In Tucson, Immigrant Rights Fight Moves to the Classroom

In Tucson, Immigrant Rights Fight Moves to the Classroom

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Editor’s Note:
Youth have emerged as a driving force behind the immigrant rights movement – from DREAM Act supporters to those fighting Arizona’s anti-immigrant laws.  Elisa Meza, 20, is part of a youth coalition in Arizona that has been organizing against efforts there to dismantle a popular ethnic studies program in Tucson schools. Meza, a junior at the University of Arizona, writes that, increasingly, immigrant youth recognize anti-immigrant legislation as a threat to their futures.


When’s the last time youth clamored to take more literature and history courses?

A group of Tucson students demanded just that when they stormed a school district governing board meeting last Tuesday, where a controversial plan to cut the district’s ethnic studies department was to be voted on, and chained themselves to the seats of board members. Teachers and local elected officials were present to support the brave students engaged in civil disobedience, while a crowd of youth stood outside the packed chambers, rallying to show their support. The vote was put off until next month. The school district is now deciding whether to take punitive actions against students, using video footage captured during the demonstration.

The latest youth actions highlight a vibrant youth-led movement formed in the wake of Arizona’s SB 1070, a law that makes it a crime to be undocumented, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer last year. The governor hit another nerve when she signed H.B. 2281, the statewide ban on ethnic studies in public schools. The problem was that ethnic studies aren’t statewide. Ethnic studies courses are only available in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) schools; the only Ethnic Studies Department in a public school district in the nation.

In Tucson, Arizona, the intentions of state legislatures became obvious. If there’s any political transparency existing in this country, it’s here in the form of racist legislation. Just a week after S.B. 1070 was signed, a specific community, and a specific program for a specific culture’s history was targeted. Arizona was derogatively specific in profiling a certain race, showing the legislature’s incompetence to solve internal migrant issues. With the ban on ethnic studies, the legislature again proves its racist tactics by profiling a certain people’s history and literature.

Before the signing of H.B. 2281, a movement has been gaining beautiful momentum. The revolution has since become irresistible because youth have demanded to understand the political atmosphere they are currently in.

In January of this year, youth were organized into a unique space to truly address the agency they have in their education. UNIDOS (United Non-discriminatory Individuals Demanding Our Studies) formed organically into a youth coalition with five Tucson high schools represented. Youth possess the truth of how their classrooms affect their identities. If they say a certain program empowers them, the validity in their experience needs to be justified.

Unfortunately, not every school board member in TUSD feels youth voice to be priority. Despite numerous attempts to gain school board member’s attention, including an UNIDOS press conference held at a school board meeting on February 8 demanding a meeting with each member to voice their opposition to H.B. 2281, TUSD went forward without youth representation.

President of the school board, Dr. Mark Stegeman wrote a resolution that would dismantle the ethnic studies program by turning only the Mexican American studies courses into elective courses. These courses would no longer be used as core-credit, which are necessary for graduation. The move is a back-door approach to gutting the program, because electives are the first to be subject to budget cuts.

Without a second’s hesitation, UNIDOS came forward last Tuesday at the district board meeting to show their passion for ethnic studies with a simple goal in mind: stop the vote. Nine individuals chained themselves to the seats of the decision makers, thus forming an unofficial Youth School Board.

It was a moment that defied presumptions that youth voice is not as competent to make decisions on education. Youth had to physically prove that they have the right to an education that is relevant to their communities and their identities.

When a movement has to resort to direct action, the lies and bigotry of those in power comes to the forefront. In Arizona, the legislation continuously proposes its patriotism to anti-migrant, anti-education, and anti-human right ideology. Little do they realize that the more they struggle with understanding the resiliency of a knowledgeable people, the more the people will empower themselves. When this empowerment begins with the youngest minds, there’s no stopping the movement. The youth have spoken to let the movement move you.







 

Comments

 
Anonymous

Posted May 1 2011

This article is a total distortion of the facts and what the students did. The students were manipulated by the teachers and others adults that have nothing to do with the ethnic studies program. Although the Tuscon Unified School Distric has other ethnic program personnel (African-American, Asian), only the mexican american program has classes that were taught and provided credit toward core course graduation requirements. Further, the proposal before the TUSD Board was to make the courses electives that would still apply toward graduation. Yes I live in Tucson! This is not journalism, it is propaganda!

Anonymous

Posted May 1 2011

This article is a total distortion of the facts and what the students did. The students were manipulated by the teachers and others adults that have nothing to do with the ethnic studies program. Although the Tuscon Unified School Distric has other ethnic program personnel (African-American, Asian), only the mexican american program has classes that were taught and provided credit toward core course graduation requirements. Further, the proposal before the TUSD Board was to make the courses electives that would still apply toward graduation. Yes I live in Tucson! This is not journalism, it is propaganda!

Anonymous

Posted May 1 2011

Teachers or adults did not have anything to do with this protest. Alot of the people who were gathered at the school board were surprised with the movement done by these students. All of these people who were there actually were proud what these students did to get their voices heard. Everything was peaceful, except for the chanting done. All the media are getting information from people who are against ethnics studies, they should talk to those who are for it and there is alot of them out there.


]

Anonymous

Posted May 1 2011

Bizzl

When I read "Arizona’s SB 1070, a law that makes it a crime to be undocumented," I could already see that this article was going to be more propaganda.
It's not a crime to be undocumented. It's a crime to be "in this country" undocumented. It has been a federal crime for over 50 years. You make it sound like Arizona is trying to do something "unprecedented". Why do i always read about "anti-immigrant" legislation? It's anti-ILLEGAL-immigrant legistration. You always leave out the real issue to support the law breakers.
Were you one of the protesters saying that SB1070 would have no effect on the people of your state? That it was all just a waste of time? WRONG! How many thousands of illegal immigrants have already left your state? The law is working as intended without even being implimented! Thats what I call success.
BTW, i know that you are now supposed to use the word "undocumented" instead of "illegal". Journalist rules and all. Its just like the tree huggers can't say "global warming". They all of a sudden call it "climate change".

Bizzl

Anonymous

Posted May 1 2011

Bizzl

When I read "Arizona’s SB 1070, a law that makes it a crime to be undocumented," I could already see that this article was going to be more propaganda.
It's not a crime to be undocumented. It's a crime to be "in this country" undocumented. It has been a federal crime for over 50 years. You make it sound like Arizona is trying to do something "unprecedented". Why do i always read about "anti-immigrant" legislation? It's anti-ILLEGAL-immigrant legistration. You always leave out the real issue to support the law breakers.
Were you one of the protesters saying that SB1070 would have no effect on the people of your state? That it was all just a waste of time? WRONG! How many thousands of illegal immigrants have already left your state? The law is working as intended without even being implimented! Thats what I call success.
BTW, i know that you are now supposed to use the word "undocumented" instead of "illegal". Journalist rules and all. Its just like the tree huggers can't say "global warming". They all of a sudden call it "climate change".

Bizzl

Anonymous

Posted May 1 2011

Bizzl

When I read "Arizona’s SB 1070, a law that makes it a crime to be undocumented," I could already see that this article was going to be more propaganda.
It's not a crime to be undocumented. It's a crime to be "in this country" undocumented. It has been a federal crime for over 50 years. You make it sound like Arizona is trying to do something "unprecedented". Why do i always read about "anti-immigrant" legislation? It's anti-ILLEGAL-immigrant legistration. You always leave out the real issue to support the law breakers.
Were you one of the protesters saying that SB1070 would have no effect on the people of your state? That it was all just a waste of time? WRONG! How many thousands of illegal immigrants have already left your state? The law is working as intended without even being implimented! Thats what I call success.
BTW, i know that you are now supposed to use the word "undocumented" instead of "illegal". Journalist rules and all. Its just like the tree huggers can't say "global warming". They all of a sudden call it "climate change".

Bizzl

Anonymous

Posted May 1 2011

Bizzl

When I read "Arizona’s SB 1070, a law that makes it a crime to be undocumented," I could already see that this article was going to be more propaganda.
It's not a crime to be undocumented. It's a crime to be "in this country" undocumented. It has been a federal crime for over 50 years. You make it sound like Arizona is trying to do something "unprecedented". Why do i always read about "anti-immigrant" legislation? It's anti-ILLEGAL-immigrant legistration. You always leave out the real issue to support the law breakers.
Were you one of the protesters saying that SB1070 would have no effect on the people of your state? That it was all just a waste of time? WRONG! How many thousands of illegal immigrants have already left your state? The law is working as intended without even being implimented! Thats what I call success.
BTW, i know that you are now supposed to use the word "undocumented" instead of "illegal". Journalist rules and all. Its just like the tree huggers can't say "global warming". They all of a sudden call it "climate change".

Bizzl

Bizzl

Posted May 1 2011

Bizzl

When I read "Arizona’s SB 1070, a law that makes it a crime to be undocumented," I could already see that this article was going to be more propaganda.
It's not a crime to be undocumented. It's a crime to be "in this country" undocumented. It has been a federal crime for over 50 years. You make it sound like Arizona is trying to do something "unprecedented". Why do i always read about "anti-immigrant" legislation? It's anti-ILLEGAL-immigrant legistration. You always leave out the real issue to support the law breakers.
Were you one of the protesters saying that SB1070 would have no effect on the people of your state? That it was all just a waste of time? WRONG! How many thousands of illegal immigrants have already left your state? The law is working as intended without even being implimented! Thats what I call success.
BTW, i know that you are now supposed to use the word "undocumented" instead of "illegal". Journalist rules and all. Its just like the tree huggers can't say "global warming". They all of a sudden call it "climate change".

Bizzl

Anonymous

Posted May 2 2011

The story in Tucson and in Arizona is about the state outlawing the teaching of Ethnic Studies - HB 2281. It is about the state ruling that Mexican American Studies-TUSD is out of compliance (Jan 3). It is about the state conducting an audit oif this highly successful program. And it is about a district that for years told the world that MAS-TUSD was in compliance, backing up and telling the state that they will be in compliance. The proposal to downgrade the classes, at best is premature because HB 2281 is the subject of a lawsuit over its constitutionality. The TUSD board needn't do anything until after the audit and until after the court challenge. What the students did was express frustration after years of marching, running, walking, rallying, testifying... and speaking before the school board (3-minute call to the audience, with no response from the school board). This is not dialogue. It is called imposition. It is a very small minority telling perhaps close to 80% of the TUSD school community what they can learn and what they can't. A simple solution is to actually engage in dialogue with the community. No need to ram this change through...

btw... Elisa is an awesome student, and the best example of what the opposition fears... a critical thinker.

Prof. Rodriguez
U of Arizona

Anonymous

Posted May 2 2011

It is unfortunate that others commenting attack this well-articulated piece as propaganda. It is even more illogical how these same comments make their bias known as though their arguments possessed less agenda than this piece by Ms. Meza who is a part of an organization advocating for the rights of students. It is interesting and disturbing how quickly some are to speak out and oppose academic programs that have proven to be successful. Why do some feel the need to intervene in programs like this if not for the purpose of pushing their own supremacy myths?

Anonymous

Posted May 2 2011

It is unfortunate that others commenting attack this well-articulated piece as propaganda. It is even more illogical how these same comments make their bias known as though their arguments possessed less agenda than this piece by Ms. Meza who is a part of an organization advocating for the rights of students. It is interesting and disturbing how quickly some are to speak out and oppose academic programs that have proven to be successful. Why do some feel the need to intervene in programs like this if not for the purpose of pushing their own supremacy myths?

Anonymous

Posted May 2 2011

Who is running the school? The school board or the kids in the school?
Who is running the prisons? The wardens or the inmates?
You get your right to vote at age 18. If you are in this country illegaly, you dont ever get that right. The law may allow you to get an education paid for by the American taxpayers, but your vote doesn't count. Nor as it should.

Anonymous

Posted May 3 2011

You forgot to mention that these are probably undocumented immigrants and while I beliieve in my culture, the Hispanic culture, as a citizen and a school board member of another district, I deplore the total distortion of the facts. The TUSD is at least offering a solution; the young people and adults who caused the board meeting to be cancelled don't want a voice, they want the decision legitimized in their favor, no matter what the cost and they don't want an alternative solution. I pray, yes also as a Catholic, that tonight the TUSC Board has the courage to hold to its convictions that this type of elite ethnic studies does more harm than good.

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