Several local social justice organizations are organizing a protest at Churchill Downs on Derby Day to speak out against the state of Arizona’s strict new immigrant law. Led by the Kentucky May Day Coalition, which represents different church groups, labor unions and civil rights activists, demonstrators plan to pass out at least 2,000 fliers Saturday morning at all intersections leading to Churchill Downs to educate attendees about who the law targets.
“The Derby itself would not be possible without immigrant workers and that’s the point we’re going to make this Saturday,” says Stephen Bartlett, a co-convener of the coalition. “If you examine it, the horse farms, the trainers and even a lot of the jockeys are all immigrants. It’s the underground economy of the whole horsing industry.”
Set to take effect in midsummer, the controversial new law makes it a crime for illegal immigrants to be in the state of Arizona, requires local police to question anyone about their immigration status if they have reason to suspect they are in the country illegally and bars people from hiring or soliciting work off the streets. Its passage has created a national debate about the need for immigration reform and a furor over the implications of its enforcement.
“It’s a racist law,” Bartlett says, adding the measure is a new Jim Crow law.
However, supporters argue the law only allows local police to enforce existing federal immigration statuettes. And recent polling indicates that 71 percent of Americans support requiring their own police to determine a person’s legals status if there was “reasonable suspicion” that they were illegal immigrants.