Court Rulings on Immigration, Arpaio Will Make Arizona Sizzle this Summer: Op-Ed

Summer is here, and things are heating up in Arizona.

Several major rulings from the federal government that have recently come out, and more are expected, leading up to the Freedom Summer planned for the month of July 2012 in Tucson, Arizona. We will explore the major U.S. vs. Arizona/Tucson decisions here.

SB1070 – Immigration

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is expected to rule on the SB1070 case this week or by next Monday. With a majority of SCOTUS being conservative, and based on the hearings that left much to be desired for Latinos, a pro-SB1070 ruling is expected.

Preparations are already being made for massive protests and resistance from the activists and even Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is preparing for the ruling with her latest executive order to law enforcement.

While conservatives are silent on Brewer’s executive order, they were quick to criticize the President Obama's own executive actions last Friday, when he announced that DREAMers would not be deported. The Tucson DREAMers community was elated, especially with one of their own being detained Thursday night (released Friday afternoon), but Latinos are still demanding a path to citizenship via the DREAM Act

HB2281 – Ethnic Studies

Last week’s good news for Latinos actually began on Thursday with a ruling by a federal judge that the author of HB2281 and current Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne cannot intervene in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) desegregation plan which is expected to bring back the Mexican American Studies (MAS) classes.

Judge Bury lifted the TUSD desegregation order in 2009, but after the current administration’s policies - which have been met with resistance from Tucson’s Latino leaders that go beyond the MAS issue - the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals placed TUSD back under a desegregation order and Special Master Willis Hawley was appointed to work out a plan that will supercede the superintendent and school board’s policies to get TUSD into what is known as “unitary status” meaning the district is no longer considered segregated.

Under the federal court order:

The Special Master shall have unfettered access to District staff, the Governing Board members, schools, and District data and information. The District will respond promptly to the Special Master’s requests for information. The Special Master may communicate directly with District personnel (i.e. without counsel present). The District may designate a “point person” to assist the Special Master and to coordinate communications with other District employees.

The Special Master’s plan is expected in July 2012 and there must be community forums for input that must be considered for 30 days after his plan is revealed. The MAS issue is guaranteed to be one of the hottest issues, along with his actions regarding the forced segregation of Latinos in the ELL program for Spanish-speakers that takes them out of the classroom for 4 hours each and everyday.

In addition to the federal court intervention from the federal judge and the Special Master with the desegration case there is another case regarding the constitutionality of HB2281. The hearing took place at the beginning of the spring session and Horne himself came to personally defend his bill. If the judge was going to deny the MAS teachers and students’ motion, one expects that he would have done so already. The ruling is also expected before the Special Master’s plan is revealed since it will be important to know what challenges will face TUSD until the status of HB2281 is determined.

Department of Justice, Office of Civil Rights and Arizona/Tucson

The DOJ is now suing Sheriff Joe Arpaio over allegations of civil rights violations, in particular against Hispanics. A federal judge ruled on December 23, 2011 that any Hispanic that has ever been stopped by the Sheriff’s office can be part of a class-action lawsuit based on racial-profiling, and that no persons can be detained based solely on the belief that they may be in the country illegally. Sheriff Arpaio now heads to federal court on July 19th, 2012, and due to a massive purging of documents related to the case, the judge is expected to be very strict for the destruction of evidence by the Sheriff’s office.

Also in the news for their treatment of Latinos is TUSD, which now has at least four ongoing civil rights violations investigations by the Office of Civil Rights, and more are expected as they are filed this summer.

Combined with community forums on civil rights violations, the Special Master’s plan, a federal ruling and the SB1070 ruling, things are certain to heat up in the Sonoran Desert during this election year, especially as a nationwide call for activists to join in Tucson Freedom Summer goes out.

Will SB1070 and HB2281 be repealed, and will Arizona elect a Latino US Senator this year?