In May, the board of the Japanese American Citizens League voted 8-6 to join lawsuits that have been filed challenging the constitutionality of Arizona’s anti-immigrant bill, SB 1070. This past week, attendees of the JACL’s national convention reaffirmed the group’s opposition to SB1070, drawing comparisons between the bill and and the history of institutionalized racism experienced by Japanese Americans during World War II.
Some Japanese Americans at the JACL convention compared Arizona’s immigration law to Executive Order 9066, which ordered the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.
“The issue with JACL is as it was in 1941 that is that innocent people can be reasonably suspected of being an illegal immigrant,” said Floyd Mori, JACL national director. “In 1942 all Japanese Americans were suspected regardless of their citizenship, regardless of what they did, of being criminals, and they were sent to prison.”
Mori added that SB 1070 has nothing to do with immigration reform, but due process and equal protection rights.
SB 1070 requires that Arizona law enforcement officials uphold federal immigration laws. The law does not specify what police officers should do if a suspect is determined to be an undocumented citizen.
Immigration advocates say the law will only perpetuate racial profiling against people of color.
Those who supported the resolution challenging SB 1070 agreed with the resolution’s wording that, “JACL was founded during times of anti-Asian and anti-immigrant sentiment similar to the anti-Latino, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-undocumented sentiment seen in the 21st Century immigration debate.”
One of the most prominent faces of the JACL’s opposition to SB1070 has come in the form of Jim Shee (pictured above), a member of Arizona’s JACL chapter who is of Chinese and Spanish descent. Shee claims that since the passage of SB 1070, he has twice been pulled over by Arizona police officers and asked to “show his papers”.
Jim Shee, an Arizona JACL member, is a plaintiff on the case, Friendly House et al. v. Whiting et al. Shee, a U.S.-born 70-year-old American citizen of Spanish and Chinese descent, told the Pacific Citizen that he was pulled over twice in April and asked to produce his “papers.”
In the complaint, Shee says that he will be more vulnerable to racial profiling under the law.
“I see how current actions have alienated the Brown-skinned people in Arizona because of the persistent lies that our lawmakers insist on perpetuating,” said Shee.