa County in 2016. A grassroots campaign had stood up to Arpaio’s racial profiling and brutal “tent city” policies for years, and effectively organized against his re-election. The same must happen nationally in midterm elections this year.
Arpaio’s tent city was closed in 2017. Proposed tent cities should be shut down as well.
After 24 years of operation, in defiance of human rights violations, Arpaio’s infamous ”tent city″ in the Sonoran Desert city of Phoenix was finally closed last fall, bringing down a cornerstone of the sheriff’s policies. Today’s tent cities for immigrant children and families are arising in similarly unsafe and costly situations, as temperatures soar above 100 degrees. Just as Amnesty International led a campaign to end Arpaio’s “inhumane” tent city policy two decades ago, civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have decried today’s “abhorrent” policy, also making comparisons to Japanese-American internment camps during World War II.
In making a visit to an Arizona internment camp in 1943, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt called for their closure: ”To undo a mistake is always harder than not to create one originally, but we seldom have the foresight.” She added with a chilling foreshadowing of today: “We have no common race in this country, but we have an ideal to which all of us are loyal: We cannot progress if we look down upon any group of people amongst us because of race or religion.”
A grassroots movement recalled the once invisible Tea Party architect of Arizona’s SB 1070 “show me your papers” law.
Overlooked by the national media in 2011, an extraordinary grassroots campaign in the Phoenix-Mesa area recalled former state Senate President Russell Pearce, the self-proclaimed Tea Party president, who was then trounced in a local election.
Just as Democrats have already flipped numerous state legislative seats across the country in supposed Trump districts, today’s “Resistance” should carry on the unabashed boldness of the Pearce recall campaign in often unchallenged districts.
Operation Streamline’s mass deportations have been a disaster ― the resistance must join frontline human rights groups.
The Trump administration’s plan to ramp up prosecution of irregular border entries doubles down on Arizona’s Operation Streamline, a process launched in 2005, where up to 80 defendants are tried en masse in an assembly line for entry violations.
Human rights organizations in the state and across the borderlands have been protesting Operation Streamline for over a decade. The Resistance must join them.
As Texas attorney Joseph Cordova told NPR this week, “Operation Streamline has been going on for a number of years, and it doesn’t seem to be deterring people from coming into the country.”
Two years ago, an independent study found that Operation Streamline had been a failure, resulting in costly mass incarceration and little deterrent to border crossings.
The private prison lobby must be confronted.
NPR reported in 2010 that the private prison lobby essentially rode the same elevator with the American Legislative Exchange Council and immigration policy lobbyists in Arizona. This resulted in the writing of Arizona’s SB 1070 law and a lucrative expansion of private prisons for incarcerated immigrants.
And among the more than 300,000 immigrants detained annually, Mother Jones reported, “nearly three-fourths of those held each day are kept in privately run facilities, according to an ICE facility list obtained by the nonprofit Detention Watch Network.”
The end result, according to the Center for Responsive Politics: Trump’s hardline approach to immigration “is a boon for private prisons and security companies.”
Arizona tried to ban Mexican-American studies. A 7-year resistance campaign prevailed, as a federal court struck down the ban.
In an unabashed effort to dehumanize Mexican-American students and strip the Mexican American experience from the roots of Arizona’s history, Arizona’s Tea Party legislature attempted to ban the teaching of ethnic studies/Mexican-American Studies in the Tucson school district. After a seven-year battle and resistance campaign, a federal judge ruled last winter that the Arizona law was passed with ”an invidious discriminatory racial purpose and a politically partisan purpose,” and struck down the ban.
Despite the Supreme Court’s travel ban on largely Muslim countries, we must continue to challenge any laws or practices that carry out the same discriminatory purpose.
Finally, Arizona elected a governor like Trump and impeached him ― the resistance can do it again.
Thirty years ago, Arizona became the laughingstock of the nation when a hair-impaired, executive-order-wielding, right-wing extremist, Evan Mecham, became governor after a surprise victory. After rescinding the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, appointing dubious extremist figures to political positions, and issuing non-stop racist and anti-gay slurs, Mecham was impeached in 1988 after a statewide recall campaign.
His impeachment for “high crimes, misdemeanors and malfeasance in office” should serve as both a how-to lesson and glimmer of hope for what can happen when a “Circus Maximus” takes over the halls of power.
Jeff Biggers is the author of numerous books, including the forthcoming Resistance: Reclaiming an American Tradition.