Immigrant & Indigenous Rights

The Situation: In April 2010, Arizona’s infamous immigration bill SB 1070 was signed into law. It requires police officers to interrogate and detain anyone they think might be an undocumented immigrant, and criminalizes legal immigrants for not carrying their papers. Harsh immigration laws have particularly impacted women and children, since the law separates families and women face physical abuse by law enforcement officers.

The Rapid Response: Urgent Action Fund provided funds to Tonatierra, an indigenous people’s organization, to organize a major protest and raise awareness on the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People.

The Impact: TONATIERRA was able to develop an organized community response to SB 1070 and other racist law enforcement policies in Arizona. TONATIERRA’s activities included the establishment of twelve Committees in Defense of the Barrios. These community-led groups hold “know your rights” trainings and workshops on developing plans of protection with emergency paperwork in case of arrest, instruct community members on how to monitor and document law enforcement stops, and offer crisis hotlines. In addition, TONATIERRA sent women and children representatives from Arizona to Washington, DC, where they testified at congressional hearings. Although the situation in Arizona has not been resolved, there has been progress on two components of TONATIERRA’s campaigns: the Department of Justice recently filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Arpaio for denying access to records, and there are a number of pending lawsuits regarding the unconstitutionality of SB1070. In addition, TONATIERRA points out that the creation of the Committees in Defense of the Barrios and the trainings have increased confidence among affected members of the community, with more people exercising their rights and asking for an attorney. Though there is a long struggle ahead, TONATIERRA notes that this grant was effective both in terms of helping the community to become more pro-active in preparing for a long-term strategy to combat the repressive conditions in Arizona, and in forming wider local, national, and international networks of support for immigrant rights.