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Arizona Anti-Immigration Bills: How LUCHA Is Addressing Republican Bills

Organizers warn that the bills will lead to harassment of communities of color.

By Tori Gantz, Teen Vogue

Amid a mounting humanitarian crisis along the southern border, Arizona lawmakers from both parties are scrambling to act. Democrats and Republicans alike blame the federal government for failing to provide the resources needed to address the thousands of migrants hoping to enter the United States. But they have different ideas about what to do next.

The Republican delegation in the state house, led by congressional candidate Ben Toma, is pushing through a set of bills that would allow state police and local agents to investigate and detain non-US citizens who enter Arizona from anywhere other than a lawful port of entry. The immigrant rights organization Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) calls it “one of the most extreme anti-immigrant and racist bill packages ever introduced in Arizona's history.”

Though Democratic governor Katie Hobbs vetoed one bill that the ACLU of Arizona said “would put communities of color across the state at greater risk of harassment and arrest by local and state police,” in mid-March, legislators in the Republican-controlled Senate greenlit two bills — HB 2748 and HB 2821 — with nearly identical language. Senate Democrats walked out of meetings that day to protest the proposed legislation, joining students and members from local community groups to rally outside the Capitol against the majority caucus’ approach.

Karime Rodriguez is one of the students speaking out against anti-immigrant legislation in the state. A junior at Grand Canyon University and manager of Arizona Center for Empowerment’s services department, Rodriguez assists LUCHA members with DACA and residency renewals and classes, including English language, computer literacy, and naturalization test prep.

Teen Vogue caught up with Rodriguez to hear about how young Arizonans and their families are educating each other about what’s happening in the state and what they’re doing to resist.

This conversation has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Teen Vogue: What drove you to become engaged in this work?

Karime Rodriguez: I am an immigrant myself. My family and I came to Arizona when I was only two years old. Arizona is the home that I've known basically my entire life. My family, they’re all immigrants as well. Everything that LUCHA stands for and everything that LUCHA fights for is what I know that my family, my community need. So me being engaged in this work is me putting in my little grain of sand and helping to advance equitable housing and immigrant rights in the state of Arizona, which [I] know will help to benefit my community.

TV: What does the youth mobilization effort look like?

KR: LUCHA tries to engage with students all the time.… A key piece, especially for me when I started in my advocacy world, was a lack of confidence where I really felt that I didn't belong in spaces with legislators because of my background. And I lacked the confidence to say, “No, I am a constituent of the state of Arizona and I deserve to voice my opinions about what I want my state to look like and how I want my state to run.”

We often hold Know Your Rights workshops in various schools around the Valley. We also do LUCHA Listens sessions where we talk about an issue in our state and listen to feedback from our community on how they want us to go about resolving this issue. We hold community rallies, digital campaigns, and community forums to continue to engage students. We start as early as high school education and then continue on to students throughout college.

TV: How are young people participating in the movement?

KR: Involvement looks different for everybody. Not always does somebody have the opportunity to get out of class on a Wednesday afternoon to meet us at the Capitol, which we fully understand. We really try to let our members know that you can get involved through posting on social media… You can always reach out to your legislators via email and let them know how you're feeling about these bills and what you want them to do in response.

For me, that's very important because my schedule is stretched pretty thin with working full-time and going to school full-time, but I still find little pockets of dedicated time throughout my day to make sure that I'm doing my part.

TV: Why do you think these policies targeting immigrants are being pushed in Arizona right now?

KR: I think a lot of this has to do with the attention that we are receiving at our southern border. Republicans are literally calling this the “Arizona [Border] Invasion Act.”… I mean, calling it an “invasion act” already strips away the humanity of our immigration crisis.

It's a way for Republicans to paint a picture in a state and use fear tactics to try to bring this sort of rhetoric back, which our people have already said we don't want here. I also think that it's in response to a lot of anti-immigrant bills that we're seeing around the country, like in Texas and Florida.

TV: How would the proposed laws affect students?

KR: Basically, these bills would classify the crossing of undocumented immigrants outside of a legal port of entry at our southern border as a state crime. That would allow local judges to decide immigration cases and for somebody, for example, like myself — thankfully, I've already been able to adjust my status, but if I hadn't had that — that means that I [could be] be detained and prosecuted for being here unlawfully.

This is important for students and everybody in the state of Arizona because it won't allow us to live our regular lives. We'll live in fear, again, like how we did in SB 1070 [a notorious law designed to facilitate the deportation of undocumented immigrants, much of which was eventually struck down by the Supreme Court]. I was here, I lived in Arizona during this time, and I can tell you it was scary for everyone. I fear [someone from] my community driving, and if they are stopped at a traffic light…will they be criminalized? Also, as a student, and being younger, I have my parents to worry about. It's a lot of added stress on top of just trying to progress, trying to get my college education.

TV: How are people responding?

KR: We have a lot of engagement from the younger voters and younger college students, especially, because a lot of us, we have family and friends who are directly impacted by bills like this. A big chunk of us were here during the SB 1070 era, but we were children so we didn't fully understand the implications of that law. However, now that we're older and we're voting age, we can make a difference.

Younger people are starting to come out to the polls more often, and we're realizing our power.… Students and young people especially are trying to see where we can make our change.

TV: What do you want to see happen if these bills go before voters as ballot measures?

KR: If these bills make it to the ballots, it is up to us — everybody, but students especially — to mobilize and make our voices heard. Because time and time again, we see that immigration is a big topic that is important to the voters in Arizona. And being younger and seeing all of this unfold before our eyes, I think it's up to us to really, really come together and strategize. I don’t think we should be underestimated.

Our legislators should start to take a look at the younger demographic because we are a force and together we will make change. We are the future of the state of Arizona and we need to start shaping how we want our state to look.

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