Fernandez, Valeria


Valeria Fernández is an independent journalist and contributor for New America Media in Arizona. For close to a decade she has been covering the politics and the effect of local immigration policies in the border state.

A Year On, States Draw Back from SB 1070 Legislation

By Valeria Fernandez
New America Media

A year after SB 1070 took effect, states nationwide are turning away from similar bills, fearing the financial and political fallout seen in Arizona and the consequences that anti-immigrant legislation could have in their own backyards.

“Arizona was a wake up call for other states,” said Elena Lacayo, field coordinator with the Immigration Policy Project at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the nation’s largest advocacy group for Hispanics.

Lacayo, who has followed the effects of SB 1070-type legislation in other states, said that despite the far reaching nature of some of the bills, it was the economic backlash in Arizona after SB 1070 that helped other states realize the costly consequences of anti-immigrant laws.

Latinos across the country have naturally come out against “the new Jim Crow laws,” she added, because they feel threatened. The response has been aggressive, she said.

Arizona’s SB 1070 Could Face Long Road to the Supreme Court

By Valeria Fernández
New America Media

Gov. Jan Brewer plans to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to lift a federal court’s preliminary injunction that blocked major portions of a controversial state immigration law from going into effect. But whether the nation’s highest tribunal will consider ruling on SB 1070 is a whole other story, according to legal experts.

“It’s highly unlikely that the Supreme Court would take the case at this point,” said Thomas A. Saenz, president and legal counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), an organization involved in one of the lawsuits against SB 1070.

Saenz argued the higher court is more likely to be interested in rulings on the merits of a law – whether or not it is constitutional -- than deciding on an injunction.

Corruption Probes Beleaguer Arizona’s “Toughest” Sheriff

By Valeria Fernández

PHOENIX, Ariz.—It’s been a couple of tough weeks for Maricopa County’s Joe Arpaio, America’s self-proclaimed “toughest” sheriff.

An internal-affairs investigation revealed abuse and mismanagement—forcing the departure of one of Arpaio’s top chiefs; an investigation by Arizona’s attorney general exposed potential illegal campaign activity; and a separate county budget probe determined that the sheriff’s office misspent $99 million in taxpayer money.

None of these issues have resulted in criminal charges— yet.

Mounting criticism recently caused Arpaio to appoint an independent investigator— his Pinal County counterpart, Sheriff Paul Babeu—to carry out an internal-affairs inquiry.

The probe did not focus on criminal conduct or Arpaio himself, but rather on allegations of misconduct and abuse among some of Arpaio’s top commanders.

One Year After SB 1070, Arizona's Immigrant Networks Are Stronger

By Valeria Fernandez
New America Media

It’s a warm afternoon at a trailer park in Central Phoenix as Isidro Carreras sets up chairs on his lawn. Neighbors start arriving gradually, until a group of about 30 people has gathered in a circle.

The session of the Comité de Defensa del Barrio (Neighborhood Defense Committee) is about to begin. The group is one of many that was formed with the help of the pro-immigrant organization PUENTE as a support network for immigrant families in the wake of the passage of Arizona's tough immigration law, SB 1070.

One year after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill into law, making it a state crime to be an undocumented immigrant in Arizona, immigrant networks have grown stronger. Two years ago, there were no Neighborhood Defense Committees here. Now there are about 20 of these immigrant groups in different parts of Phoenix alone.

How Much Do Anti-Immigration Bills Really Cost?

Valeria Fernandez
New America Media

Legislators across the nation are considering passing bills to fight illegal immigration, citing its costs to taxpayers. But two recent reports point to the high price of legal battles that could ensue.

“Jurisdictions would spend substantial amounts of money to pursue proposals that in most cases are going to lose in the courts,” said Angela Kelley, vice-president of immigration policy and advocacy at the Center for American Progress (CAP).

The two reports, put together by CAP and the Southern Poverty Law Center, document the financial, economic and social costs to cities of immigration bills that were found unconstitutional by the courts.

Birthright Citizenship's Unlikely Road to Supreme Court

By Valeria Fernandez

A group of state legislators in at least 15 states wants to deny birthright citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants.

Their strategy is to pass state legislation that they know will be challenged in federal court, in the hopes that eventually the U.S. Supreme Court – which is considered to be the most conservative court in decades – will be the final arbiter on the issue.

But legal scholars believe the chances that the issue will be taken up by the Supreme Court are slim.

James C. Ho, former Solicitor General of Texas and expert constitutional attorney, predicts that the case will never make it to the high court. “I think the lower courts will strike it down and the U.S. Supreme Court will refuse to hear the case because it has already decided it,” said Ho, who is now a partner with the law firm of Gibson, Dunn&Crutcher in Dallas.

The Constitutional Question

As Elections Pass, SF Court Seems Willing to Restore Parts of SB 1070

By Valeria Fernandez

PHOENIX, Ariz.— A hearing to reinstate key parts of Arizona’s hard-line anti-immigration law SB 1070 poured more fuel onto the political fires a day before crucial statewide and national elections.

On Monday, lawyers from the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) tried to persuade the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to keep in place an injunction again the law, which was approved last spring and took effect last summer.

“It is important not to allow a patchwork of state laws,” Deputy U.S. Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler told the three-judge panel, adding that SB 1070 could also hurt U.S. foreign relations.

Barrage of GOP Bills Would Deny Citizenship to U.S.-Born Kids

By Valeria Fernandez

A national coalition of GOP lawmakers is planning a new push to change the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution to deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants.

In Arizona, state Senator. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa a longtime crusader against illegal immigration whose legislative efforts include the controversial SB 1070, announced the 14-state campaign at a press conference on Tuesday. He said he plans to introduce an Arizona bill revoking the right of children born in the United States to have automatic U.S. citizenship, regardless of their parents’ status, at the new legislative session that begins in January.

After Day in Court, Arizona Awaits SB 1070 Decision

By Valeria Fernandez

A week before Arizona’s controversial new immigration law is slated to go into effect, its immediate future rests in the hands of one federal judge. If the judge does not grant an injunction, halting the implementation of the law, then as of next Thursday, July 29, it will be a state crime to be undocumented in Arizona.

In two separate hearings in a Phoenix courtroom on Thursday, attorneys representing a broad coalition of civil rights groups and the U.S. Department of Justice argued that portions of SB 1070 need to be enjoined because they usurp the federal government’s authority to regulate immigration law.

Court Arguments Heard in First Case Against SB 1070

By Valeria Fernández

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Does Arizona’s new immigration law mirror federal law or does it go too far, violating the U.S. Constitution? That question was at the heart of the arguments presented Thursday morning in a packed federal courtroom in Phoenix.

The two-hour hearing was the first in a series of six cases being brought against Arizona’s controversial new law. The next hearings are set for July 22, when arguments will be heard in two lawsuits against SB 1070, one brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, and one by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other organizations. If the judge does not approve the federal government’s injunction, the law will go into effect one week later, on July 29.