On Tuesday, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors announced that it will participate in lawsuits challenging the State of Arizona’s anti-immigration law. 

Supervisor George Shirakawa stressed the importance of standing in opposition to measures that deputize local law enforcement officers as immigration agents and lead to racial profiling.

“Arizona’s law is a direct assault on people’s civil rights and will increase the real fears of racial profiling in communities nationwide,” said Supervisor Shirakawa.  “We have heard the concerns of our residents.  We want everyone in our community to know that Santa Clara County agencies are there to keep people safe from crime and provide emergency medical services, not to act as immigration agents.”

Home to a longstanding immigrant community, Santa Clara County hopes to serve as a model to other localities.  Over one-third of the County’s population is foreign-born, and more than two-thirds come from immigrant families.  The County boasts thriving Latino and Asian-American communities, who together make up over half of the population.

Supervisor Shirakawa, taken over by emotion, described how his own family’s experiences with racism and oppression inspired him to lead an effort opposing Arizona’s law.   As a descendant of Mexican and Japanese immigrants, both sides of his family were impacted by the government’s past practice of systematic prejudice through the Repatriation Act in the 1930’s (a law that forced people of Mexican descent to go to Mexico even though many were Americans) and Japanese Internment during World War II.

“I see the Arizona law as a veiled attempt to do the same thing that was done to my family in the thirties and forties. I had planned on playing golf in Arizona in the fall, but I wasn’t planning on bringing my papers with me to prove that I am American,” said Supervisor Shirakawa.  “Communities of color should not have to live in fear of their government.”

Acting County Counsel Miguel Márquez reported that the Board had authorized the filing of briefs as amicus curiae, or friend of the court.

“By filing a brief as a friend of the court, the County can provide an important perspective on how local governments, law enforcement agencies, and social services agencies outside of Arizona are harmed by a law like Arizona’s that breeds fear and mistrust of government in immigrant communities and communities of color all across the country,” said Márquez.

Márquez added that his office hoped to provide this perspective on behalf of Santa Clara County and any other localities that want to stand with the County in opposing Arizona’s law.