Yesterday, the New York State Assembly passed a resolution condemning the recently passed Arizona SB 1070 law that will unfairly impact many Latinos in the state. Also yesterday approximately 50 people were arrested protesting the Arizona law. Below is the remarks of:
Jonathan Tasini, candidate for the Democratic nomination for the 15th Congressional District in New York, issued the following statement on his arrest yesterday during a demonstration against the Arizona immigration law.
Yesterday, I chose to be arrested, along with about 50 other people, during a demonstration in Manhattan against the racist, unconscionable Arizona immigration law. As the son of two immigrants, I will do everything I can to make sure that that law is opposed and overturned and that we rollback any future attempts to target undocumented immigrants.
While I am ready to go to jail in the future to stand up against injustice in our country, let’s be clear about yesterday’s experience. We were given the “red carpet” treatment. The entire process was organized, the police were cordial, we had expert lawyers watching every move and we were processed and released within a few hours–an inconvenience perhaps but nothing severe.
That is not the experience that faces many of the people who live in fear everyday that they may be hauled out of their workplaces, stopped and taken off the streets or torn away from their families. Undocumented immigrants can, in an instant, be tossed into a legal system that they do not understand, where they can often be treated harshly and severely, without benefit of expert counsel and, in a flash, they may lose their freedom and find themselves banished from our country.
This cannot be the American way. We are a country of immigrants. We must treat people here with dignity and respect, affording them a clear path to citizenship.
But, there are two other points that I have made for some time. First, we can never address the immigration challenge if we are not willing to take a hard look at the economic policies that we have imposed on our people and people around the world. Many of the people flowing into our country are economic refugees–they are victims of economic policies that have impoverished people around the world. Foremost among those policies are the failed so-called “free trade” deals–many of which have been supported by my opponent, Charles Rangel.
“Free Trade”–and NAFTA is the shining example–has forced wages down, and imposed austerity and poverty on millions of people. Millions of Mexicans, particularly farmers, have been economically broken by NAFTA, forcing them to look for work elsewhere–principally the U.S.–simply to feed their families. Until we, as a country, roll back policies like “free trade”, we will never help create an economic system that lifts people up and makes it possible for them to remain in the communities they cherish and want to live in. As a Member of Congress, I pledge to support immigration reform only if that reform truly confronts the larger economic systemic failures.
Second, the Arizona immigration law is a symptom of a large phenomena: blame the victim. For 30 years, the people have been robbed–by Wall Street, by an unfair tax system that lets the elite get away with paying virtually nothing in taxes while the working person shoulders a growing burden and by political leaders who care only about getting re-elected.
Instead of fixing the economic system, the victims of the robbery are now being told to pay for the robbery. In New York, our governor wants to lay off hard-working people, rather than have the courage to demand that the richest one percent pay a bit more in taxes, which would eliminate the fiscal crisis. In Washington, at a time when the greatest threat we face is the lack of good-paying jobs, we hear bi-partisan calls for “austerity” and “deficit reduction”, asking that working people take the hit, through cuts in Medicare, basic social services and an unwillingness of our elected leaders to extend a hand to the people.
The sham must end.