As we continue to organize to shut down Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric wherever he goes (I hear he is going to Phoenix, Arizona real soon. Hint, hint!), it is crucial to remember one of the most dangerous parts of the Trump effect: The amazing amount of space it opens up for racists and xenophobes to portray themselves as legitimate analysts and policy-makers while pushing conservative, anti-immigrant, anti-Latinx, anti-Black, anti-gay, anti-queer, and anti-women agendas.
At the same time, with the Democrats or the usually progressives, more #Trumpazos give them a chance to point the finger at how terrible he is and look good in comparison, while not doing anything for those they are supposed to represent or actually promoting policies that are harmful to our communities.
When it comes to legislative and electoral politics, the result has been a new round of policy changes and electoral campaigns in 2016 proposing to make our communities unwelcoming to refugees, erase local protections for immigrants from raids and deportation, increase criminalization of immigration, and hyper-target non-citizens who have any encounter with law enforcement and can be labeled as “felons not families,” as President Obama so eloquently put it.
For your information and general planning this Spring, here is a list of the top 5 electoral and legislative fights to watch:
1. The Latinx Cook County State’s Attorney Who Covered Up Laquan McDonald’s Murder is Up for Re-Election in Chicago
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez became a national target after it was revealed that she waited over 400 days to bring charges against the Chicago Police officer who shot and killed Laquan McDonald, shooting him 16 times. But Alvarez has a long track record of looking the other way in cases of police misconduct and over-charging poor people and people of color. Other examples of her behavior include sentencing children to life without parole, charging victims of violence and witnesses — especially when the complaint is about police misconduct, undercharging the police officer who shot and killed Rekia Boyd, and refusing to prosecute Richard Fiorito, another Chicago Police officer who falsely arrested over 130 people for drunk driving with hints of homophobia. She is also against an independent police accountability council or appointing an independent prosecutor to investigate police-involved shootings.
The #ByeAnita campaign in Chicago made the clearest connection between Trump’s rhetoric and Alvarez last Saturday when at the same time as thousands shut down the Trump rally, a group led by queer, young Black women closed down traffic a block away stating, “If you are saying ‘Dump Trump,’ then say ‘bye Anita too’ and vote her out. Vote Anita out.” One of the leading groups, Assata’s Daughters wrote in a statement, “We see a direct link between Trump’s overtly racist white nationalist campaign an Anita Alvarez’s record of filling jails and prisons with black bodies using dogwhistle tough-on-crime rhetoric.”
Immigrants and members of the Latinx community have also called her out. As one Chicago writer puts it, “She certainly looks like us,” but continues, “Because Alvarez is relying on the Latino vote, on election day Chicago needs the Latinos against Alvarez to come out for what’s right.”
The election for Cook County State’s Attorney in Chicago is today, Tuesday March 15.
2. Arizona’s SB 1070-style Legislation with a Vengeance, Looking to “Fill Up Arizona’s Jails with Immigrants”
In Arizona there is a new round of legislation making its way through State government. Prompting the #NoMoreSB1070s, local organizers are comparing the bills to when Arizona took center stage in 2010 with Senate Bill 1070 and Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s raids, both which terrorized and criminalized entire communities in Arizona. This time around, there are dozens of legislative proposals in the state legislature designed to roll back wins by immigrant rights advocates and make anti-immigrant and criminal laws even harsher for non-citizens. Amongst the bills to look out for are House Bill 2370 which would allow the state to deny help to refugees if they haven’t gone through multiple background checks, Senate Bill 1377 and House Bill 2451, which together would require that undocumented immigrants and others in deportation proceedings must serve the maximum and full sentences for criminal charges, regardless of good behavior, eligibility for parole, or even whether they are to be deported after their sentence is over. These two bills are described by local organizers as “going against the movement to reduce incarceration by aiming to fill up Arizona’s jails with immigrants.”
HB 2370 passed in two house committees in January 2015. SB 1377 passed the Democratic and Republican committees and went on to the house in February 2015, while HB2451 passed the equivalent committees in the House, and the rules committee in the Senate in March 2015. Sign a petition against the criminalization bills SB 1377 and HB 2451 here. If you’re in Arizona, Puente Human Rights Movement is calling for a mass mobilization outside the state’s capitol on Wednesday March 23, 2016.
3. Georgia Wants to Increase Penalties for Driving Without a License, and Take Away Driver’s Licenses for Immigrant Youth
Undocumented youth in the state of Georgia can’t get a break this legislative season. Just as the state supreme court affirmed the ban of undocumented students from Georgia’s universities in early February, the state legislature is now considering taking away driver’s licenses for undocumented youth who qualify under the President’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Senate Bill 6 is designed to take away driver’s licenses from DACA recipients, and replace them with “driver’s safety cards,” making them a clear target for profiling.
In addition the bill proposes releasing personal information of all non-citizens to government agencies and increases fines and penalties for people driving without a license. This is a big deal in Georgia not just for undocumented youth, as many Latinx residents have documented racial profiling by local police who are looking for undocumented immigrants who can’t get driver’s licenses, to charge them and criminalize them. Under a current law, Senate Bill 350, repeat arrests for driving without a license are already felonies, and require immigrants to pay high amounts of money in fines and court costs. Many of those Latinx residents have been put in deportation proceedings as a result.
SB 6 was passed by the Georgia State senate in February 2016, and is currently under consideration in the House. The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR) is calling for a demonstration, “Rally en defensa de nuestras familias y comunidad” for Thursday March 25, 2016 at Liberty Plaza in Atlanta, Georgia, behind the State capitol. Follow #SB6 #StopSB6 or #Not1More.
It’s worth noting also that up to 5 days ago, Georgia was considering Resolution 675 which created a constitutional amendment to declare English as the “official language” of Georgia and prohibited discrimination, penalties or limits of participation against people who only speak English. It passed in the Senate, but was blocked in the House in March of 2016.
4. Louisiana Proposing to Roll Back Protection from Deportation for Immigrants
Less than a month ago the New Orleans Congress of Day Laborers celebrated a “bias-free” policy that forbids city police officers from asking information about immigration status or collaborating with immigration enforcement to deport and criminalize immigrants. “ICE has been recognized as the largest unaccountable law enforcement agency in the U.S. Any police force that wants to move toward accountability—and make its communities more safe—should start by ending collusion with ICE,” they said. The very next day, Republican Representative Valerie Hodges filed House Bill 151, which would make it illegal for cities or other localities to put limits on cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and blacklist those that do from state grants and other funding.
The rhetoric in defense of this bill is full of statements like, “Local enforcement agencies who adopt a policy to protect criminals, we are not going to give you funding.” If passed, this bill would not only threaten the city policy, it would also put into question the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s policies of non-collaboration, on which the city policy is based. Both of these are a result of long grassroots campaigns documenting racial profiling of immigrant workers and abuses by police officers and the Sheriff’s department, exacerbated by their collaboration with immigration enforcement.
HB 151 is being considered by the Committee on Judiciary and will be discussed over the next three months in the Louisiana State legislature. #Right2Remain #Not1More
5. Wisconsin Takes Back ID Cards, Also Wants to Limit “Sanctuary Cities”
Last but not least we go back to the Midwest, where the Wisconsin legislature is considering Assembly Bill 450, which would punish prohibitions on asking about immigration status or any limits on cooperation with immigration enforcement by decreasing funding, and Senate Bill 533 prohibiting localities from issuing ID cards to undocumented immigrants or people who don’t have access to adequate documents or money. The bill is described as “a bigoted attack on immigrants, transgender people, the homeless, seniors, formerly incarcerated people and the thousands of low-income people in Milwaukee and throughout the state who cannot access a Wisconsin state ID.”
Grassroots and advocacy organizations like Voces de La Frontera are responding by saying that this is an opportunity to organize:
“Wisconsin’s fight reminds us that Latino and immigrant workers are willing to flex their economic power to send the message the they will not stand idly by while politicians try to pass laws that threaten their families and take for granted their labor.”
They are the same ones that organized the “A Day Without Latinos and Immigrants in Wisconsin” which turned out thousands to the Wisconsin State capitol in February against this “racist anti-immigrant” legislation. Even dairy workers have expressed their discontent with the bills.
The Assembly passed AB 450 in February, but has not been voted on in State Senate. SB 533 passed in the Senate also in February. Both Wisconsin the Assembly and the Senate have republican majorities. There is a petition against AB 450 and SB 533 by Voces de La Frontera and One Wisconsin Now here.
Bonus Policy Round
Congrats to folks in Florida who defeated nine anti-immigrant bills last Friday March 11, 2016. Amongst the bills was House Bill 675 which would have required government entities, including schools, to cooperate with immigration enforcement; House Bill 1095 which would have barred state agencies from helping immigrants and refugees, and Senate Bill 118 which made it a first-degree felony for any person with a deportation order to live in Florida punishable with a maximum 30 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. #WeAreFlorida #SomosFlorida.
Tania Unzueta is an organizer with the #Not1More Campaign and Policy and Legal Director of Mijente. Follow her at @_LaTania.