SB1070 made my state of Arizona about as unwelcoming as you’d imagine for a then-young Latino guy like me.
I can recall being called an “illegal” in an aisle of a Home Depot by an old woman who was surprised that I spoke English, and that I called her out, asking her who she was to be calling me an illegal. I was angry and I remember being frustrated that this was going to be, for some time, a reality I was going to have to deal with.
I personally experienced the ugliness that percolated up into the public sphere after SB1070 passed. I was asked for my status while out shopping. I was harassed by people who were aggressive and abusive.
I’ve read a lot about SB-4 in Texas, and thought back to SB1070. From what I can tell, and I’m not the first person to notice this, SB-4 is SB1070 on steroids. I myself would not want to put myself or my family through the wringer in Texas if this bill is in place. Point blank, I would not attend the AILA Annual Conference if it were to be held in Texas next year, and I would not bring my family along either. I feel that I protest every day here in AZ, pushing back against the racist policies advocated by our current legislature. I do not need my family to be further subjected to the possibility of harassment, while paying for the privilege.
Yes, SB-4 doesn’t come into effect until September 1 of this year, and yes, some localities are already suing to stop the provisions in court, but the fact is, it passed and was not only signed by Governor Abbott, but was overtly praised and promulgated as something good by that same governor. Something real and ugly was done in Texas despite all of our best efforts and the courageous work of our AILA Texas colleagues to fight it. SB-4’s enactment hits many of us hard, renewing old fears and slapping down our hopes for a better, more welcoming future.
Even going to Texas and participating in a protest or other civil action would be a very different experience for many of us who do not have the luxury of protesting without having to think about the very possible and real disparate treatment by authorities due to the color of our skin or the accents we carry.
I am grateful that AILA stood for diversity, inclusivity, and the safety of its members. This was not an easy decision, but I feel strongly that it was the right one, and I have heard from many members of the Hispanic Latino Interest Group (HLIG) of AILA, of which I am moderator, who felt the same. I am grateful and proud to be a member of such a powerful, thoughtful and compassionate organization that speaks with its dollars and sense.
Written by Ruben Luis Reyes, AILA AZ Chapter Chair