For those gathered at City Hall in downtown Boise Saturday to protest a recently-passed immigration law in Arizona, the message was summed up in stickers passed out by ACLU officials: “What happens in Arizona stops in Arizona.” Approximately 350 people from across the Treasure Valley protested the law, which goes into effect at the end of July. Those gathered believe that the law will lead to racial profiling and discrimination of minorities.
The law gives police officers in Arizona the power to attempt to determine the citizenship status of anyone they stop through lawful means. If officers have a reasonable suspicion that a person they stop might be an illegal immigrant, police have the power to detain the person under the new provision.
The protest was headlined with speeches by Monica Hopkins, executive director of ACLU Idaho, Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, and Leo Morales, a community organizer with Idaho Community Action Network (ICAN).
Hopkins told those gathered that the ACLU is preparing to challenge the law, which she called unconstitutional, in courts. “It betrays American values,” said Hopkins. “This law flies in the face of the Constitution by turning the presumption of innocence on its head.” Hopkins, who spoke against three anti-illegal immigration bills at the Idaho Capitol during the 2010 legislative session, said the duty of developing and enforcing immigration policy rests with the federal government and not the states themselves.
By turning police officers into immigration enforcers, Hopkins said, the government of Arizona is creating an environment of fear in areas of the state that are already distrusting of law enforcement officials. She said that law enforcement efforts in the state will be hampered by the law because police officers will be diverted from their primary responsibility of public safety to a task which is not their duty.
“The fact is that what Arizona has done is taking the country backwards,” said Morales, who himself is an immigrant. He told the crowd that he worked in the fields for 12 years after coming to the U.S. to find a better life. Following his work there, Morales went on to college to better himself. “But my story is not unusual; that is the American story. Community members from all over the world coming to this nation for the opportunity to succeed,” he said. He said encouraged the crowd to call Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, the state’s senior member of the U.S. Senate, to encourage him to push for comprehensive immigration reform on the federal level. He also urged those present to express their voice through at the polls during upcoming elections.
LeFavour told that crowd government officials in Arizona need to remember that the U.S. consists entirely of immigrants from other countries. She said that the immigrants today are not criminals, but rather hard working, family-oriented people who came to the U.S. looking to better themselves and their families. The law passed in Arizona, LeFavour said, will spread fear among racial minorities, regardless of their immigration status. She, like Hopkins and Morales, called for immigration reform to take place on the federal level. “Other nations have managed to craft sensible immigration policies that allow people to live and work across borders.” said LeFavour. “Why can’t we?”
The protest also featured traditional Mexican dancers, as well as a solo song performance.
(Note: Several protestors came to the rally carrying signs expressing outrage over the law; see what those signs had to say here.)