A Feminist Response to the Arizona Immigration Bill (SB1070)

alg_brewer.jpgHave you heard about the Arizona Immigration Bill that was signed by Gov. Janice Brewer on Friday, April 23rd? According to the New York Times,

The law would require the police "when practicable" to detain people they reasonably suspected were in the country without authorization. It would also allow the police to charge immigrants with a state crime for not carrying immigration documents. And it allows residents to sue cities if they believe the law is not being enforced.
Brewer contends that the purpose of this bill is to protect the people of Arizona and secure the border:

There is no higher priority than protecting the citizens of Arizona. We cannot sacrifice our safety to the murderous greed of drug cartels. We cannot stand idly by as drop houses, kidnappings and violence compromise our quality of life.

We cannot delay while the destruction happening south of our international border creeps its way north.
In her explanation, Brewer claims that this new law will not result in more racial profiling and that she is committed to training officers on how to properly determine when and if to stop individuals and request their identification (this "proper" way, according to her, must not be based on "the color of their skin"). But, many people think that this bill will allow racial profiling (or even encourage it) and are highly critical of the implications and intent of the call for "safety" and "protection." In responding to Brewer's above statement,  the Feminist Texican (who wrote this great post on why we should "stop saying 'illegal'")  writes:

In a country where "illegal" is a noun that's synonymous with "Mexican" (Mexican drug cartels, Mexican border violence, border wall along Mexico, brown people swimming across the river from Mexico, etc.), I find it hard to believe that racial profiling rates against Latin@s aren't going to rise.  I seriously doubt police are going to start asking white people for their papers at even a fraction of the rate they question brown people. 
In an article over at the Arizona Republic, a law professor echoes Feminist Texican's sentiment, claiming

"That is almost inevitably going to be enforced in a racially discriminatory way, because how are the police going to have a 'reasonable suspicion' that you're here illegally?" said Paul Bender, a professor of law at Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law and a principal deputy U.S. solicitor general from 1993 to 1997 under President Bill Clinton. "They're not going to ask every Anglo that they stop for speeding to show their immigration documents. If they did, we wouldn't have them and we'd all go to jail. They're going to ask the people who look Hispanic. Some of them are not going to have them, and they are going to be arrested."
[Note: Do you carry proof of citizenship around with you--a driver's license doesn't count. Addendum: Or does it? I have found conflicting reports and wonder, what proof do you have to give if you are stopped?] American Progress describes four dangerous economic, social and legal consequences of this law: 1. It legalizes racial profiling, 2. It undercuts the constitution and imbues local police with federal authority, 3. It will harm the state and local economy and 4. It is expensive and takes police away from community policing. For even more on this law, check out Stephen Colbert's humorous (yet critical) take on the issue:

The Word - No Problemo

What are the implications and consequences of this bill from a feminist perspective? What sorts of questions should feminists ask? What should feminist focus their attention on? How can we link this bill, and its consequences, to the issues we have explored all semester? I can imagine connections to all of the issues--reproductive rights/justice, work, family values, sex wars and the PIC. What connections can you make?

In her article for Gender Across Borders, Erin Rickard discusses how racial profiling makes Latin@ communities afraid of the police and less willing to contact them when domestic violence occurs. What are the consequences of this fear of the police for women? American Immigration Council wonders how much this bill will cost and if the people of Arizona can afford it. I wonder, what (types of) programs will be cut in order to pay for this bill? Due to the financial crisis, Arizona has already had to cut children's health insurance. Will women's health care (particularly reproductive health) be next? Immigration Blogprof wants us to ask, Why are there so many undocumented workers?, which makes me think of our discussion of La Doméstica and prompts me to ask: what rights do/should undocumented workers have and what rights are they denied with this law? Mark B. Evans over at Tuscan Citizen is curious about what counts as "reasonable suspicion" for pulling a driver over and checking their proof of citizenship? Will those outside of Gayle Rubin's charmed circle be targeted more? Do their "deviant" behaviors arouse suspicion? Prof Sussuro over at like a whisper outlines the effects of a law like this. Here's one they mention that seems to be speak directly to the issue of family values: "leaving children on the side of the road to fend for themselves when parents are arrested." 

A discussion of this bill from feminist perspectives fits nicely with our reading today, On Prisons, Borders, Safety, and Privilege. How is safety and protection functioning in this law, and at whose expense? What are the consequences of trying to ensure safety? Whose safety? Here are a few passages from the text that speak to these issues:

Who is made safe by strengthening a violent law-and-order system? And what does strengthening that system have to do with ending violence (3)?

What is your feminism for? If it is not for disruption and redistribution of power across society (i.e., not just for women [or people] like you), it cannot be so ignorant of, exploitative of, and even counter to the prison-abolition and immigrants' right movements--not only because marginalized women are involved in and affected by those struggles, but because they are where some of the most significant challenges to power are being made (6).

If feminist is about social change, it is about recognizing that safety in this society is a fantasy afforded only by assimilation to power, and the cost of that fake safety is the safety of those who cannot, or will not, access it. If feminism is about social change, it is about radically challenging prisons and borders of all kinds (7).

What if we crafted a collective feminist response to this issue--one that is not so much based on our own opinions but on the readings, discussions, films, issues that we have discussed this entire semester? What would we want to put in that response?

Maybe one place to start this response is with this statement by Critical Resistance and INCITE! Women of Color against Violence:

We seek to build a movement that not only ends violence, but that creates a society based on radical freedom, mutual accountability, and passionate reciprocity. In this society, safety and security will not be premised on violence or the threat of violence; it will be based on a collective commitment to guaranteeing the survival and care of all peoples (226).

Addendum: I just found this overview of more feminist responses to this issue at feministe.


  1. What immediately comes to mind when I think about this bill, is the discussion of race and how color is seen. Racial profiling is obviously what this bill is legalizing in Arizona, which is already so engrained in our law enforcement system. This is evident through our readings about the Prison Industrial Complex. People of color are who fill our prisons, and who are criminalized. People of color are being seen, and identified as such. White people don’t immediately hold the identifier of ‘white’ and can therefore be unseen. This bill perpetuates this construct, and legalizes institutionalized racism. By making it necessary for people of color to identify themselves, it criminalizes this entire group, holding white people as ‘good’ and people of color as ‘bad’. White and Black, Right and Wrong, Normal and Other. These socialized ideas are what the past several decades have been trying to destruct, and this bill legally reestablishes racism.

  2. user-pic Author Profile Page jeadams@siu.edu | April 27, 2010 2:53 PM

    One aspect of the law is that criminalizes various ways of providing assistance to an undocumented person. Thus if a battered women's shelter provided services to someone they knew was undocumented, they would violate the law.

  3. user-pic Author Profile Page deborah@boardman.net | April 28, 2010 5:34 AM

    Sara, if you don't live in Arizona, don't say you have an understanding of the problems they face there.
    Whether or not a state can continue to absorb more incoming residents is, simply down to the ability to provide for them. This is not about race, these illegal immigrants could be from anywhere. The fact is, Arizona is burdened by a population increase that has caused hospital emergency rooms to close, schools to bulge and crime to rise.

    The feminist aspect of this is poverty for the newly arrived women and children. Many are unable to speak the language of the country and are thrusting their children into a new school with new cultural values and a language they don't know. Immigration is not a ticket to glory.

    When will anyone hold Mexico responsible for educating its citizens, providing a living wage and infrastructure? If you want to yell racism, you've got the wrong focus. This is about increased population with no visible means of support and placing that problem with others.
    Real feminists understand the core of this issue lies inside of macho-Mexico.

  4. http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=121559341189362#!/?ref=logo
    I thought you might be interested in this - there is a campaign on Facebook and other online networking sites to spread awareness about the bill. On May 1 (tomorrow), people are urged to wear shirts and display the phrase "do I look "illegal"?" in order to address the blatant profiling that is attached.

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