Arizona Dispatch: An Artist’s Perspective on SB 1070
PHOENIX | As soon as Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070 into law in April, grassroots groups started protesting. The high-profile immigration law makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally and requires local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of anyone they encounter while enforcing other laws, where reasonable suspicion exists that they are in the state illegally. The statute is being seen by many as an attack on the state’s large Mexican and Latino populations.
Unless a federal judge grants an injunction, SB 1070 will go into effect on Thursday. And with that date drawing closer, protests here have been taking place on a daily basis.
One of the main organizers is 23-year-old artist and activist Ernesto Yerena, who, growing up, didn’t have to look very far to see that art and social issues could intersect. Yerena was born in El Centro, Calif., a border town 10 miles from Mexico.
Yerena’s father, who painted cars in the family’s backyard, taught him how to airbrush, stencil and paint. He also became interested in race and social issues, living so close to the border, with its unique socioeconomic makeup. Eventually, he put the two interests together.
After graduating from art school, Yerena got a job working for Shepard Fairey, the subversive artist who designed the iconic HOPE poster for Obama 2008. Like Fairey, Yerena’s style is reminiscent of the simple, graphic posters of the 1960s from the Civil Rights Movement and anti-Vietnam War protests.
Yerena’s posters can be seen at just about every protest here, on walls in the streets, gripped in raised hands and online. You can see more of his work at his website and at AltoArizona.com, where he has organized an art campaign against SB 1070.
We talked to Yerena in Phoenix earlier this week:
All week, the NewsHour will look at different perspectives on immigration law 1070 in a series of reports from Arizona. Stay tuned.
With reporting from Mike Fritz.