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.

Inside Black-Asian Tension: The Stuff That Doesn’t Make the Headlines

This is, like, the only picture on the Internet of an Asian shopkeeper and a Black customer. And I think it’s from Europe.

I posted earlier this week about inter-ethnic tension between the Black and the Asian community. That post has garnered a bit of heat, much of it warranted. For one thing, I opened the post citing two examples of criminal violence perpetrated against Asians by Black offenders, and went on to quote a commentary written by a Black man who was raised to target Asians for petty theft. Although the intent of my post was to lay out some recent examples of conflict between the Black and Asian communities (and to go from there to describing how both communities are guilty of internalizing untrue racust stereotypes about one another), the post unintentionally left some readers with the impression that the tension manifests, almost exclusively, as violent crime perpetrated by Blacks against Asians, thereby perpetuating the very stereotype that Blacks are predominantly criminal. I certainly failed to balance the recent spate of Asian-targeted crimes with the murder of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins, who was killed by an Asian shopkeeper presuming Harlins to be a shoplifter.

Restructure criticized me, writing:

I understand the intent of this post, but I think it was poorly executed. I think you should have written this post while being hyper-paranoid about perpetuating stereotypes about black criminality/danger/violence.

Since I strongly value Restructure’s opinion on anything I write, this comment gave me pause for thought. On the one hand, Restructure is right that my post was perhaps a little too careless in its depiction of the problem, leading it to over-emphasize the importance of the outright criminal acts that have grabbed the headlines lately (and consequently to have it fall into the same tired tropes of Black criminality). And, for that, (and other weaknesses in the writing of my original post) I do apologize.

However, on the other hand, another commentor, jm, wrote:

I consider myself a liberal and a fair person. And so that means I won’t say the “safe” thing for fear of offending people. Yes, inter-ethnic tension is wrong as is violence. But in your attempt to address this issue, you’ve perhaps skirted the elephant in the room and instead, chose to bend over backwards to excuse VIOLENT criminal behavior of people who just happened to be black.

[…]

There MAY be interethnic tension between blacks and asians but the majority of the violent perpetrators are black and you cannot avoid that.

Other commentors dismissed the recent acts of violence as representative of anything more than kids thinking that Asians are fun to beat up on. Still other commentors (curiously) criticized the post for having too “kumbaya” a tone, and instead advocated that perhaps segregation is indeed the best course of action.

After having read all 22 of the comments on my first post, I have concluded one thing: many people didn’t like the post, but most people didn’t like it for different reasons.

Based on these diverse reactions, it seems that the issue of inter-ethnic tension between the Black and the Asian community is an exceptionally hot-button debate that promotes varied and disparate opinions. Clearly, than, this topic deserves more than a single post, written hastily in the middle of my work-day. Instead, this issue deserves a series of posts — a series that can hopefully encourage discussion about the complex, and apparently exceedingly controversial, relationship between the African American and Asian American communities.

In this post, I’d like to clarify a point that I did not make clear in my original post: we’re talking about the inter-ethnic tension between Blacks and Asians right now because of the assault spree in Brooklyn and the recent murder of Tian Sheng Yu in California. But, these are sensationalized, headline-grabbing crimes that are symptomatic of, but not literally representative of, the tensions that exist between the Black and Asian communities. For every Tian Sheng Yu and Latasha Harlins that makes the newspapers, there are one, two, maybe even ten daily examples of mistreatment and hostility that never makes the press.

More importantly, it’s these mundane, day-to-day interactions — not the headline-grabbing crimes — that are the root manifestations of the inter-ethnic tension between Blacks and Asians. While it’s tempting to conclude from the sensationalist stories of assault and murder that inter-ethnic tension between Blacks and Asians are exclusively represented by examples of physical violence, that’s like concluding from stories of hate crimes and lynching that all racism requires a pillow case and a burning cross. It’s also tempting to conclude from the sensationalist stories of assault and murder (which recently have involved Black assaulters targeting Asian victims) that Blacks universally target and victimize Asians for crime; yet interrogation of the day-to-day incidents reveal that both Asians and Blacks are capable, and culpable, when it comes to perpetuating the tension and hostility between our communities.

The mundane, day-to-day hostility and distrust is far more prevalent than the headline-grabbing crimes. They are also more sinister because they are rarely interrogated in the spotlight of forums like these, because they are so subtle as to exist only as an undercurrent between our communities, contextualizing inter-ethnic interactions without ever being challenged.

These day-to-day interactions can be so subtle that they barely register as a conscious affront even to the participants. Yet who is to judge the impact when an Asian grandmother refuses to hand a customer his change directly, but instead leaves it on the counter so as to avoid touching Black skin? Who is to judge the impact when the Black child openly mocks the Asian child for his accented English and not-quite-fashionable mode of dress? Who is to judge the impact when the Asian father clutches his daughter more tightly to him whenever they pass a Black man on the street? Who is to judge the impact when the Black veteran, unemployed, sees the same Asian faces he fought in Vietnam now taking the last dollars he has left, out of the community?

Most interactions are quick and unassuming; only rarely do these interactions become violent and criminal. Yet, it is these interactions that, left unchallenged, perpetuate the untrue stereotype amongst Asians that Blacks are rude and criminal — despite ample evidence to the contrary. And it is these interactions that, left unchallenged, perpetuate the unture stereotype amongst Blacks that Asians are disdainful and opportunistic — again, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

In a way, I feel like I stand at a crossroads between both communities (although, I confess that I have experienced far more anti-Black sentiment in the Asian community than I have experienced anti-Asian sentiment in the Black community). I have seen Asian shopkeepers follow my African-American boyfriend around a store, keeping a wary eye on him from the moment he walked in the door, as though he is liable to pocket every trinket on the shelves if they turn their back on him for an instant. And, I have seen Black girls mutter and insult me, behind my back and to my face, particularly when they see me arm-in-arm with electroman.

And, above all, I remember the words of my mother who was indoctrinated, from childhood, with the notion that dark skin equated with poverty, disease, laziness and untrustworthiness. I remember my mother who believed that we, as East Asians, shouldn’t mingle with anybody who had darker skin than us (although, ironically, I am half-Cantonese and am several shades darker than both my sister and my mother). I remember my mother extending that attitude to my Asian Indian best friend in grade school; I wasn’t allowed to be friends with him. Later, she extended that same attitude to electroman, shunning my relationship with him as though he was ‘beneath’ me, socially and intellectually.

But no one writes a newspaper story about these daily interactions, so small as to be virtually invisible to all involved, yet fueled by the most deeply ingrained of racism and misunderstanding. No one talks about how a simple insult, hurled by a Black customer in frustration or anger at being treated like a criminal by an Asian shopkeeper, widens the gulf between both communities. And the wider the gulf, the more ingrained our negative stereotypes of one another, and the more these hostilities become fodder for an enraged child (Black or Asian) to lash out against a member of the Other in a sensationalized (and completely unjustifiable) crime of violence. The violence, thus, is symptomatic — but not representative — of the inter-ethnic tension between Blacks and Asians.

Therefore, while it is easy to focus on the recent sensational crimes, we must not become distracted by them. I think the far more prevalent problem are all the incidents and attitudes we’ve encountered, and all the narratives we experience, that we don’t talk about because they never make the papers. But bloggers, unlike mainstream media, aren’t beholden to readership statistics the way the press is; so why is it that even in the blogosphere, we seem to eschew discussion of the day-to-day racism that exists between the Black and Asian community (and yes, I am guilty of this too), and are only now talking about it when it has become sensationalized?

Update: As I was publishing this post, I got this article in my Google alerts: NAACP Hopes to Diffuse Tension Between Asians and Blacks in San Francisco. Some choice quotes:

Human Rights Commissioner Linda Richardson told New America Media that the commission held a hearing Thursday in Chinatown and that their executive director also had private meetings with Asian-American leaders with regard to the recent violent acts.

“The commission will concentrate on education about this issue, and in bringing the Asian and African-American communities together to begin a healing process,” Robinson said.

African-American leaders are already working on “our own [black-on-black] violence, but they also don’t want these recent incidents to lead to a general castigation of the entire African-American community as perpetrators of these racial crimes,” she said. “It is only a minority of the population responsible for these acts, and that is unacceptable.”

[…]

Out in the streets of Bayview-Hunters Point, near the Muni stop where Huan Chen was attacked, long-time resident Bernard Robinson says the community “needs jobs for young students…That’s why there’s so much violence and robbery here because they have nothing to do. Parents also don’t look out enough for their kids and guide them.”

Robinson, 62, said he’s witnessed violent acts by African-American men on Asians, and he’s also seen black-on-black violence in his neighborhood. Robinson appealed to his neighbors to “live and work together to end the violence.”

[…]

Rudy Asercion, executive director of Westbay Pilipino Multi-Service Center, said the NAACP is primarily concerned with diffusing the tension between Asians and African Americans in the city so that there would not be any retaliation from Asian Americans and further violence from either group. Asercion supports the NAACP’s move and the belief of the convening group “that it will take a sustained and cooperative effort among all communities to stop the violence.”

Update II: Yikes. Don’t write your posts at 3 am in the morning, folks! I’ve edited some of the grammar in this post so it doesn’t sound like crazy rambling.

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.

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Categories Categories Arizona, Immigration, Racism

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Leland Yee Receives Racist, Homophobic Hatemail from Palin-ites

(Hat-tip: Angry Asian Man)

California State Senator Leland Yee reports that his office has been inundated with racist hatemail and death threats, after campaigning to have California State University Stanislaus release information about an upcoming campus fundraiser by former Governor Sarah Palin. Stanislaus officials contend that the details are unavailable, however critics of Palin’s visit want to know if the former governor will be receiving her usual honorarium of $100,000 an appearance from the school. Tellingly, students from the school found pages 4 through 9 of Palin’s contract in the administration dumpster, demanding that Palin be given a hotel suite, first-class airfare or a private jet, pre-screened questions, and “bendable straws” (according to a press release from Yee).

Ever since openly criticizing Palin’s visit to Stanislaus, Yee reports that he has been inflammatory correspondance from around the country. His press release quotes a few of these comments:

An expletive-laden fax received yesterday in the Senator’s San Francisco and Sacramento offices says, “To: JoBama Rectum Sniffer Fish Head Leland Yee” and then in all capital letters, “WERE YOU TO EXTRACT YOUR HEAD FROM TREASONOUS MARXIST NIG**R HUSSEIN OBAMA’S RECTUM, YOUR BRAIN WOULD STILL FUNCTION AT ITS PRESENT MUCH DIMINISHED LEVEL BUT AT LEAST THE NIG**R SH*T SMELL WOULD EVENTUALLY DISSIPATE.”

The fax, which included a graphic of an American flag adorned pickup truck dragging a noose, also states “FIGHTING The Marxist Nig**r Thug Hussein Obama” and “Safeguard the Constitution, Death of all Domestic Marxists!”

Another fax received by the Senator’s office with a similar graphic says, “NEW WEBSITE COMING SOON: lyeesucksobamasnig**ras*.com,” as well as “JoBama. HE IS BRAVE ENOUGH TO KILL OUR UNBORN, JUST NOT BRAVE ENOUGH TO CALL OUR ENEMIES WHAT THEY ARE: Muslim Terrorists!” The fax also includes a rifle scope targeting a shirt with the communist hammer and sickle symbol dripping with blood.

One of the phone messages left after hours in Yee’s office voicemail says, “You know, I heard that Senator Yee wants to nix Sarah Palin from speaking at Stanislaus State…Maybe we ought to have a homosexual with a long enough di*k to where he can stick it up his as* and fu*k himself while he is on stage giving a speech. That would be acceptable to Leland Yee. So, good thing you run in San Francisco ’cause you’d never make it anywhere else.”

Nice to know the callibre of Sarah Palin’s most ardent supporters.