Today was a particularly special day for me in Washington, D.C. because I had the privilege to start my internship at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH). As soon as I stepped into the office, I was welcomed by the smiling faces of Natalie, Kimberly, and Elizabeth. I felt the positive energy beaming from these individuals as soon as I arrived and noticed that, like me, they were eagerly awaiting the decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on Arizona’s SB1070 and/or the Affordable Care Act, which many anticipated would come down on that day. The decisions for both of these pieces of legislation would not only affect the lives of many people, but particularly the lives of immigrants and people of color. It is because of this and because of the values that NLIRH upholds that everyone at the office and elsewhere was extremely eager to find out the decision from the Supreme Court in order to continue supporting the Latino/a community in the best ways possible.
The ambiance in the office was not only contagious but also thrilling; multiple tabs were opened on internet browsers—everything from live blogs to a variety of articles revealing the latest updates happening in the Supreme Court. At around 10:30AM, the decision was made and public releases were starting to appear all over the internet from various organizations. As it turned out, there was no decision made for the Affordable Care Act but the U.S. Supreme Court did rule a mixed decision (5-3) for Arizona’s SB1070 striking 3 out of 4 sections in question, but upholding Section 2B – the provision that requires state and local law enforcement to determine the immigration status of a person detained or arrested whenever there is “reasonable suspicious” the detained person is undocumented – also known as the “Papers, please” provision. As Latinas/os, advocates, and civil rights supporters, we all know the amount of harm that this particular section could have in our communities and to our friends and family members. If you, like me, are from the DMV (D.C.-Maryland-Virginia) area or have seen the documentary, 9500 Liberty, then you have already seen many of these detrimental effects of Arizona-like immigration laws—especially in Virginia. Not only do these laws further marginalize Latinas/os but they also create an environment of hate and racialized crime. If Section 2B is not taken away, then racial profiling will undoubtedly be a result, causing constant fear and tension in the lives of many families in our communities. The fear that may ensue from this legislation will not allow many families to live their lives to the best of their ability and will cause them to continuously be targeted for their skin color or appearance.
Now more than ever, it is imperative for us to continue to fight for the voices of Latino/as and people of color to make sure that Section 2B is ruled unconstitutional in pending civil rights litigation against SB1070 and blocked from being implemented. Ultimately, we cannot let Section 2B continue to remain as a part of the final decision because there is no right way of implementing “Papers, please” without unjustly accusing people of color and denying equal justice.As advocates for civil rights, we have to remain in solidarity and fight for justice and equality.
What excites me the most about this movement and the many people who have fought against SB1070 is the youth presence. As a rising college senior at the University of Maryland-College Park, it has been amazing to be a part of the youth movement fighting for justice and civil rights in Arizona and in states like Alabama and Virginia. It has also been impressive to see the role that social media has in all of this and to see it continuously grow and be used for positive social change.
I am so excited for the rest of my summer here at NLIRH and to be a part of all the amazing work that this organization is doing for the community by continuously putting the rights of Latinas and immigrants at the forefront of their work. As various articles continue to point out—yes, what occurred today was a victory in many ways, but a downfall as well. Please continue to spread the word out and to get others on board—La lucha todavía continua!
And make sure to tune in on Thursday, June 28 to hear how the Supreme Court rules on the Affordable Care Act. NLIRH will be providing resources and materials on how these two decisions today will impact the health and rights of immigrant communities across the country.
– By Karen Guzman, D.C. Policy Intern