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“Show Your Papers” Provision is a Win for Harmful Policies and Anti-Immigrant Sentiment

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By Gerry Hudson
SEIU Int’l Executive Vice President

For decades, racially discriminatory laws kept African Americans separate and unequal through a system of fear and injustice. Legally sanctioned laws required slaves to show their papers to slave catchers who would then bring slaves back to their masters. Today, the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the “show your papers” provision of Arizona’s SB1070 the discriminatory provision that forces law enforcement to request immigration papers of anyone they suspect to be undocumented.

This is not a good day for America. The Supreme Court’s ruling is yet another demonstration of the coordinated attacks on working families, including people of color, who want to contribute to our society and make a better future for their children and generations to come. The provision in Arizona’s law that the Supreme Court upheld allows law enforcement officials to ask for papers if they suspect someone of being an illegal immigrant. Let’s face it. This means if you’re brown, you may be suspect.

Georgia and Alabama also now have laws on the books that specifically target people of color, including Afro-immigrants like the Mathe family in Atlanta, Ga., who sought political asylum from South Africa. There are three million Afro-immigrants and 400,000 undocumented Afro-immigrants across the country who want to become full contributors to our communities. Collectively, there are at least 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. All need national comprehensive immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship.

No group deserves injustice and inequality. No group deserves to be denied access to the American Dream. Yet, we are in the midst of a brazen intolerance against immigrants and people of color, voting rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights and the civil and human rights of people who want to contribute to our communities and secure the American Dream for their families. Right-wing conservatives are attacking our core values. Their divisive tactics and scapegoating policies have nothing to do with job creation or finding solutions for income inequality and unemployment or making the richest among us pay their fair share. We all agree that the nation needs comprehensive immigration reform that supports economic opportunity for everyone. We all agree that passing comprehensive immigration reform is a job that Congress must take on.

In the meantime, however, we have a job to take on. We must prepare to make our voices heard and move this country forward, not backwards to fugitive laws and legalized discrimination that hurts all working families and our character as a nation. We must send a message to lawmakers that racial injustice on any level is intolerable.

On November 6, let’s show our character as a nation and sound the alarm at the ballot box on “show me your papers” laws and all the other shameless attacks against working families.

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