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Arizona immigration law motivates Latino youth as DOJ sues Sheriff in civil rights probe

The U.S. Justice Department is suing Sheriff Joe Arpaio saying he has refused for more than a year to turn over records in an investigation into allegations his department discriminates against Latinos.  In partnership with federal immigration through a 287(g) agreement, Sheriff Arpaio is infamous for his “reign of terror” against immigrants in Arizona. His tactics have made him the undisputed poster boy for immigration enforcement through local police and an example of the dangers of racial profiling, triggering an investigation by the Justice Department over allegations of discrimination and unconstitutional searches and seizures.

Its the policies of Sheriff Arpaio’s and Arizona’s 287(g) agreement that target immigrants and their families that have left Latino youth feeling anxious and frustrated, yet motivated to defend fairness, freedom, and respect for diversity, according to a new National Council of La Raza report.

Federal inaction on comprehensive immigration reform has opened the door wide to a barrage of state and local measures (including Arizona’s SB1070) that target immigrants, generating anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment. As a result, many Latinos, whether they are recent immigrants or third-generation citizens of the United States, are feeling under attack.

The youth spoke about their worries for family and friends, their alarm over racial profiling and discrimination, and growing concern over the breakdown of the American values of equality and respect for diversity.  They also spoke about their resolve to overcome these challenges by taking action and getting more engaged in their communities.

Some of the comments in the report reflect their frustration with SB 1070 and the slow progress toward comprehensive immigration reform. “We were moving to find a solution with immigration and then [when] SB 1070 started we took 1,000 million steps back,” said one. “I hate the law, I feel it is inhumane, especially in a country where freedom is sought. It instills a common fear in immigrants no matter where they are because they are what police are looking for,” said another, feeling the impact of the law as a violation of justice.

Latino youth represent 22% of the U.S. population under the age of 18, and 92% are U.S. citizens and are a powerful voting bloc. They account for 22% of children under age 18, and by 2030 they are projected to make up nearly one-third (31%) of the child population.

Many expressed their resolve to overcome challenges presented through political activism. “The Latino community has to take action to move forward and overcome this barrier. Now we know that we need to stand up for ourselves and show others that we are the future leaders.”

It’s time to stop divisive politics and take action for immigration reform.

Photo courtesy nydailynews.com

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