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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

UAgainst calling for the impossible

Students, faculty and community members from a group known as UAgainst SB1070 will be holding a protest at noon today on the UA Mall. Members of the group are calling for immediate action, including denouncement of the bill by President Robert Shelton and refusal to implement the law by the University of Arizona Police Department. While political awareness that does not involve an MTV ad campaign is always a welcome change, the members of this group are setting their goals higher than the International Space Station.

For those who have been under a rock on the moon for the past few months, Arizona Senate Bill 1070 makes it a state misdemeanor crime for a person who is not a U.S. citizen to be in Arizona without carrying registration documents required by federal law. It also obligates police to make an attempt to determine a person’s immigration status if there is reasonable suspicion that the person is not a U.S. citizen. Its supporters say the law reinforces federal immigration law and critics say it legalizes racial profiling. Under the law, police may arrest a person if there is probable cause that the person is in the U.S. unlawfully. Changes made after the law was originally passed state that race may not be used as a factor, but critics remain skeptical.

Your author does not mean to discourage the protestors braving the sun to make their opinions heard; this is a defensible and even admirable pursuit. But this group is not striving for awareness: they are calling for such illegal and impossible actions as a state-funded police department refusing to enforce a state law. Though the comparison is glib, it’s just as likely that a tank-topped demonstration by the Lambda Alpha Mu Epsilon bro-geois would persuade UAPD to overlook underage drinkers.

The sentiments of the group start out well enough, according to a press release on the protest. “”We commit to working to make UA campus a safe space for everyone. We call on our fellow Wildcats to monitor, speak against and report any abuses against community members.””

But instead of focusing on educating voters and encouraging engagement in the civic process, the protest organizers set their sights elsewhere. Their press release is entitled “”Students Demand UA President to Refuse Implementation of SB1070,”” and the listed objectives of the protest are include an intention to persuade “”President Shelton to denounce SB 1070,”” for “”UAPD to publicly refuse to enforce SB 1070,”” and to “”demand the repeal of SB 1070.””

Starting with the most obvious, a state-funded police department cannot, will not and should not publicly neglect to enforce a state law. Likewise, the president of a state university is not going to (and, notably, should not) refuse to implement a state law. Anarchy may seem preferable to what some view as racial profiling, but this is the system of government in the United States, for better or for worse.

Shelton won’t refuse to enforce a genuinely-passed state law. He can’t even talk about it, much less denounce the law. According to the UA Department of External Relations, UA employees are prohibited from “”stating or implying, orally or in writing, that the employee is speaking on behalf of the University on a political … issue.”” While the group could appeal to Robert Shelton, private citizen, given their language the group is far more interested in his position as UA president.

For Shelton to comment on the issue is not only against UA policy, it’s against state law: As the External Relations website explains, “”Arizona Revised Statutes § 15-1633 prohibits the use of University personnel, equipment, materials, building or other resources for the purpose of influencing the outcomes of election. This section encompasses elections for public office, bond issues, and initiative and referendum propositions.”” As UAgainst SB1070 is calling for a vote in the legislature that would repeal the law, this provision precludes Shelton from even commenting on this issue.

Political awareness, civic engagement, and (p)reservation of one’s rights are all admirable components of the democratic process. Advocating that government organizations ignore the law is not. Though some may argue the constitutionality of the law, its passage was through legitimate legal channels. If today’s protestors would really like to promote political change, they must operate within the system, too. If one disagrees with the actions of an elected official, all one can do is raise awareness so a different official with different politics will take office in the future. Rather than making rash, impossible and anarchic demands, the most meaningful action critics of the law can take is also one of the least glamorous: voting. 

— Anna Swenson is a sophomore majoring in English. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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