Asian Americans Speak Up Against SB 1070

by Dennis Chin, guest blogger

The rhetoric surrounding Arizona’s new law, popularly known as SB 1070, has raised the furor of communities nation-wide.  Essentially, SB 1070 would criminalize anybody that “looks” like an undocumented immigrant.  Nobody, even Governor Jan Brewer who signed the bill into law, can describe  how this law will be implemented without resorting to racial profiling.

So the question is, who “looks” like an undocumented immigrant?

The answer is not as simple as you think.  The popular debate on immigration reform has focused on Latinos, particularly immigrants from Mexico.   But there are other communities that are left out of this frame.

In January, the New York Times wrote a profile on the increasing number of  “illegal” Chinese immigrants crossing the border from Mexico.  According to the United States Border Patrol in Tucson, the number of Chinese immigrants arrested while illegally crossing the border into Arizona increased ten-fold in the last year.

That means that SB 1070 will  affect Arizona’s Asian & Pacific Islander American population too.

To many of us who work or know folks who work with Asian immigrant communities, this bit of news isn’t surprising.  After all, there have always been an influx of “illegal” immigrants from Asia.  And the long story of Asian & Pacific Islanders in America reveals the backlash that our communities have historically felt (see, for example, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882).  Nowadays,  many undocumented immigrants from Asia have overstayed visas.  Some like Mohammad (who also identified as gay) were brought here illegally by his parents at a young age.  Others, like DREAM activist Tam Tran, were caught in limbo from a broken immigration system.

And now we see immigrants from Asia crossing the border into Arizona in record numbers.

Thanks to research by Jenn from Reappropriate we now know that the Asian & Pacific Islander community in AZ is one of the fastest growing minority populations in the state, nearly doubling in size between 1990 and 2005.  Will these folks be subjected to profiling too?

Thankfully, there are organizations that are doing their part for justice.   This week, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and the Asian American Justice Center filed a lawsuit with other national civil rights organizations to challenge SB 1070.  And many organizations based in Asian & Pacific Islander communities are mobilizing against this unjust law too.  (see NAKASEC for example)

At this point, I’m wondering about the opportunities for cross-racial organizing in AZ to create long-term power above and beyond immigration reform.  Imagine the possibilities!

In the meantime, for my fellow Asian warriors in the struggle, take action against SB 1070 here:

Sign the petition

Photo:  Seng Chen

9 responses to “Asian Americans Speak Up Against SB 1070

  1. Pingback: Asian & Pacific Islander American population join the immigration war | Social Weird

  2. Law enforcement officers across the country, including AZ, try to perform their job without racial profiling, which the Supreme Court ruled as constitutional.

    Peace officers look for conduct. They know a resident’s dress, hairstyle, skin color and nationality don’t mean anything regarding crminality.

    Please read the law. Police may NOT inquire about a resident’s immigration status, unless he has been detained for another crime.

    Reasonable suspecion of one’s immigration status will resullt from a detention of undocumented residents. All others will have a driver’s license, state ID, green card or tribal ID.

    The undocumented residents will be reported to ICE. The federal govt. may hold them if they have outstanding warrants. Many others will simply be released.

  3. From AZ:

    [Latino] Mayor Phil Gordon of Phoenix, speaking at Harvard Law School on February 5th, said that the steady flow of illegal immigrants into his city has created a crisis situation that is extremely dangerous for local law enforcement and a devastating drain on the city’s budget. Although by statistical measures Phoenix is one of the safest cities in the United States, it has experienced a wave of kidnapping and violent crimes that have challenged its law enforcement capacity.

    The problem, said Mayor Gordon, is the violent behavior of the “coyotes” involved in human trafficking operations from across the nearby Mexican border, who regularly kidnap, torture, rape and kill those who do not comply with their extortion, sometimes forcing captives to dig their own graves while awaiting either freedom or death.

    According to Gordon, over 20,000 people, including women and children, have been rescued by Phoenix police over the last three years from “drop houses” where dozens or even hundreds are held captive or even tortured�

    Gordon said that the fight against the coyotes’ organized crime has forced the city to hire over 600 additional police officers� The cost to Phoenix of employing� 150 [of these] officers, over $15 million dollars a year, is not reimbursed by the federal government and threatens to force reductions in city services like libraries and after school programs�

    Matthew W. Hutchins
    The Harvard Law Record
    Feb. 12, 2010

    Read more:

  4. I hope the illegals start invading Asian countries. That will teach Dennis Chin a lesson.
    Or kidnapping their kids, since some Hispanics and blacks already think old Asian women have too much money and are a target for their thieves. Oh, isn’t that profiling? Stealing from HUMANS who are walking-while-Asian-female?

  5. Dennis Chin

    @Lei: Thanks for responding to my posts! To be clear, my country is the United States. I’m not from Asia, although my parents immigrated from Asia. Although most might think I’m from Asia, my home is America 🙂

    And I’m confused, what lesson should I be learning? Honestly. I don’t understand what you’re asking me here.

    As for the comments re: interracial dynamics, that’s a huge topic that totally merits a larger discussion, but I fail to see how it directly relates to this particular post. Crime certainly exists and there’s context for crime, but a few individuals’ crimes don’t speak for an entire community.

    Let’s try to avoid generalities 🙂

    Oh, and please check out this post about what’s been happening in Oakland re: Asian/black communities. I don’t agree with everything in that article but it certainly sparks a conversation worth having in terms of surfacing racial tension and bridging racial divides:

  6. Let’s avoid generalities, but HOLDER can speak of his “driving while black” experience – never mentioning the “walking through ghetto while Asian” experience. Yes, no anecdotal experiences for anyone but….the President or the Attorney General. Then, it’s okay.

  7. Pingback: How to Really Get Rid of Illegal Immigrants in the USA « Asian American Movement Blog

  8. It really irks me when people say that the law won’t have any racial profiling affect. THEN WHY THE HELL DO THEY HAVE A VIDEO TO TRAIN NOT TO RACIAL PROFILE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Another are people who say, If you have nothing to hide you shouldn’t care, or I carry my papers around and I won’t mind showing them. Well, I was born in the US, (5 generations) and I have been racial profiled twice in my own neighborhood, that is insulting, this law will co-done insulting racial profiling to citizens.

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