Showing support for undocumented Hispanic immigrants in Arizona, a group of clergy and social activists from L.A.-based Jewish and interfaith organizations joined hundreds of people, from workers unions, advocacy groups and more, in traveling from Los Angeles to Phoenix on July 29.
Rabbi Jonathan Klein of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice and Elissa Barrett of the Progressive Jewish Alliance were among those who rode with a bus caravan of 11 buses that left Los Angeles early Thursday morning and arrived in Phoenix the same day to demonstrate outside the state capitol building on behalf of Hispanic immigrants.
“It’s important for Jews to be visible in the struggle,” Barrett said. Standing outside a church where demonstrators assembled before marching to the state capitol building, Barrett recalled how she felt earlier that morning, on the bus, crossing over the Colorado River into Arizona and seeing what she described as the “sun, sand and sky” outside her window.
“I felt the level of desperation and fortitude of a dream that would carry someone into this country,” Barrett said. “[For] migrants who work 15-hour days, who have one-day weekends, there has to be some way to create humane immigration reform in this country.”
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The demonstration was organized to take place on the same day that SB 1070, Arizona’s controversial new immigration law, went to effect. On Wednesday, one day earlier, federal judge Susan Bolton ordered a temporary injunction against several of the more contested points of SB 1070—which aims to discourage illegal immigration into Arizona—including one that would have given the state’s law officials the right to check the immigration status of anybody lawfully pulled over, detained or arrested, and another that would have obligated immigrants to carry around their immigration documents at all times.
Bolton ordered the injunction on the grounds that these actions fall under federal responsibility as opposed to state responsibility.
Bolton’s decision did not negate the need for Thursday’s demonstration, according to Klein. “There’s a still a racist state government to make life miserable for people and torment them,” Klein said, speaking during a phone interview before the trip to Arizona. “There’s every reason that we should still go. Even if it’s enjoined [temporarily prohibited] it doesn’t mean the issue goes away. [It] just means a stay of execution.”
On Thursday afternoon, Klein, Barrett and the hundreds of demonstrators marched for approximately one mile, from a church to the state capitol building, and, waving signs and wearing T-shirts with messages in support of immigrant rights, they gathered on a lawn outside the offices of Arizona’s senate and House of Representatives. Expressing solidarity with the state’s undocumented immigrants, the demonstrators also urged Hispanic citizens to register to vote before Arizona’s fall elections.
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Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, the group that organized the one-day trip, estimated that nearly 550 people participated on Thursday. Leo Baeck Temple congregants Suzy Marks and Ralph Fertig were apart of this group.
Marks echoed the rhetoric of opponents of SB 1070 who believe the bill, at least in the form that was signed into law by Arizona governor Jan Brewer last April, encourages the state’s law officials to single people out based on the color of their skin.
“I came because I don’t like racial profiling,” Marks said. She added that Jews in particular should sympathize with the cause of Hispanic immigrants. “The same thing happened to the Jews in Europe [during the Holocaust],” Marks said.
The Los Angeles demonstrators left the site of Arizona’s state capitol building at approximately 5 p.m. and arrived back in Los Angeles, in a parking lot outside Dodger Stadium, at nearly 1 a.m.