PJSA statement on Arizona Immigration Law

As one of the leading professional organizations in the fields of peacebuilding, conflict studies and social justice, the Peace and Justice Studies Association strongly condemns Arizona's new immigration law, SB 1070. Joining with other academic and educational associations in related fields, we believe that the law is draconian and ill-advised, and that its application threatens to inflame anti-immigrant sentiments and undermine constructive solutions to the challenges faced by communities in Arizona and across the nation.

Below is a statement unanimously endorsed by the board of directors of the PJSA, which has been delivered to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer calling upon her to rescind this unjust law. In so doing, we recall the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. in his landmark essay “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” following the teachings of St. Augustine: “'An unjust law is no law at all.' … Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.” SB 1070 is such a law, and accordingly we join with myriad others in calling for its immediate rescission.

May 9, 2010

The Honorable Jan Brewer
Governor of Arizona
1700 West Washington
Phoenix, Arizona 85007

Dear Governor Brewer:

We, the members of the Board of Directors of the Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA), wish to express our deep concern with and unequivocal condemnation of Senate Bill 1070, which you signed into law on April 23, 2010. By making it a state crime to be in Arizona without federal authorization, and also making it a punishable offense to support someone without the appropriate documents, SB 1070 criminalizes countless decent human beings who live, work, pay taxes, and raise their families in Arizona. In addition, the enforcement of such a constitutionally problematic law threatens everyone’s civil rights in the process, and undermines the potential for fostering an environment based on peace and social justice. We unanimously denounce this law and strenuously urge that you rescind it in the name of compassion and human dignity.

PJSA is a non-partisan professional organization of scholars, educators and practitioners that was formed in 2001 as a result of a merger of the Consortium on Peace Research, Education and Development and the Peace Studies Association. We are dedicated to bringing together academics, teachers, and activists to explore alternatives to violence and share visions and strategies for peacebuilding, social justice, and social change. As such, our international membership is both knowledgeable about and concerned with the problems associated with social issues such as immigration. While immigration reform in the United States may be overdue, we also know that using this to justify state laws that usurp federal authority over immigration will create many more legal and social problems than it resolves.

Police officers are not immigration officers. Putting them in the position of enforcing federal immigration law will destroy the trust between police officers and communities that is necessary for effective law enforcement. It will also lead to unwarranted and prolonged detention of citizens and legal residents, increasing the likelihood of civil rights litigation against police departments, cities, and towns, and potentially damaging family units across the state. Despite language ostensibly prohibiting racial profiling, this will be the de facto reality of the law’s implementation. Physical appearance, particularly being of Hispanic background, will unavoidably remain the primary factor determining whether someone is or is not asked to prove their citizenship or residency status. For all these reasons, many law enforcement leaders across the country, as well as in Arizona, oppose this law. It would be wise to heed the objections of the law enforcement officers who are now faced with enforcing this unjust law.

For some, the stated intent of SB 1070 unequivocally is to cleanse Arizona of its undocumented immigrants and their families, among them children and other relatives born in the United States, as evidenced by the fact that legislative supporters of this law have repeatedly and proudly described this as part of a strategy to make life so unbearable for undocumented residents and their families that they will leave the state. Any law whose goal and effect is to drive an ethnic population to leave its place of residence is a crime against humanity under current international law. SB 1070 risks making Arizona a pariah state on the international as well as national stage. Furthermore, whatever the intent, at minimum this law will create a climate of fear so intense as to make low-wage workers even more vulnerable and therefore much easier to exploit by unscrupulous employers. Denying immigrant workers protections or otherwise making them more vulnerable does not stop them from coming. Rather, it simply drives them further underground and makes them more exploitable.

We further observe that the climate of fear and hostility created by this law is antithetical to the aims of promoting a more just and peaceful world. By institutionalizing chauvinism and magnifying differences of race of ethnicity, SB 1070 promises to enlarge the gulf between diverse communities and pit groups against one another rather than encouraging people to work together to find mutually-beneficial solutions to challenging issues. Moreover, this bill will make it less likely that people of color in need of assistance will reach out to either law enforcement or other community members, thus enhancing their vulnerability and disabling the potential resolution of conflicts in a constructive manner on a community-wide level. For all of these reasons, we find thatSB 1070 contravenes the mission and values of our organization.

We recognize the political pressures placed upon you to sign the law, but we appeal to you to provide the leadership that is expected and required of our public servants. We ask whether you truly want this to be your legacy. Please choose to be on the right side of history and work to rescind this patently unjust law. We thank you for your time and attention in this important matter.

Sincerely,

Board of Directors of the Peace and Justice Studies Association