The Southern Oregon University campus theme kicked off this term with an early viewing of the documentary The State of Arizona, on Thursday, Jan. 16. The documentary focuses on the Arizona law SB 1070 which deals with illegal immigration.
The documentary looks at the law from the perspectives of law makers, undocumented immigrants and American citizens. It follows the life of the law from its creation in the Arizona State Senate to the lawsuit about it held against Arizona by the U.S. government.
After the film a panel discussed their reactions to the documentary. This panel was facilitated by Echo Fields, the sociology program coordinator, who also put this event together for the campus theme. The panel contained three members: Pancho Becraft, an SOU graduate student; John Almaguer, a local immigration lawyer and Virginia Camberos, the regional organizer for Oregon Action.
The film focuses on three major aspects of the law. It makes the policies of sanctuary cities (cities that do not enforce immigration laws) the target of lawsuits, forcing state officials of these places to comply with federal officers in the pursuit of removing illegal aliens. It also allows police to ask people for their immigration papers if they have reasonable suspicion that the individual could be an illegal immigrant, nick-naming it the “Papers, Please” Act. Lastly, it would make it illegal for citizens to transport, harbor, or shield illegal immigrants.
The point of this law is attrition, the process of bothering and weathering down someone or something. This law will make life difficult for undocumented aliens, and in theory, make them want to leave the U.S. Law makers are hoping to cause a decline in illegal immigration, and thus a decline in the amount of drug and human trafficking.
Those in opposition of the laws say that it legalizes racial profiling, and breaks families apart. Another issue explored in the film was the difficulty of those who already have roots in the U.S. to become documented, and trying to keep families together in the process.
Almaguer said that the documentary was very informative, and showed a very commonly repeated story about immigrant families. However, he also felt it skewed the perspective. He pointed out that many of the families shown were all illegal immigrants, where as many are actually mixed families of illegal aliens, legal residents, and citizens.
“We need to stop looking at it as us and them, and more as they as us,” said Almaguer.
Almaguer also felt that it wasn’t the accessibility of illegal immigration that caused drug and human trafficking, but the demand for it in the U.S.
Becraft agreed, and discussed the issue from a historical perspective. He explained how before colonization, there were the Native North Americans. It wasn’t until Indo-Europeans drew borders across the continent that people got labeled as Mexicans and Native Americans depending on what side they were on. This is as much their home too, said Becraft.
Camberos spoke about how many young people don’t know they are undocumented until they grow up, and then have to deal with the problem later in life. She discussed the need to keep families together if in order to resolve this issue positively.
Camberos discussed the need for “this to prosper and build- and continue to build successfully.”
After discussion, the panelists took questions. Most questions were directed to Almaguer about the legal aspects of SB 1070 and immigration in general.
One audience member equated the issue to the racism during slavery, and spoke about the cruelty of the situation.
“If you break a family apart, how do you put it back together?” the audience member asked.
This was the first event this term for the campus theme of race. This term, the theme will be discussed from the perspective of the social sciences. For more information on the events coming up this term, there will be posters in Stevenson Union and Rogue Community College campus in Medford, as well as on the school website.