Univ. of Arizona Law School: Students Engage in Grassroots Efforts to Protest SB 1070

Ted Vogt
This is AZ-LD30 House Representative Ted Vogt. He supports torture, racial profiling, and the "birther" movement. Also, his friends think he's "hilarious" and "witty".

Following Governor Jan Brewer’s signing of SB 1070 last week, electroman quipped on his Facebook “it’s time for civil disobedience”. True, he was (jokingly) talking about engaging in high-speed car chases if a cop pulls me over and asks for my passport.

One blogger agrees (although not about the car chases part), listing civil disobedience as one of five actions you can take to protest Arizona’s passage of patently racist state law criminalizing the act of being an undocumented immigrant. Examples include:

Take a hint from the Capitol Nine who chained themselves to Capitol building doors. Leave your licenses at home. Walk out of schools and walk into local Congressional offices of politicians who have not cosponsored the DREAM Act and refuse to stand up for immigration reform. Conducts sit-ins, hunger strikes and flash mobs. Offer to get yourself detained wearing t-shirts and carrying signs that say “Do I look like an ‘illegal immigrant’ to you?” or “Being Brown is Not a Crime.”

While I like food a little too much to conduct a hunger strike, acts of civil disobedience can certainly help send the message that the people are unhappy with SB 1070.

A friend of mine is graduating from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law next month. He emailed me this morning to tell me about a major controversy going down in the halls of the law school here in sunny Tucson.

Apparently, last month, the law class of 2010 elected to have a member of the graduating class, Ted Vogt, speak at their graduation ceremony. Vogt, a 37-year-old third-year law student who has clerked for both Senator John Kyl and former Vice President Dick Cheney, was appointed to the Arizona State House of Representatives (as a representative for Arizona’s Legislative District 30) in March when  the seat’s previous holder, Frank Antenori, left it vacant for a position in the State Senate. Here’s Vogt talking about his own “awesomeness” (note the air-quotes) at the Pima County Supervisors’ meeting moments before he obtained enough votes to be appointed to the seat:

As a State House Representative,Vogt voted “yes” on both SB 1070 and Arizona’s recent “birther” bill, both of which have made national headlines for being… well, ignorant and racist pieces of legislative frivolousness.

At this point, we should note the irony of a soon-to-be matriculating student of law voting in favour of two pieces of legislation that are virtually guaranteed to be struck down for being unconstitutional.

Now, members of the law school’s 2010 graduating class are seeking methods to protest Vogt’s “yes” votes at the graduation ceremony. Some students are planning to hold signs, wear ribbons, or turn their backs on Vogt while he speaks. My friend has written a letter to the law school’s dean, asking to be peaceably excused from the graduation ceremony during Vogt’s speech, and to be allowed to return when Vogt finishes. Explaining their motivations, one of Vogt’s classmates wrote this on the law students’ listserv:

I just got married two weeks ago, to a great guy I’ve been with for almost 7 years. My husband is Mexican, he has a work visa and has worked legally in this country for the last 6.5 years. We are working on getting him a green card now that we are hitched. He has very brown skin, and while he speaks English exceptionally fluently, he has a pretty thick Mexican accent. When 1070 becomes law (I believe the governor is signing it at 10am today) my husband risks ARREST every time he leaves our house, if he forgets to carry his visa/green card with him at ALL times. If he forgets his papers, HE GOES TO JAIL, is charged with a misdemeanor and may be fined up to $500. This is my reality in the wake of Ted’s votes.

So, I am sorry, but I don’t care that Ted’s a funny guy, and frankly, after he expressed his support for torture as an interrogation tool in our criminal procedure class, I never found him all that funny. I definitely didn’t vote for him, but I would have never said a word about his commencement speech if he hadn’t just voted to force my husband and me to live in fear every time we leave the house without Sergio’s visa. This is not just “politics.” This is my life, my husband’s life, and the lives of millions of legal immigrants in this country who may be impacted by Arizona’s decision to lead the country in racist, anti-immigrant and anti-constitutional laws designed specifically to harass Latinos out of the country.

So let me ask you, NLGers, defenders of liberal ideals and justice, when would be an appropriate time to say something? How long should I hold my tongue? How long should I voluntarily suspend my first amendment rights on this issue? Until YOU are comfortable? Sorry folks, I am graduating too, and I worked my ass off for this degree, just like everyone else. To have my school and my class represented by someone who voted to implement a blatantly racist, likely unconsitutional requirement that cops start racially profiling my husband and millions of others absolutely ruins MY graduation, and I for one, will not in good conscience sit idlely by.

I think this student’s email emphasizes the key point: this is a graduation ceremony for the entire class of law students. Regardless of Vogt’s personality, his humour, or even his personal politics — having him speak at graduation without a measured response from dissenting students explicitly condones his recent votes in the State House. Students of law, in particular, have a moral obligation to speak up if they think Vogt’s actions have damaged the rule of law in the state of Arizona.

But that’s not to stop Vogt’s supporters from defending him as “hilarious” and an “exemplary law student”. My friend writes to me that he, and other protesters of Vogt’s speech, are being characterized as “disgusting”, “childish”, and “attention-seeking” for organizing acts of civil and peaceable disobedience.

It all just goes to show you: Republicans are all about First Amendment rights and free speech… as long as you happen to agree with their conservative view. But, heaven forbid you choose to exercise your free speech rights to protest right-wing ideology — than, all of a sudden, you’re being “inappropriate” and immature. 

Personally, I am in full support of law students who want to peaceablyspeak out against Vogt during graduation this year. Heck, some law students are getting a mariachi band to play at their post-grad party; maybe they could get the band to play at graduation — during Vogt’s speech. If I am invited to my friend’s graduation this year, you can bet that I will be among members of the audience wearing ribbons and turning my back on Vogt.

Meanwhile, I should point out that Ted Vogt faces significant competition in the Republican primary when it comes to defending his LD30 seat in the House. Blog for Arizona gives us a wrap-up of others who have filed in opposition of Vogt for the two seats opening up this year:

Several Republican candidates have already filed to run for these house seats in LD 30, and will all compete in the August 24 primary:

–incumbent House Rep. David Gowan
–Kurt Knurr, a systems engineer for a Defense Contractor
–Parralee Schneider, one of the nominees listed above
–Doug Sposito, one of the nominees listed above, former candidate for this house seat in 2004 and 2008.
–Ted Vogt, appointed today to this house seat

Candidate Brian Abbott also recently filed to run for this seat, and is a partner in a telecommunications consulting & contracting firm. According to him he is a Republican, though no party affiliation is listed on the state campaign finance website.

Democrat Andrea Dalessandro, (a retired tax accountant and instructor), who also was a candidate for LD 30 state house in 2008, is the lone Democrat in this field so far. See: www.andreaforaz.net.

I should probably point out that I actually live in LD 30 here in Arizona, so Vogt’s currently my representative. What an awesome reason to support Andrea Dalessandro’s campaign.

Jan Brewer Signs SB 1070, Prays for Re-election

 

In truth, the calculus for Governor Jan Brewer was straightforward: she could have signed SB 1070 into law and appease the increasingly fundamentalist Right-wing Arizona lobby, improving her odds in this year’s hotly contested Republican primary for the Governorship. Or, she could have vetoed a bill she had to have known was morally wrong, and thereby commit political suicide.

Clearly, Jan Brewer prizes her own political ambitions over the civil rights of Arizona residents.

This afternoon, Brewer signed into law SB 1070, which grants Arizona local and state law enforcement officers the power to arrest and detain suspected illegal immigrants, charging them with a state misdemeanor crime of trespassing for either being an undocumented alien, or for being a legal immigrant who forgets their immigration paperwork at home. In fact, under SB 1070 law enforcement officers must only have a “reasonable suspicion” that a person may be an undocumented immigrant in order to initiate drastic, Orwellian measures to ascertain that person’s immigration status, including arresting those whom they feel are not able to satisfactorily demonstrate their legal status.

In her press conference, Governor Brewer addressed some of the nationwide criticism of SB 1070, but much of what she said was disingenuous and misleading.

First of all, Brewer argues that the bill, which makes it a state crime for legal aliens to not have their alien registration cards on their person is language directly copied from federal laws. This is an impractical requirement for legal residents and immigrants, who face even more severe penalties for losing their immigration documents by trying to carry it with them at all times. The current status quo expects immigrants to produce paperwork when their is a reasonable expectation that it will be checked (i.e. when we are travelling by air or across state lines) by trained U.S. Border Patrol officers, but allows us to run to the corner store for a Vitamin Water without fear of being harassed for our paperwork. But, now, we will be expected to have our immigration paperwork at all times, whether we are driving to work or walking the dog. And God forbid we witness any crimes, it would be better for us to run home and get our passport before we call 9-1-1.

Secondly, Brewer argues that state and local law enforcement officers will only be enforcing federal law. But that’s the crux of the issue, isn’t it? State and local police are not trained federal officers — they are trained to enforce state and local law. Do cops receive extensive training on all federal immigration laws, such that they are capable of distinguishing between those who are here on legal student or tourist visas compared to those who are here past their visa expiration? Do local cops know about the necessary paperwork I needed to be on a TN visa, or how long a grace period I have between when I entered the country as a Canadian and when I have over-stayed? Surely, the answer is no — which begs the question, will cops be arresting aliens whose legal status is in question until they have time to contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as they are required to do by this new state law? How long will that take? Could we end up with a system where a drunk driver be in jail for less time than a legal resident alien?

Thirdly, Brewer cites the vast criminality associated with Mexican drug crimes south of the U.S.-Mexico border as justification for SB 1070. Yet, SB 1070 does nothing to address drug-related homicides and drug trafficking into the United States from Mexico. It does not change federal immigration law. It, in fact, reduces state safety and security by diverting local law enforcement’s attention away from enforcing state and local laws, and by deputizing them to enforce federal law. What happens if you’re the victim of a petty theft — will it take longer for cops to respond because they’re spending more time figuring out if some other person has his immigration paperwork in order?

Lastly, and perhaps most gallingly, Brewer argues that SB 1070 requires cops to have a “reasonable suspicion” that a person is an illegal immigrant before asking for paperwork. But what constitutes a “reasonable suscpicion”? If not racial information, what kind of physical appearance or behaviour could distinguish a legal immigrant from an illegal one?

Brewer argues that racial profiling is illegal, both federally and according to Arizona state law. So, she says,

“I will not tolerate racial discrimination or racial profiling in Arizona. Because I feel so strongly on this subject, I worked for weeks with legislators to amend SB 1070 and strengthen its civil rights protection. That effort led to new language in the bill, language prohibition law enforcement officers from, and I quote, “solely considering race, colour or national origins in implementing the requirements of this section”.  

Well, I looked for that quote in the amended text of SB 1070. And, in point of fact, Brewer is referring to a section that would prevent the attorney general from pursuing any complaints against an employer suspected of hiring illegal immigrants based solely on racial or ethnic origins information. It does not refer, in any way, to the sections defining what a “reasonable suspicion” of illegal immigration status would be for state cops.

In addition, Brewer signed an executive order today, requiring that law enforcement officers receive training as to what constitutes “reasonable suspicion” of illegal immigration status. Which begs the question again: what, exactly, distinguishes a legal immigrant from an illegal immigrant in terms of physical appearance and/or behaviour that isn’t racial?

Well, Brewer might have been thinking about her own political future when she signed SB 1070 into law today, but I think she’s just fired up her Democratic opposition. I received the following email from Luis Heredia, Executive Director of Arizona’s Democratic Party, mere moments after SB 1070 was signed by Brewer. In it, Heredia writes:

Brewer and her right-wing Legislature have done serious damage to our state. The far-reaching impact is not yet known, but it’s safe to say that it will be devastating for our economy and the citizens of our once-great state.

Act Now! Meanwhile, Brewer faces a hotly contested Republican primary battle this November, and current Arizona Attorney General, Democrat Terry Goddard, is the frontrunner to challenge the Republican gubernatorial candidate this year. I say we boot Brewer from the governorship, and funnel our support into Goddard’s gubernatorial campaign. Let’s show Arizona how many people Brewer pissed off in the state and around the country today.

Oh yeah, and you can always write a letter to Jan Brewer, telling her all the ways that she sucks.

My Letter to Governor Brewer

Governor Jan Brewer needs to veto this bill

Here’s my letter to Governor Brewer, regarding SB1070:

Dear Governor Brewer,

I am shocked and infuriated that the House of Representatives voted to pass SB 1070 yesterday – a state law that would criminalize being an undocumented immigrant, allow state and local police officers to check immigration status, and for these officers to arrest and detain suspected illegal immigrants without a warrant.

I urge you to veto this legislation.

I am a legal resident alien, who is studying as a graduate student at the University of Arizona. I have spent much of my adult life navigating the federal immigration process. SB 1070 criminalizes, under state law, the act of not carrying immigration papers on one’s person at all times, and grants state and local police the power to arrest immigrants (legal or otherwise) whom they suspect  of committing a crime. However, the very act of being arrested, charged and convicted with the misdemeanor crime of not  having one’s immigration papers could put into question the immigration status of legal resident aliens – thus, a routine traffic stop wherein a police officer chooses to enforce this law could result in the deportation of a legal alien for the mere “crime” of forgetting their passport at home.

While this law is aimed at addressing the influx of undocumented immigration across Arizona’s southern border, the criteria whereby a law officer can choose to inspect a person’s immigration status is ill-defined in this law, and could allow use of racial or ethnic information in making that decision. In practice, SB1070 will only serve to sanction state-wide harassment of legal citizens and immigrants and institutionalize racial profiling of Arizona’s residents.

Again, I implore you to veto SB1070. Arizona doesn’t need the reputation of having the nation’s most Orwellian anti-immigrant laws.  

Sincerely,

Me

Sheriff Joe: 1, Sanity: 0

“What’s this? Your travel signatures are out-of-date?!?”

Get me the hell outta this state.

I just found out this morning that the Arizona House of Representatives has passed a bill, SB1070, that grants state law enforcement the right to perform spot checks to verify a person’s immigration status during routine encounters with cops, including traffic stops or reporting a crime. Here’s the relevant stuff from this piece of legislation:

1. Requires a reasonable attempt to be made to determine the immigration status of a person during any legitimate contact made by an official or agency of the state or a county, city, town or political subdivision (political subdivision) if reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the U.S.

2. Requires the person’s immigration status to be verified with the federal government pursuant to federal law.

3. Requires an alien unlawfully present in the U.S. who is convicted of a violation of state or local law to be transferred immediately to the custody of ICE or Customs and Border Protection, on discharge from imprisonment or assessment of any fine that is imposed.

4. Allows a law enforcement agency to securely transport an alien who is unlawfully present in the U.S. and who is in the agency’s custody to:

a) a federal facility in this state or
b) any other point of transfer into federal custody that is outside the jurisdiction of the law enforcement agency.

5. Allows a law enforcement officer, without a warrant, to arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the U.S.

In other words, if I’m driving down the street, and I make a rolling stop at a stop sign, a cop can pull me over. Based on the Canadian flag on my car (and perhaps a residual Canadian accent in my speech), a cop could ask for my immigration papers. Hell, he could decide I might be an immigrant based primarily on the fact that I’m Asian — and would be within his rights under this legislation to racially profile me. If I’m not carrying my papers on me, because I forgot my wallet (or more realistically, because some people don’t like to carry their immigration papers on their person because it increases the chances of losing it), I could be arrested by the officer and charged with a misdemeanor crime for not having my papers on me. I could be carted off to jail, and potentially have my legal immigration status be put in jeopardy for being charged with a crime. All from a routine traffic stop.

As a legal resident, I am frequently reminded by people at immigration and border security: being in America is not a right, it’s a privilege. And, legal aliens try not to abuse that privilege; we understand that we must remain in compliance with the rules to stay in the country, and many of us do our best to follow the rules to the best of our ability.

But imagine what we’re really talking about here: resident aliens who are legally in the country are now required (by state law) to carry our immigration papers wherever we go — a passport and our I-20 (which is a set of 8.5×11 paper), and if we lose those documents or decide to leave them at home while we go to a movie with friends? We risk being carted off to jail if we’re stopped by a local law enforcement official, and not just by U.S. Border Patrol (who generally don’t set up stops within city limits, making it easier for us to step out to the corner store without bringing our passports).

In addition, this law makes being an undocumented immigrant a state crime — which the New Hampshire supreme court found unconstitutional when a similar law was passed in that state in 2005.

And perhaps even more importantly, local law enforcement are not trained in federal immigration law. In a routine spot check, will they know how to read an I-20 or how to tell that my papers say I’m legally in this country? Will they cart me off to jail while they verify their kneejerk decisions (about my immigration status) with the appropriate federal bureaus?

SB1070 renders Arizona a police state, empowering and elevating Arizona sheriffs to perform the same duties as federal border patrol officers. In essence, this law deputizes Arizona sheriffs as officers of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — albeit, completely untrained and unqualified officers of ICE. This is a law aimed purely at harassing the nation’s legal residents with state-sanctioned racial profiling.

But, at least Sheriff Joe Arpaio is one step closer in his plans for psychotic world domination.

Cute and cuddly would-be overlord.

Psychotic and Orwellian would-be overlord.

Act Now! There’s still (marginal) hope in this issue — let Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona know that she needs to veto this law now. Change.org gives us the ways (I added #2):

Tell Governor Jan Brewer to stand up to Senator Pearce and do what is right for Arizona.

1. Sign this online petition at Change.org

2. Email Governor Brewer with your own email — this link contains her contact information and a form for sending the governor an email.

3. Flood her office with calls: (602) 542-4331

4. Attend a rally on Wednesday, April 14th, 12 PM 1700 W. Washington St. Phoenix, AZ 85007 at the Rear entrance to Governor’s office (note: this post is publishing too late for you to attend this rally.)