Our VoiceImmigration

Silently Complicit No More

Guest Blogger • Sep 02, 2010
The following article is one of a series of accounts from students who recently returned  from Arizona. They were part of a delegation that spent a week touring the state amid  the enactment of controversial law SB 1070. The Center for New Community, a national civil rights organization based in Chicago, sponsored the trip, which included nine students from Washington D.C., New York, Chicago and Colorado.


By Nina Masters

I came to Arizona knowing the immorality and injustice of SB 1070. I left understanding the individual lives torn apart by this law, the children living in fear of men in uniform dragging their parents, uncles, or grandmothers away from them before their very eyes. This trip cemented my conviction that those in this country without documents are human beings. They are simply trying to make a better life for themselves and their children.

Pursuing the American Dream, the promise of hope, they are not criminals and do not deserve to be criminalized as part of a white nationalist agenda. Hearing the heart-wrenching accounts of children my age who have been through more fear, injustice, and suffering than anyone should endure makes me ashamed of the country that I live in. I have realized that by not actively helping these humans—humans who are treated like animals - I am complicit in the racist actions of Sheriff Arpaio, Russell  Pearce, and all of the men and women like them.

I came to this trip nervous, not having experience in community organizing but only having a background in research on the anti-immigrant movement.  I would have been lost without the guiding ideas of the other students on this trip—students who have dedicated years to fighting racism, discrimination, and upholding social justice.

I honestly feel like the most affecting part of this experience was not walking through the desert near the border, seeing the inside of the Florence Detention Center, or even debating Joe Arpaio: it was witnessing these perspective-altering experiences with a group of like-minded individuals who had already implemented change in their communities.

I was incredibly inspired by the motivation of those around me, the ways in which they tackled problems and never gave up. In car rides between our visits, the group always brainstormed and proposed ways to bring our new knowledge back to our communities, to organize and educate and ultimately defeat this unfair law on the opposite coast.

These five days changed me in a very profound way. I cannot go back to New York and be content doing nothing. Witnessing the pleas for help from sad-faced teens, hardened adults, and young children, who know to run and hide when the police appear, provoked the deepest feeling of guilt I have ever experienced.  We brushed in and out of these people’s lives, spending only five days in this harsh, anti-immigrant climate. These innocent, well-meaning people struggle every day to live out the American dream. They may be lacking documentation but their motives are in the right place.

Five days ago I expected to see the “political climate” in Arizona and assess how communities were reacting to SB 1070.I didn’t think I would come home different, deeply compelled to end these people’s suffering.  I cannot forget the stories, the tears, and the faces of those whose lives have been broken by the militarization of the border. And now I will not stop until I have exhausted all of my power trying to prevent this country from getting away with scapegoating the newest “outsider.” These people are not aliens, they are not animals, and I cannot let them be treated as such.

Nina Masters is a prospective chemistry major at Princeton University from New York City. She found her voice defending immigrant’s rights while researching the anti-immigrant movement for the Center for New Community this past year.
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