Juanita Molina is the new director of the Border Action Network, and she continues to work as the director of Humane Borders. The dual roles signal an operational agreement between the two organizations rather than a merger. BAN continues to advocate for undocumented immigrants, while Humane Borders focuses on providing water at stations throughout the desert. In last week's SB 1070 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated most of the law, but kept intact the part that requires law-enforcement officers to check the immigration status of anyone stopped, detained or arrested if they suspect the person is in the country illegally. For more information, visit borderaction.org or humaneborders.org.
How do you feel about the recent SB 1070 ruling?
It's disappointing that they stuck so closely to constitutional law and did not hear points that argued human rights. Obviously, the members were conflicted.
What happens next?
The reality was people knew this was going to be problematic. Human rights will now come into play, and the courts are going to delve more deeply into racial profiling on citizens here in the United States. Our focus is working with the community that has an immediate fear of racial profiling.
There's always been racial profiling, but what's different now?
Law-enforcement agencies have no idea how they are going to implement this law. And then there are issues of community trust: A person here walking to get a quart of milk may witness violence. That person (if a minority) ... is not going to be as inclined to come forward.
This has come up in the past, and BAN has interceded with the TPD.
We will continue dialogue and (have) discussion with the TPD. I think this is an incredibly difficult thing to implement. There is a traffic stop, and the officer has to figure out if this person is here without documentation when there is no centralized database. How is he supposed to determine that?
How has BAN been preparing for the ruling?
For all of us, this is a long-term struggle, just like the civil-rights movement. I personally did not expect this to be the end point of any situation. ... The extreme right is working to criminalize this population. But the reality is, in Arizona, we are so much more diverse than that, and not all views of all Arizonans reflect this. We've paid the price for this. ... The image of our state internationally and nationally is compromised by these views. ... We're going to continue to do what we've always done, which is educate and advocate for the community in Arizona.
How does this new agreement between BAN and Humane Borders work?
We have an operational agreement to share resources, but it is different than a flat-out merger of the agencies. I think it really enhances our work. For some reason, within our own movement, there is a lot of division between humanitarian-aid and human-rights groups, but I don't know why. I do know that we cannot treat human suffering as a commodity. ... Both agencies are a community response to what the undocumented community faces.
A few weeks ago, your water trucks were vandalized. How did that get resolved?
We got the trucks fixed. The thing to know about Humane Borders is that it is such an amazing and exceptional place. Within a week, we were up and running. We didn't have all the liability insurance that could cover the costs, so we had to pay all repairs out-of-pocket. But in a week, we had the money. We live hand to mouth. But that's the thing about border issues—there's no infrastructure support. If you look at other movements, like domestic violence and sexual assault, there is a certain infrastructure from the government. Humanitarian aid is from the goodness of people's hearts.
How can folks help?
Come volunteer with us. (Undocumented) families are often cut off from the rest of society. One of the most impactful moments I had at Humane Borders was when a group of teachers and students from Mexico helped us with water runs. One student started to cry: "We thought all Americans hated us." That is the perception. We also need to be allies as citizens and voters for the undocumented community of Southern Arizona and make our voice heard.