Immigration Conference Meets in Arizona
In December, representatives from immigration advocacy groups across the country convened in Phoenix for the tenth annual National Immigrant Integration Conference. The conference is an attempt to bring various advocacy groups and immigrant communities together in a place where they can learn from one another and work together to advance their common cause. According to the conference’s own description, “We believe America's success is rooted in our ongoing commitment to welcoming and integrating newcomers.” Phoenix was selected as the host city of the 2017 conference specifically to provide insight into policies Arizona has held, which greatly resemble federal policies now being promised or implemented by the White House.
The director of Puente Arizona, Carlos Garcia, described the rise of immigration advocates in response to state policies that attempted to force people out of the country by making life as miserable as possible for immigrants. “What you see Trump doing, we've lived over the last 15 years,” Garcia told AZCentral. These policies drew national attention after their legal climax, Senate Bill 1070, became law in 2010. The law required law enforcement to make reasonable attempts to identify the status of suspected immigrants, among other controversial rules. This particular aspect of the law was highlighted as encouraging racial profiling. Puente Arizona was instrumental in legal and community opposition to the law, which finally suffered significant reductions after going before the Supreme Court in 2016.
Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the National Partnership for New Americans, described the purpose of hosting the event in Arizona. “What happened in Arizona is now happening around the country, and people are coming to learn and plan for how to deal with this,” he said. This included one panel where advocates from Arizona described the methods they used to fight for immigrant rights, including boycotts, lawsuits, voter drives, and various forms of protest.
Tadios Belay, program coordinator of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration warned that immigration is not just a Hispanic issue. His group fights for black immigrants, with Belay noting concern for black immigrant populations from South America, Africa, and the Caribbean. Belay, an Ethiopian immigrant himself, argued that black immigrants are disproportionately targeted by President Trump’s policies but do not receive the same attention as Latinx immigrants. He attended the conference partly to learn from other advocacy groups and communities, and to raise awareness of his community’s concerns. More immigrant communities began to feel extra pressure after Trump terminated the DREAM Act, which protected individuals who immigrated as children, as well as ending the “temporary protective status” of people fleeing turmoil in Nicaragua and Haiti.
As the National Immigration Integration Conference site claims, “our nation prospers when everyone has the opportunity to succeed.” Advocacy groups and grassroots movements are crucial in the fight to protect immigrant communities from unjust policies. Attorneys familiar with immigration law are necessary to defend individuals targeted by enforcement agencies. Together, we can make our communities stronger and more vibrant. If you are experiencing difficulties with immigration law, do not hesitate to get the help you need to claim the justice you deserve.