The Common Good

Success in the Immigration Reform Movement After SB 1070

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the signing of SB 1070 in Arizona, the controversial bill that mobilized thousands around the country, spurred a boycott, and sent ripple effects to the national immigration debate that continues today -- but how does one measure the social and political effects of the law?

From a legal standpoint, the harshest elements of the law were obstructed by a higher court injunction. Yet, while official racial profiling was blocked, the damage has been done. By some estimates, up to 25 percent of immigrant families have fled the state, many fear any police interaction and truth-be-told, hundreds of individuals have still been pulled over for something such as a taillight-out and immediately deported.

Further, the economics of anti-immigrant policies are now more at stake. The boycott cost the state up to $140 million in lost tourism and business. This winter, much of the lettuce crop in Yuma froze because of too few workers for the harvest. And recently, 60 CEOs signed a letter to the state legislature that successfully prompted bipartisan opposition to five equally horrendous bills that would have mandated hospitals and schools to check for documents.

Still, proponents of SB 1070 call it a "huge success," and that is where immigrant rights advocates might even agree.

SB 1070 has strengthened the immigrant justice movement of Arizona. For many, it served as a wake up call that we cannot spend all of our energy reacting to one horrible piece of legislation after another or hoping for a timely and humane overhaul of federal immigration policies. Families have been waiting for far too long. SB 1070 rallied and unified coalitions of immigrant, faith-based, and human rights groups. These partnerships have grown beyond the response last summer, forming neighborhood committees and building the capacity of communities to care for and protect one another.

In the midst of daily deportations that abruptly and tragically tear families apart, a silent war of attrition, this community-building has provided immeasurable strength and hope. It is social consummation, a sacred in-the-streets theology. As endurance is the consummation of faith, we are committed more than ever to collective perseverance and working for justice -- one community at a time.

This untold impact of last year's horrible Arizona legislation is not officially measured, but it has a trickle-up effect with the potential to influence the spirit of the next debate. Indeed, the power of community resilience is yet another social and spiritual contribution from our immigrant neighbors; for that I am grateful.

Maryada Vallet works with No More Deaths, a humanitarian initiative on the U.S.-Mexico border, which promotes faith-based principles for immigration reform.

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