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May 02, 2010

Look Before You Leap

I'm getting excruciatingly tired of the debate in this country over the new AZ anti-immigration law.  Everywhere you look it's one talking head or another bloviating about how the law is illegal and immoral and racist.

Really?  A piece of paper is racist?

But I distract myself from my point.

The point is this:  most people have never actually read the law, and all ANYONE seems to be interested in doing is screaming "NAZIS!!!" and "RACISTS!!!" rather than looking objectively at the REAL problem and trying to solve it constructively.

Let's lay out some basic facts first. 

1.  Anyone in this country illegally is a criminal.  That's what the word illegal means, folks.  No matter how well-meaning their intentions, if you come into this country without permission, you have committed a crime, whether you are Mexican, Chinese, Canadian, or ET.

2.  Producing documentation is not a burden.  Try to use that argument with TSA next time you fly anywhere.  See how fast you get on a plane without some form of ID.  I am so tired of people comparing this requirement to the nazis.  If this documentation requirement is nazi-esque, then so is the cop who pulls you over for speeding.  In the state of CA, if your license is not PHYSICALLY PRESENT with you in the car, you can be fined and have your car towed, even if the license is valid and you are able to give the cop your license number.  The kinds of documents that the AZ law requires are things like a driver's license, green card, or passport with entry date stamped.  These all fit in your pocket.  As an American traveling abroad, I would be sure to keep these things with me, in fact, if I was arrested in Europe, that would be the FIRST thing a policeman would expect me to give him.

3. Reasonable Suspicion is how police operate.  It's not automatically a racist intention.  If I am a policeman and I see a person running down the street carrying a large TV, I have a reasonable suspicion the TV might be stolen, and I can therefore investigate.  Which means to stop the guy with the TV and ask him some questions.  If it's his tv, he has nothing to worry about.  Without "reasonable suspicion", our justice system doesn't work.  I admit, as words on paper they are open to a lot of different interpretations, but NO ONE would agree that racism as a basis for reasonable suspicion is REASONABLE.  This is why racial profiling was deemed unconstitutional. Racial profiling IS using race together with other characteristics and circumstances as a basis for reasonable suspicion.  There are laws against that which people use every day to punish racist cops that use racial profiling.  Perhaps we should act against the racist people carrying out the laws rather than restrict the laws to the lowest common denominator. There's not much lower than racism.

4. The pot calling the kettle black doesn't strengthen your argument.  Here in Los Angeles we have heard quite a bit about the Mexican government's warning to all of its citizens to steer clear of AZ, yet they persist in some pretty harsh immigration policies of their own.  Under Mexican law, illegal immigration is a felony. Mexico's General Law on Population (Consejo Nacional de Poblacion, last amended in 2000) requires the following: Foreigners may be barred from the country if their presence upsets 'the equilibrium of the national demographics,' when foreigners are deemed detrimental to 'economic or national interests,' when they do not behave like good citizens in their own country, when they have broken Mexican laws, and when 'they are not found to be physically or mentally healthy.' (Article 37) (ed. note: does this mean they can prevent you from going to Mexico if you are black???);  and The Secretary of Governance may 'suspend or prohibit the admission of foreigners when he determines it to be in the national interest.' (Article 38).  According to the law, Mexican authorities must keep track of every single person in the country: Federal, local and municipal police must cooperate with federal immigration authorities upon request, i.e., to assist in the arrests of illegal immigrants. (Article 73); A National Population Registry keeps track of 'every single individual who comprises the population of the country,' and verifies each individual's identity. (Articles 85 and 86); A national Catalog of Foreigners tracks foreign tourists and immigrants (Article 87), and assigns each individual with a unique tracking number (Article 91).  The law also imposes harsh penalties: A penalty of up to two years in prison and a fine of three hundred to five thousand pesos will be imposed on the foreigner who enters the country illegally. (Article 123); Foreigners with legal immigration problems may be deported from Mexico instead of being imprisoned. (Article 125);  Foreigners who 'attempt against national sovereignty or security' will be deported. (Article 126); and Mexicans who help illegal aliens enter the country are themselves considered criminals under the law.  Mexico strictly enforces these rules when they choose to, yet they would ask us to limit our own control over illegal immigrants in our country. (analysis borrowed from here, originally here).

5. Hysteria and hype don't help ANYONE.  I am SO DISGUSTED by the parade of people wandering across my TV screen bemoaning this law.  NONE of them have read it, and none of them have any practical solutions.  They just want to get on TV screaming about racism and nazis and whatever else they can say to be sensational and get headlines and sway emotinal people who are either too busy or not intellectual enough to MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION.  It's very easy in this society to be BAD consumers of information.  We get a LOT of information thrown at us.  A lot of people are very good at making baseless, biased, and non-factual arguments to try and sway their audience (and they aren't all lawyers).  When you have so much information in your face, it's harder to sift through and find 1) the facts and 2) the informed arguments both pro and con, especially when most people have so few tools with which to think critically about what is being presented to them (based on US test scores in critical thinking, and our curricular focus elsewhere).  We need to make educated decisions based on good information and reasoned argument, not buzzwords and sound bites.  Have we become so intellectually lazy that we automatically label people and ideas because SOMEONE ELSE calls them a name?

6. Immigration is not important just because "life isn't fun without Mexicans".  Are you kidding me?  Do you know how racist it sounds when you say things like "Yeah, well, just see who looks after your kids without Mexicans around?"  As if that's all Mexican people can do is watch children, mow lawns, pick fruit, and clean toilets?  Can you be any more dismissive or racist?  Immigration is an important issue because this country is a place where anyone who comes legally can make something great.  What ensures that is our society and our system.  In our society, people must contribute both time and money for civic good.  They are accountable for that through our system of law.  People who are here illegally reap benefits without the accountability of those contributions, which drains all legal citizens, directly or indirectly.  Furthermore, there are a hell of a lot of immigrants, both legal and illegal, who are NOT Mexican.  Making the immigration debate about US vs Mexico, or only Mexican illegals, diminishes the real threat posed by illegal border-crossers and visa-overstayers of all nationalities who smuggle drugs and weapons and plot against law-abiding citizens.  Someone who "looks American" isn't necessarily here legally.

7.One last thing: nazis??  Really???  Do you remember what the nazis did?  Do you really, honestly think that the Arizona Legislature intends to round up all the Mexican people in Arizona, put them in camps, and slaughter them?  Every time we compare someone or their ideas to the nazis, we diminish the impact of the horrors they perpetrated on millions of Jews, Blacks, Armenians, homosexuals, communists, dissenters...... Let's not forget what they did, please.  Let's not diminish it.

Getting that out there, my own take on the law is that if it does nothing else, it gives a voice to the rising frustration that Americans feel about the tide of crap coming over our borders.  This DOES NOT mean that everything and everyone who comes into this country is bad.  Nor does it imply only our southern border, though without a doubt the majority of immigrants and immigration (both legal and illegal) in AZ comes via Mexico.  There are obviously many illegal entrants who come to the US because they want to improve their families, contribute to their communities, and have a positive impact. Perhaps even the majority of illegal immigrants could be described this way. However, it is increasingly clear that a large percentage of crime and poverty (and their costs to the rest of society) are tied directly to illegal immigration.  Which is in and of itself a crime. It's not difficult logic: an illegal immigrant commits a crime by crossing the border illegally.  If we punish them for that crime, we can stop them from committing others.  I get it.

PRACTICALLY, however, this is not an easy situation.  How do you accomplish the goal of removing criminals from society without inconveniencing the law-abiding citizenry?  That's difficult enough when you talk about mundane theft or vehicular violations, which are overt acts.  How do you find the people who are committing a crime just by being in the wrong place without asking everyone whether or not they are allowed?  We aren't born with color-coded wristbands. Until we can find an easy solution, the debate continues.  I would just like it to be more focused, reasoned, and objective.  Without objective and reasoned debate, practical, acceptable solutions can not be found.

Think people, don't just form an opinion by osmosis.

Posted by caltechgirl at 11:00 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

May 04, 2010

Today and Every Day

May the Fourth Be With You!

And just for fun: SW Wedding Cakes (love the top one!)

Posted by caltechgirl at 07:47 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 12, 2010

A Blast from the Past

Found this on the old computer tonight, and I'm posting this for Ben.

It was taken while speeding down the 99 in Pixley,CA in August of 2003 (I was both the passenger and the photog. No worries.).  Sadly, some time soon after this the family sold the property and the entertaining signs were taken down.  Previous signs included the gems "The US or the UN, whose country is it?" and my all time favorite, "Pigs and Judges Ain't Bullitproof" (sic)

Hope this gave you a chuckle, dude!

Posted by caltechgirl at 08:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack