USC Students plan to demonstrate in front of Tommy Trojan between noon and 2 p.m. Thursday, speaking out against a new Arizona law they say legalizes racial profiling.
The demonstration is a grassroots collaboration among students from various campus organizations, including Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlan de USC, the Latino Student Assembly, Chicanos for Progressive Education, Hermanos Unidos and Hermanas Unidas.
Arizona’s law, SB 1070, makes it a state misdemeanor to be in the United States illegally, which previously was only a crime under federal statutes. The new state law requires local law enforcement officers to determine the immigration status of people reasonably suspected to be in the country illegally. Though the law bans using race or ethnicity as the only reason for suspicion, opponents say it considers a group of people, based in part on their ethnicity, guilty until they prove themselves innocent.
“We need to have some action out there to say students at USC are not OK with this,” said, Luis Garcia Rico, a junior majoring in political science and American studies.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said the law, which will not go into effect until late summer, will untie the hands of police officers in a state that has more illegal border crossings than any other. She said the quality of the state’s public services has decreased because of illegal immigration, and Congress has been slow in revamping immigration laws.
Attendees at Thursday’s demonstration will be encouraged to fill out cards pledging their opposition to the law that will be sent to Brewer. Organizers did not disclose further details of the demonstration because they wanted to provide some surprises, but Juan Espinoza, one of the organizers of the protest, said to expect student speakers and other students posing in handcuffs.
“We want to demonstrate in a way that is intellectually entwined and visually appealing so that it sends a message that what Arizona is doing is not right,” said Espinoza, a sophomore majoring in international relations and communication.
The demonstration will be one of the first efforts at USC to press for reform of federal illegal immigration policy. Rico said the demonstration is aimed at showing solidarity and providing education.
“It’ll be a peaceful and organized protest because we don’t want this to be the end of the activism around this issue,” Rico said. “There’ll be moments where we get loud and rowdy, and there’ll be moments where we are more reserved.”
Rico said he could not guess how many students would attend, but about 570 students are listed as confirmed guests on the event’s Facebook page as of Wednesday evening.
“I’ve taught myself not to get too excited, but I’m expecting a very good turnout,” he said.
Emily Brooke, a freshman majoring in sociology, said she hopes there will be a greater sense of awareness on campus about the Arizona statute after the event.
“I’m hoping it lets the greater USC community know about the law and how we can go about getting it repealed and achieving more comprehensive immigration laws on the federal level rather than going state by state,” she said.
Rico said educational efforts would continue in the fall, with an attempt to bring a human angle to the debate.
People across the country have begun to boycott businesses in Arizona and have stopped traveling to the state. A Phoenix resident is attempting to collect enough signatures to place the issue on the November ballot for state voters to decide, and civil rights attorneys already plan to challenge the law in court.
“I doubt this law will ever be enforced because milder laws have been declared unconstitutional before,” said Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, an associate professor of Chicano studies at UCLA.
He said the boycotts from people in California and Mexico would have a massive impact on Arizona’s economy this summer. If the law is allowed to stand, Hinojosa-Ojeda said, it would be devastating for a state whose economy is so reliant on undocumented immigrants.
Espinoza said students must use their voice to protect these individuals.
“This is about stopping injustices against all the communities that are racially profiled against,” Espinoza said. “These people have no voice, so we as students will stand up for them.”
Kristin Inouye, a senior majoring in electrical engineering, said she would watch some of the demonstration.
“It’s definitely a really big deal, and it’s great to see people showing their support in California because even though it’s not Arizona, it still really means a lot,” she said.