Yesterday was a momentous day. People carried out civil disobedience, protests, and rallies against SB1070 in cities across the country and the globe. In the RGV, LUPE members and supporters hosted a prayer vigil to protest the implementation of SB1070 and draw attention to the effects of our broken immigration system on our own community.
The National Day Laborer’s Organizing Network, one of the major ally groups and active organizers in the fight against SB1070, reported: “New Yorkers shut down the Brooklyn Bridge. In Los Angeles, they locked down Wilshire Blvd. In Tucson, they blocked the highways. They protested in Milwaukee, Chicago, Louisville, Ecuador, Spain, and Mexico.
“In Phoenix, Sheriff Arpaio’s office and his jail were shut down the morning SB 1070 went into effect. More than 80 people including Unitarian Universalist President, Peter Morales, and Salvador Reza, a leader of the Puente Movement, were arrested in acts of non-compliance.”
In Texas, the Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance, a statewide coalition of immigrant rights organizations of which LUPE is a member, organized and participated in vigils in Austin, Dallas, El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley.
The San Juan vigil, with over 3 dozen participants, allowed community members to connect the implementation of the racist SB1070 with the increased terror felt in local colonias as a result of Border Patrol raids and harassment.
In an article published today, The Monitor reported:
Families who work with La Union del Pueblo Entero in South Texas have reported a growing number of instances in recent weeks of U.S. Border Patrol agents detaining them in neighborhoods, in shopping areas and outside workplaces, said Corinna Spencer-Schuerich, the director of the South Texas Civil Rights Project…
While the judge’s order will likely delay other states from implementing similar laws, Spencer-Schuerich said, it will do little to address an already unjust immigration system.
“The judge clearly recognized the discriminatory nature of Arizona’s law,” she said. “But the federal government needs to take action on comprehensive immigration reform. It’s time to get something done that is compassionate.”
The prayer vigil started with the Prayer of the Farmworker in the Struggle led by LUPE leader Sara Herrera and continued with recognition of all the immigrants and activists organizing in Arizona against SB1070 by organizer Martha Sanchez.
After recognizing that the partial and temporary injunction only meant that the new law would have less harsh effects, Martha reminded attendees that SB1070 and similar anti-immigrant legislation are products of a broken immigration system that requires reform. Immigrant repression in Arizona and immigrant raids and harassment in the Valley can only be ended by humane and comprehensive immigration reform.
Martha then invited LUPE members to speak out against SB1070. One member said that the raids here and SB1070 in Arizona are not right because people are decent and hard working and come to this country to make a life for themselves and their families. “We don’t want SB1070,” he said, “because it is discrimination against working people.”
The event continued with a “Conoce tus derechos” training from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and South Texas Civil Rights Projects, two legal aid groups dedicated to helping low income RGV residents fight for their civil and legal rights. The training focused on the constitutional rights held by all residents, no matter what their status, when approached by law enforcement officials.
Celestino Gallegos, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, told the audience that there a lot of misconceptions about what the police can do when it comes to immigration issues. He said jurisdiction matters.
“Local police do not enforce immigration laws. Only immigration officials are there to enforce immigration laws,” Gallegos said. “It is important to know your rights if you are stopped by police. You need to know how best to answer police questions and insert your own rights.”
Sanchez said LUPE would be mounting a vigorous education program to explain the legal rights of immigrant families in the coming weeks, with events planned at the group’s offices in Mercedes, San Juan and Alton.
The event ended with singing and a prayer.