Bill Contradicts American Values

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On the afternoon of April 29, I exercised my First Amendment right by taking part in the mock deportation protest against the Arizona Senate Bill 1070 on Sproul. As a second-generation Chicana who believes in the democratic principles that this country holds dear, I felt compelled to act against a law that is not only a civil and human rights violation, but is also blatantly racist at its core.

The new immigration bill, which Governor Jan Brewer signed into law on April 23, mandates that law enforcement officials should attempt to determine the immigration status of individuals if "reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States." Though the first draft of the bill forbade officials from using "solely" race to identify possible suspects, after heavy criticism from opponents, the framers of SB 1070 added a provision last week prohibiting enforcement officials from considering race when implementing the law. These rhetorical alterations, which are meant to curb the public's reaction, do not alter the racist ethos of the bill.

While I initially thought that being a participant observer in the demonstration on campus would be enough to show my opposition to the law, as I thought about the effects the law will have on my Mexican American family and me, I could no longer be an idle opponent of SB 1070.

My family has lived and worked in this country since my grandfather was imported into the U.S. under the World War II Bracero Program. My mother and her siblings were born and raised in the Central Valley of California. My cousins and I, though raised in bilingual households eating traditional Mexican dishes and watching telenovelas, consider ourselves as American as apple pie.

Though my family has called America home for more than five decades, as visible Americans of Mexican descent, we could reasonably be questioned about our citizenship status if we traveled to post-SB 1070 Arizona. This possibility not only infuriates me, but also makes me question whether America is living up to its values of freedom and equality.

When I made the conscious decision to participate in the mock deportation on Thursday, I admit that my motives were primarily fostered by my anger at being targeted by this law simply because of my skin color. But as the mock deportation officials belligerently yelled at me as I walked handcuffed, I experienced the means by which hard-working immigrants like my grandmother are expelled from this country. For the first time in my life I felt the psychological effects deportation, or the fear thereof, has on an individual's psyche. I not only felt deprived of my humanity but I also felt my faith in the promise of America as the shining beacon of democratic hope and possibility shatter.

Years ago, when I asked my grandmother why she came to the U.S., she unhesitantly answered that it was for her children and grandchildren to have a better future. As a third year UC Berkeley student who understands the benefits my American citizenship has bestowed on me, I appreciate her sacrifices. However, with the passage of such unconstitutional laws as Arizona Senate Bill 1070, I fear not only for my people, but also for the rest of the nation.

I encourage all UC Berkeley students -regardless of race/ethnicity or political affiliation- who care about their country and human rights, to stand up and demand that the entire United States of America live up to its constitutional promises and high moral ground and demand the repeal of Arizona SB 1070.

Christina Flores is a UC Berkeley student. Reply to [email protected]

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