Frontera Fund News

How to Stop Anti-immigrant Bills

protest anti-immigrant bills
Written by Carmen Cornejo

You can call it the Trump effect.  After few years without anti-immigration bills (due to the embarrassment and backlash caused by SB1070), Arizona’s lawmakers proposed this session some new legislations, very much emboldened by the odious rhetoric of the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party for President of the United States in the 2016 election.

12 anti-immigrant and anti-refugee bills were concocted this session. You can read about the most relevants here.

Activist groups were steadfast opposing these bills using many tactics: Writing letters, appearing at hearings, organizing press conferences, gathering many to protest the proposals, etc. The quick and decisive actions payed off.

Only 2 bills made it to Governor Ducey’s desk and were signed into law this session. They are HB2451 and SB1487.

HB2451 requires undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes to complete 85 percent of their prison sentences, before they are transferred to ICE for deportation.

This bill, masked as a law-and-order legislation was in reality a gift to the industrial prison complex, which will happily increase profits having the undocumented being incarcerated longer, instead of being deported faster.

The second bill that activists see as an attack to immigrant communities is SB1487 which would withhold revenue from cities and towns found to have violated state law. “This is a precursor to holding revenue to cities that may implement certain policies. It is not a direct bill but is preparing the stage for other moves”, said Viridiana Hernandez, Arizona Center for Neighborhood Leadership incoming Executive Director.

What was the secret to stop most of 2016 anti-immigrant bills? Here is a list of the key lessons:

1.-Government 101. Know the process for a bill to become law and all the steps the legislators take so you can be a participant along the way.

2.-Create partnerships. Find diverse groups whose constituencies will be affected like Churches, LGBTs, and educators’ organizations. “We need to continue to value our partners and the intersectionality of people’s’ lives, to help each other and defeat bad bills”, said Viridiana.

3.-Know what the legislature is doing. Activist organizations learned quickly about the noxious bills, were able to talk about them to diverse groups and explain the impact they will have.

4.-Show up. Activist participated in hearings at the subcommittee level, expressing their opposition to the bills introduced.  It was important to be on record since many times laws are passed without citizen input.

5.-Have conversations with state legislators on both sides of the debate. Young leaders calibrated the internal support on each bill and the timing of the presentation in subcommittees. Additionally, they were able to convince moderate republican legislators to oppose some bills through partners and allies.

5.-Show the power of the community. Community groups were able to stage some of the most impressive protests, including a pacific takeover of the old state capitol and a civil disobedience action done by brave young women.

7.-Repeat. Yes, this will not be the last time we will have anti-immigrant bills in Arizona. The preparation for the 2017 legislative session starts the day the 2016 session ends. Like now.