Interview with Flagstaff Repeal Coalition Members
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What is Repeal?

The Arizona Repeal Coalition is an organization committed to repealing over 60 anti-immigrant laws and bills that have been passed or considered by Arizona politicians in the past few years. We demand the repeal of all laws—federal, state, and local—that degrade and discriminate against undocumented individuals and that deny U.S. citizens their lawful rights. We demand that all human beings—with papers or without—be guaranteed access to work, housing, health care, education, legal protection, and other public benefits, as well as the right to organize. Our strategy is to help build a grass roots social movement that can repeal these laws, change the terms of the national debate on immigration, and expand the freedom of all people—documented and undocumented.

We believe that all people have the right to live, love, and work wherever they please, and this is what we strive for.

You can reach the Repeal Coalition at: repealcoalition@gmail.com

The Repeal Coalition comes out of a need to build a struggle that goes beyond liberal and conservative perspectives. When we first started the group, there were only two discursive political options around immigration in the United State: 1) kick all 11 million undocumented people out of the country (a position held by more conservative republicans and white supremacists groups like the The Minutemen Civil Defense Corp, see http://www.minutemanhq.com/hq/); or 2) give undocumented people temporary working permits, exploit their labor, and THEN kick them out of the country (a position help by more moderate Republican and almost all Democrats). Repeal members felt that this debate did not express the full spectrum of possibilities, which of course includes the deletion of all boarders and the automatic acceptance that all humans have the right to move and migrate. It was the goal of the group to push the debate in such a way that these other options became genuine political possibilities.

Specifically in Arizona (which is ground zero of the immigration debate), we have a state legislature with a leadership amenable to the demands of extreme right reactionary groups (such as The Minutemen and several nationalist white power biker gangs). These politicians have introduced over 60 anti-immigrant laws at the Arizona State level that vary from requiring people to show proof of citizenship before they are issued a marriage license, to imposing a $100,000 fine to any school principal who does not report an undocumented student in their school, to punishing anybody who rents a house to an undocumented person. While may of these laws failed to pass, those that were adopted continue to harm many families.

As a group, the Repeal Coalition is fighting against these forces, seeking to demonstrate the racism behind the anti-immigration movement. To do this, we are following a grassroots model, working from the bottom-up with the communities most affected by these laws. Following the model set down by Cesar Chavez, we are walking door-to-door and meeting people in Latino neighborhoods, speaking with them about the immigration issue, seeking their help.

How do you deal with ideological differences?

The group was founded by several people with long anarchist connections, people with a deep commitment to basic anarchist principles, such as the belief in mutual-aid, autonomy, participatory democracy, and a do-it-yourself philosophy. However, the group is not made up purely of anarchists. Rather than working from an ideological perspective, the group is more practical, welcoming people from various backgrounds and seeking to build working relationships with various organizations. Unfortunately, this has been a bit of problem for some local anarchists. For instance, because the community we work with has ties to the local Catholic Church, Repeal has fostered a relationship with religious groups. In turn, the Church has given us a place to meet and is considered, in the Latino community, as a safe haven from police. Some local anarchists complained about working with the Church, suggesting that we could not be involved with them. We argue that we had to meet people where they are ideologically, not where we think they should be. Otherwise, we run the risk of only working with five people with complete political agreement. Thus, as a group we welcome all ideological and religious perspectives, so long as they agree with the basic principles of repealing all the anti-immigration laws.

In terms of anarchism, Repeal falls more in the mass anarchists tradition than in the insurrectionism current. That is, the group would argue that only mass movements create revolutionary chance in society. Thus, the group is all about working with mass movements. Rather than creating "autonomous" spaces or infoshops, Repeal reaches out to working class communities and tries to work on the things that are important in those areas. This is a bit different then what other anarchist are doing in our region.

Are there many such projects in the States?

In our experience, there are not many projects like Repeal. That is, there are a lot of groups working on immigration, both in Arizona and at the national level. However, much of this work does not aim to build grassroots movements. For instance, currently there are a number of unions and other organizations getting behind the "immigration reform" bill. Some of these groups have already abandoned claims for immigrant rights, openly claiming that this is not what they are for. Others have already embraced the rhetoric of “stronger borders” and support for local police enforcement of immigration laws. These positions are likely to result in further border militarization and criminalization of immigrants, while increasing the power of police, with only the hope that some paths to citizenship will open up for a small number of immigrants. While we respect and support some of the work these groups do, the Repeal Coalition believes that compromise is a mistake. We ask and will settle for nothing less than the complete freedom to live, love, and work wherever an individual pleases.

Why does immigration continue to be such an important issue?

The US/Mexico border continues to be a complex and disturbing geographical area. People are still dying. Last year, 190 people died trying to cross the border. The local politicians are still talking about more and stronger police presence on the border. Most disturbing is that the Obama Administration is embraced the rhetoric of a militarized border, suggesting building a longer fence to keep immigrants out.