Arizona residents speak out against SB1070 at Netroots Nation

Arizona’s new immigration law, SB1070, is set to officially take effect Thursday unless a federal judge stops it.

At the Netroots Nation conference in Las Vegas, I interviewed several people who live in Arizona to get their take on how it is impacting their state already.

Carmen Cornejo, an activist for the DREAM Act with an organization called CADENA, lives in Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix. She said that racial profiling already has been a problem and it will only get worse with SB1070.

She recalled an incident two years ago when her teenage son was stopped by the police while walking home. He didn’t have on his private school uniform because it was a day off school.


Carmen Cornejo

Police stopped and searched him giving no reason at all. Later when
Cornejo called police to complain they said they were looking for a
possible robbery suspect and there were reports of a Hispanic man
walking in the neighborhood from few days before.

To Cornejo this was clearly racial profiling and she says the new law SB1070 will result in even more reason to stop anybody who looks Hispanic. Police can give an excuse for the stop as they did in her son’s case.

“It is already happening in Arizona,” said Cornejo, 46. “(With SB1070) the police will just have more of an incentive to do it.”

Cornejo, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Mexico, said that she wants her two sons, now 14 and 16, to go to college anywhere but in Arizona.

“I don’t want my kids staying in Arizona, especially since they are Hispanic males,” she said.  “We feel that we can be targeted. But I feel empowered because I know my rights and I also have a lawyer on speed dial.”

Sarah Funtowicz, 31, is a second grade bilingual education teacher in Mesa. She said the new law has created a palpable fear among her students.

While walking across the campus, the students spotted a truck with lights. It was a city worker but one of the students thought it was a police car.

“There was an audible gasp and they recoiled,” she said. “I told them it’s not the sheriff. It’s O.K.”

Funtowicz is not Hispanic and she said her students shouldn’t  live in fear but some may have a parent or relative that is undocumented. She said the students are afraid of the police and one came into class saying she saw a police officer as if that were automatically bad.

“They are so scared,” she said. “And they are right to be scared.”

Several of Funtowicz’s students also told her that their families are going back to Mexico.

“Them being denied a good education in the United States is not beneficial in any way,” Funtowicz said.


Harry and Judy Zola

Harry and Judy Zola are retirees who live in Phoenix. They are active in the local Democratic Party and they are not Hispanic. But they have marched with the Hispanic community against SB1070.

They believe that the law will result in racial profiling.

“No one’s going to ask me for my identification,” said Judy Zola, 70, a petite blonde woman.

Her daughter also works in the tourism industry and her hotel has lost business as a result of a boycott of Arizona.

“I say boycott Arizona,” she said. “What they are doing is unconstitutional.”
A federal judge held a hearing on the six lawsuits against the law but a ruling has not yet been issued and may not become before the law goes into effect July 29.

The people I talked to from Arizona are worried. Meanwhile, the rest of the nation waits to see what will happen next.

(For full disclosure, I attended the Netroots Nation conference
through a scholarship funded by Democracy for America and
the National Council of La Raza

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