Monday, January 05, 2015

An interview with Tony Diaz on the legal fight against Arizona HB 2281

Tony Diaz (Photo Credit: Divinci)

La Bloga is pleased to offer this interview of Tony Diaz, leader of the Librotraficante Movement, on the legal fight against Arizona HB 2281. But first, some background. The Seattle University School of Law offers this concise explanation of the law in question and the procedural posture of the case—students from the law school’s Korematsu Center's Civil Rights Amicus and Advocacy Clinic has worked on the case. This is a condensed version of that explanation which can be found in full here:

In May 2010, House Bill (H.B.) 2281 was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona. The law, since codified as A.R.S § 15-112, prohibits courses or classes that "1. [p]romote the overthrow of the United States government... 2. [p]romote resentment toward a race or class of people; 3. [a]re designed for pupils of a particular ethnic group; [or] 4. [a]dvocate ethnic solidarity instead of treatment of pupils as individuals." Enforcement of this statute led to the elimination of the highly successful Mexican American Studies (MAS) courses program in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) as well as the removal of books illuminating Mexican American history and perspectives from TUSD classrooms.

A group of teachers and students challenged the constitutionality of H.B. 2281 in federal court. Though the teachers were dismissed from the lawsuit, the students, Maya Arce, Korina Lopez, and Nicolas Dominguez, continued the challenge. In March 2013, the district court declared subsection (3) above unconstitutionally overbroad, but granted summary judgment to the defendants on all of the students' other claims.

The students appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit… The legal team working on the students' opening appellate brief included Richard Martinez of Tucson; Anjana Malhotra, formerly a clinical teaching fellow at the Korematsu Center and now Associate Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School; Sujal Shah, Marcelo Quinones, and Jennifer MikoLevine who led a team of lawyers at the San Francisco and Los Angeles offices of Bingham McCutchen; and the Korematsu Center's Civil Rights Amicus and Advocacy Clinic. Professors Lorraine Bannai, Robert Chang, and Charlotte Garden led the efforts of the clinic. Students from the Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, and Spring 2014 clinics have assisted on this case. Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the University of California, Irvine, School of Law, joined the students' legal team in October 2013.

As Tony Diaz reported for the Huffington Post’s Latino Voices column, the day of reckoning has come: On January 12, 2015, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco will hear the plaintiffs’ arguments to overturn the law used to prohibit Mexican-American studies in Tucson.

Diaz, the leader of the Librotraficante Movement, has been reporting on and fighting against these attacks on Mexican-American studies for quite sometime now; one example is this piece on the banning of Chicano/a books. He is the co-host of the Nuestra Palabra Radio Show in Houston, Texas, and Director of Intercultural Initiatives at Lone Star College-North Harris and the Chair for the NACCS 2015 Tejas Foco, scheduled for February 26-28, in Houston, at Lone Star College.

Diaz took time out of his very busy schedule to answer a few questions on about the legal fight and to explain how you can help.

DANIEL OLIVAS: How important is this case for the very concept of Mexican-American, Chicano/a and other ethnic studies programs across country?

TONY DIAZ: This is a major case of truth being stranger than fiction. And it will take several semesters of Mexican-American studies courses to fully appreciate, comprehend, and document all the nuances, cultural subtexts, historical facts, and fiction against our fiction. We are a blessed generation that can fill that San Francisco courtroom to witness a young Chicana making history and fighting for every American's freedom of speech.

Apparently Democracy has to re-boot every 40 or 50 years. This time the work as fallen on the broad shoulders and broader imaginations of Chican@s.

DO: All studies show that these types of programs help students succeed in school and do not make them separatists or people who hate the United States. Why are opponents so scared of these programs?

TD: Arizona passed a law to prohibit Mexican-American Studies. The sense that makes is non-sense. So I have to take the legislators at their word. They believe that 6-year-old to 17-year-old Mexican Americans reading books by Sandra Cisneros, Dagoberto Gilb, Carmen Tafolla, Rudolfo Anaya somehow promotes the overthrow of the government.

The folks who profess that are simply trying to sabotage the American Dream.

The books that some Arizona officials fear inspired me to not just finish college, but to get a Master's Degree, to become a professor. My parents were migrant workers. Because of education, my family has gone from the farm fields to where I now have the privilege of representing my culture on national platforms—in just one generation.

Officials who want to prohibit Ethnic Studies do not want to see our young flourish.

DO: How can our readers help Tucson students come to the oral arguments in San Francisco?

TD: The Librotraficantes have raised $2,450.00 to donate to the cause.

We hope to help raise $3,000. We invite everyone to pitch-in to help cover the travel costs to get Maya Arce and Korina Lopez to San Francisco to testify. You can donate directly to travel costs by clicking here: MAS Trial.

Put Tejas Foco or Librotraficante in the note, just for us to keep track of the pledge goal.

If you are in San Francisco, help swarm the court room, Monday, January 12, 8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. at:


There is also an Ethnic Studies Solidarity Event: Summit and Teach-In on Saturday, January 10, 2015 at Mission High School in San Francisco, CA.

[Additional note: If you are on Twitter, follow Librotraficante at @Librotraficante and use the hashtage #MayaVsAZ if you Tweet on this subject including Tweeting this interview with Tony Diaz.] 


msedano said...

Tony Diaz' leadership like will produce dissertations, theses, and books. Arizona history, too, will profit from examining this Korematsu-like law.

Elias said...

Orale ! Xican@ Power to Librotraficante from the Xican@ Pop-Up Book Movement in Los Angeles/Riverside, Califas! Thanks for all your work. The ancestors are with us... You can Ban Chicano Books, But they'll still Pop Up!