The day after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a hotly debated ruling on Arizona’s controversial immigration law, a panel of leaders gathered at the Walter Cronkite School to discuss issues facing the Arizona Hispanic community.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a civil-rights organization, led the 2012 Latino State of the State event Tuesday. It was streamed live over the Internet from the Cronkite Theater, allowing citizens across the country to listen to the discussion.
“We were looking for a venue that would give us the ability to live stream on the Web,” MALDEF President Thomas Saenz said. “It was really about connecting the rest of the country to what is going on here in Arizona.”
The panel of Hispanic leaders focused on Senate Bill 1070, the state’s controversial immigration law that was partly upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday.
Saenz said the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday will result in widespread racial profiling because officers will be left with no training and no ability to enforce such a law without relying on stereotypes about undocumented immigrants.
Phoenix resident Phillip Juarez, 52, agreed.
“The decision made on Monday is all about prejudice, targeting people and judging others on how they look,” Juarez said. “I’m not a fan of it.”
Luis Arellano, founder of Contigo-Global Philanthropy, attended the event and said he thought the court’s ruling was fair.
“I decided to come to MALDEF because I wanted to further my involvement and education on the community’s events,” Arellano said. “I think the decision is fair because it leaves a lot of room for speculation. I hope it motivates people.”
Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, a panel member, talked about how much of an impact the law has had on the Latino community.
“People are mad here; people are so upset that I think that will drive them to get out and vote. I think the fear is generating to anger, and anger will generate into votes and we will change Arizona,” Wilcox said.
Another panel member, Petra Falcon, the executive director of Promise Arizona, said Arizona’s growing anti-illegal-immigration environment has been an eye-opener because it has brought the community together.
“We have found a way to take a stand and say, ‘This is not the Arizona we want to be a part of,’” Falcon said. “Whether natives to Arizona or migrants, we want what every other American wants.”
Saenz said the change MALDEF is looking for will probably start in Phoenix because it’s such a central part of the state’s politics.
“I think it was important to hold MALDEF in downtown Phoenix because it’s such a critical part of Arizona, and so much of the action related to the issues that were discussed have happened in Phoenix,” he said.
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