Remember - "Forty percent of LGBT binational couples in the United States include a Latino family member. For them, and their loved ones, Arizona is now the most dangerous place in America." That's why it's important to know what's happening here.
Pilgrim's Rest Baptist Church, a predominantly Black congregation, was filled to capacity with a huge overflow crowd perhaps numbering in the thousands. Inside a comprehensive cross-section of Arizonans were joined by Al Sharpton, the featured speaker. His dramatic speech fired up the emotions and when the meeting was over, the streets were filled with thousands of lighted candles as they marched and chanted the three miles to the Capitol Mall.
Earlier in the day actor/director Danny Glover met with Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon to lend his support for the Latino community in Arizona.
Both men expressed their approval of the Phoenix Suns for wearing their LosSuns jerseys in the game with the Spurs. They are now 3 wins and 0 losses while wearing LosSuns jerseys.
I admit that I have come late to the protest arena, but let me tell you what I see happening after the jump.
There is a groundswell movement in Arizona that is not going to be stopped until immigration reform is accomplished nationally. It is drawing the attention of others all across the nation. At the meeting were labor leaders, elected officials, a united clergy interfaith group of dozens of local ministers, lawyers, nonprofits, out of state organizers, and leaders of national organizations. In the crowd were our wonderful Latino friends. It has taken a couple of weeks for this all to come together. No one group has stepped in to be the "face" of the coalition; it truly seems to represent all major groups in its makeup.
For more than two weeks now there has been a constant presence on the Arizona Capitol Mall of protesters gathered urging a repeal of SB1070, the anti-immigration law passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer. They have vowed to be there for the next 90 days, when the law takes effect, or until it is stopped legally or administratively. If it goes into effect there will be massive civil disobedience rallies with participants from all over the country coming in support of the local Latino population.
The most dramatic thing that I have seen is the organization of young Latinos, many having parents who are here illegally, into a vibrant group of leaders for their fellow high school students. Ten high schools were represented last Saturday when a crowd I estimated at 5,000 completely surrounded the Capitol as they marched protesting this anti-immigration law. I took over 100 pictures of signs made by individuals to express the feelings in their hearts.
The young lady that spoke tonight is graduating at the top of her class with a 4.0 grade average. She spoke about her father dying of cancer in Mexico and her mother had to move her young family to the U.S. to stay with relatives so that they would be able to survive. This young lady said when she came here she loved to go to school, but would go home each day worried because she didn't understand the teachers or fellow students and couldn't do the homework. She learned English and said that she didn't even realize she was illegal until much later and when she got into high school she found out that even though an excellent student she was denied many benefits and scholarships because of her immigration status.
She vowed to never quit until she wins the education she believes she is entitled to so her dreams can come true.
These youth are bright. They are being melded together in unity by the caldron that is brewing in Arizona and I foresee a future where they will not stand for any inequality in our nation.
The following is a letter everyone was asked to sign at the church services.
Dear President Obama:
I am writing to ask that you take immediate action to (1) defend the people of Arizona and (2) reform immigration policy pursuant to your existing authority as President of the United States. Arizona's new law is the direct result of the federal government's reckless empowerment of local enforcement agencies to enforce what should be an exclusive federal responsibility, immigration law. The nation expects you to demonstrate leadership and moral courage by acting swiftly to stop this bill from taking effect and eliminating federal programs which led to it creation.
Accordingly, I specifically request that you:
1. Reassert the federal government's exclusive control over immigration law by making clear that the state and local police do not have the inherent authority to enforce immigration law.
2. Immediately suspend and terminate all police-ICE partnerships, including 287(g) agreements and the so-called "Secure Communities Initiative.'
3. Direct the Department of Homeland Security to refuse to take custody of anyone charged with violating provision of SB 1070.
Secondly, there was the following pledge:
Pledge of non-compliance with SB 1070.
As an expression of my solidarity with the people of Arizona in opposing the provisions of SB 1070, I will not comply with any and all mandates in SB 1070 requiring that I present proof of citizenship until SB 1070 is invalidated or repealed. Furthermore, I will practice selective patronage, spending my money with businesses that oppose SB 1070, and boycotting those that supported SB 1070.
I am continually and solidly impressed with the humility and honest goodness I find in the Latino community members who are brave enough to make signs and bring their families to rallies at the Capitol. They are good people who deserve every chance we can give them to live and work in our country as equal members of society.