Living in the Shadow of SB 1070: Organizing for Migrant Rights in Arizona

Protestors in Phoenix, AZ

Protesters in Phoenix, Arizona, protest SB 1070 and call for police to stop collaborating with ICE. Credit: Diane Ovalle (

Arizona’s 2010 immigration law may no longer be making national headlines, but the out-of-control immigration enforcement that made Arizona infamous continues to intensify, exacerbating the human rights crisis throughout the state.

The situation has only worsened since September 2012, when a U.S. District Judge allowed one of the most egregious provisions of Arizona’s “SB 1070” to go into effect. The act codified the Right’s strategy of “attrition through enforcement”: in other words, amping up the deportation machine while also making life so unlivable for migrant people that they will “self-deport.” Section 2B of this notorious law, often callously referred to as its “papers, please” provision, mandates police officers in Arizona to check the immigration status of anyone for whom they have “reasonable suspicion” of being undocumented. In other words, it makes racial profiling into law.

Fernando Lopez is one of the many Arizona residents affected by the law. In June 2011, he was followed by highway patrol for several miles while on his way to work and then pulled over.

“If you look brown, you are seen as a target,” Lopez says. “We know the risk of going outside, of going to the grocery store.”

Because he could not produce a driver’s license, Lopez was arrested. The sheriff’s office referred him to immigration enforcement, and he spent a month in a detention center in Florence, Arizona. He is still fighting legal proceedings in order to not be deported. “My bond was set really high, at $10,500,” he says. “I only got out because people organized, people raised money for my bail—they made food, washed cars, even when the weather was 120 degrees outside. At the end all we have left is us.… We have to protect ourselves, fight back, organize.”

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