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 May 2, 2010 11:00 AM | TrackBack
Comments

The last line is the most important for all of us on every issue -- opinion by osmosis is, I think, what's pushing the whole country down a steep hill to you know where. If we abdicate our responsibility to THINK then we have no recourse when things don't go the way we want.

Posted by: beth at May 2, 2010 11:19 AM

Amen. A-frickin'-men.

Posted by: T1G at May 2, 2010 11:59 AM

Awesome! ...and very well stated!

Posted by: Pam at May 2, 2010 02:10 PM

Well said. That law was born out of frustration, thanks to a government in which both Republicans and Democrats, having become afraid of losing the growing Hispanic vote, refuse to address the issue at all. And I happen to think that law is more than reasonable. I would love to see a federal law that addresses all illegal immigrants. We need to get 'race' off the table and focus on 'illegal.'

Posted by: Theresa at May 2, 2010 02:29 PM

Thank you. As someone who actually lives in Arizona and has to deal with these issues as well as all the idiots screaming and whining about the law, I appreciate this post! Especially since I was just about ready to smack the next person who said something stupid. Still might do that.

To add to your #2, it has been federal law since 1940 that any non-citizen here legally is required to carry a green card or some sort of legal documentation that proves they are indeed here legally. So basically all the Arizona law is doing is reiterating the federal law.

The citizens of my state should not have to live in fear, nor should our law enforcement officers have to lay their lives on the line fighting what amounts to a war because the federal government is abdicating its responsibility regarding illegal immigrants. And Iím really kind of sick of hearing people who don't even live here or have any concept of what's going on here griping about something that doesn't really even affect them.

Our local newspaper wrote an editorial and put it on the front page today about this topic. I don't agree with every word they wrote, but I'm proud of them for taking a stand, saying some things that needed to be said, and calling out several local politicians who needed to be called out. My feeling is that Arizona was trying to get the federal government to take notice since they have been ignoring us for so long. I think it worked. And now we wait and see what happens. I have faith in our law enforcement that they will make us proud.

And now I will shut up. Thanks for letting me vent. ;)

Posted by: Karin at May 2, 2010 03:08 PM

You make good points Sam!

Posted by: Jane at May 2, 2010 03:42 PM

"Have we become so intellectually lazy that we automatically label people and ideas because SOMEONE ELSE calls them a name?"

yes. we have completely devolved into a country of ego-driven. politically correct, pandering maroons.

thanks sam for writing my feelings on this whole immigration issue. blog more please.

Posted by: kate at May 2, 2010 04:08 PM

Exactly!! Thank you.

I was really annoyed when the FB group "opposed" to this legislation popped up instantly. As if any of them had a clue about any of it!! People reveal their ignorance when they hop on these bandwagons instantly, without examining the issue.

When my niece started college, I told her repeatedly not to let anyone tell her what to think. Sadly, this is exactly what way too many people allow to happen.

Posted by: Marie at May 3, 2010 03:27 AM

In my opinion, people that try to argue a point by throwing in racism and Nazis automatically forfeit the argument. From that point on you're not worth my time, money, or effort. I refuse to have such a discussion with someone who can't argue with me better than that.

Posted by: diamond dave at May 3, 2010 12:02 PM

One minor nit: under current law (as opposed to the new AZ law), simply being here illegally is NOT a crime. Entering the country illegally is a crime, but merely being here illegally is a civil offense. Not all illegal acts, nor even most, are crimes.

Posted by: Xrlq at May 3, 2010 04:30 PM

Well done!

"Think people, don't just form an opinion by osmosis." And you need a t-shirt out of that.

Posted by: wickedmess at May 4, 2010 01:50 PM

A couple of things in re: why this law is bad, on technicality, and is going to be tossed anyway, likely in a federal court.

(Sorry for the all caps. I'm copying/pasting out of the bill text, as I actually did read the bill.)

Sec. 2, subsection A:

"NO OFFICIAL OR AGENCY OF THIS STATE OR A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE MAY ADOPT A POLICY THAT LIMITS OR RESTRICTS THE ENFORCEMENT OF FEDERAL IMMIGRATION LAWS TO LESS THAN THE FULL EXTENT PERMITTED BY FEDERAL LAW."

The State can't act in this manner under the federal Constitution. Immigration is, and will always be, a *federal* issue. The SCOTUS has ruled that Congress' power to regulate naturalization in Article 1, Section 8, includes the power to regulate immigration (see e.g., Hampton v. Mow Sun Wong, 426 U.S. 88 [1976]). It wouldn't make sense to allow Congress to pass laws to determine how an immigrant becomes a naturalized resident if the Congress cannot determine how that immigrant can come into the country in the first place. Arizona isn't a sovereign nation, either. As a law enforcement issue, the bill is trying to prevent officials from choosing to ignore federal statutes. They're already liable for this, so this threat is sort of empty.

Subsection B:

"FOR ANY LAWFUL CONTACT MADE BY A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL OR AGENCY OF THIS STATE OR A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE WHERE REASONABLE SUSPICION EXISTS THAT THE PERSON IS AN ALIEN WHO IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES, A REASONABLE ATTEMPT SHALL BE MADE, WHEN PRACTICABLE, TO DETERMINE THE IMMIGRATION STATUS OF THE PERSON. THE
PERSON'S IMMIGRATION STATUS SHALL BE VERIFIED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PURSUANT TO 8 UNITED STATES CODE SECTION 1373(c)."

That USC reference reads: "The Immigration and Naturalization Service shall respond to an inquiry by a Federal, State, or local government agency, seeking to verify or ascertain the citizenship or immigration status of any individual within the jurisdiction of the agency for any purpose authorized by law, by providing the requested verification or status information."

It's really hard to imagine that this provision can be enforced without profiling. Gov. Brewer herself stumbled all over the place at the signing ceremony for the bill when asked by a reporter what an illegal immigrant "looks like". So in principle a "lawful contact" can be anything as simple as a traffic stop for a burnt-out taillight. Defenders say that, therefore, this isn't a "Driving While Brown" law. However, a 2007 study by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics found that black, Hispanic and white drivers are equally likely to be pulled over by police, but blacks and Hispanics are much more likely to be searched and arrested. Another BJS study in 2002 reached similar conclusions. Evidence exists that minorities are stopped at the same rate as whites, but are handled differently by law enforcement officials -- for whatever reason.

"Reasonable suspicion" is the most problematic aspect of the law. The nature of that term is established in many cases, but I'm not personally aware of an instance where it has been applied to immigration law *at the state level* because the States aren't supposed to be in the business of making and enforcing immigration law. One can argue that law enforcement officers generally act in "good faith" and that alone is sufficient - bad apples will be dealt with individually. But that hasn't been a persuasive argument before the Supreme Court. "Simple 'good faith on the part of the arresting officer is not enough.' ... If subjective good faith alone were the test, the protections of the Fourth Amendment would evaporate, and the people would be 'secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,' only in the discretion of the police." (Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968) , quoting Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89 [1964]).

What's more, the "reasonable suspicion" provision puts the officers themselves in a precarious position, particularly the ones who want to do the right thing and are above board about everything, professionally. If he or she conducts a stop and fail to ask for papers from an Hispanic individual who, say, speaks little (if any) English, a superior officer might raise concern that the officer was failing to enforce SB1070 in the field. I hate to raise the specter of the word "quota", but I've read stranger words in sentences with the words "Sheriff Joe Arpaio", for example. The bottom line is that, *as written*, this provision treads very murky water that I doubt strongly is going to hold up on a Constitutional challenge.

Subsection E:

"A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER, WITHOUT A WARRANT, MAY ARREST A PERSON IF THE OFFICER HAS PROBABLE CAUSE TO BELIEVE THAT THE PERSON HAS COMMITTED ANY PUBLIC OFFENSE THAT MAKES THE PERSON REMOVABLE FROM THE UNITED STATES."

I don't understand this, since an office may arrest you or I (or anyone) on suspicion of a crime, regardless of immigration status. If they're elevating to an arrestable offense something that for which one would otherwise simply receive a ticket, we're in trouble. Again, it places the burden on the officer to use "reasonable judgment" to ask for papers on failing to signal a lane change or something similarly benign. There are officers out there, sadly, who would do such a thing, because they're racists and are just looking for an opportunity under which they would be protected by the shield of law. I don't know exactly what Constitutional principles apply here, other than perhaps the sovereignty argument above. But the wording is just so messy that this subsection presents a problem.

Subsection F throws a bone to the Right, making sure that local jurisdictions aren't prohibited from sharing information about the legal status of individuals with INS for the purpose of (Clause 1) "1. DETERMINING ELIGIBILITY FOR ANY PUBLIC BENEFIT, SERVICE OR LICENSE PROVIDED BY ANY FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS
STATE." Ah, the persistent myth that illegals are draining the State of its resources by coming across the border and signing up for Medicaid and food stamps. It just isn't true, and if someone can show me figures to the contrary, I'll stand corrected. Sure, they're going to get treated if they walk into an ER... so would any of us, regardless of ability to pay. The hospital is going to try to get their money, though -- I'm going through the resolution of a dispute about that myself currently. If it's not collected, public funds *may* be used to reimburse the hospital. Or not. But there are also a lot of U.S. citizens who use ER's as their primary care facilities because they can't afford insurance, yet I don't see any such language in bills condemning U.S. (and Arizona) citizens from making use of emergency rooms in this way.

Okay. I love this next one. Subsection G:

"A PERSON MAY BRING AN ACTION IN SUPERIOR COURT TO CHALLENGE ANY OFFICIAL OR AGENCY OF THIS STATE OR A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE THAT ADOPTS OR IMPLEMENTS A POLICY THAT LIMITS OR RESTRICTS THE ENFORCEMENT OF FEDERAL IMMIGRATION LAWS TO LESS THAN THE FULL EXTENT PERMITTED BY FEDERAL LAW. IF THERE IS A JUDICIAL FINDING THAT AN ENTITY HAS VIOLATED THIS SECTION, THE COURT SHALL ORDER ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:"

and then goes on to list a set of conditions. But this is fascinating: the law tells the enforcement agencies that they adopt any policy of enforcement "...of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law." Yes, allows civil penalties against law enforcement agencies -- local to Arizona, mind you -- for failing to do the work of the Feds. Amazing. Again, another goodie basket for the Tea Party-types: don't like how your local sheriff is doing in rounding up the brown people? SUE! Funny, by their rhetoric one wouldn't think of the Right as the lawyering-up type. So this may actually be the match that lights the munitions cache on fire, more so than the profiling provision in subsection B. All manner of law enforcement agencies from local police departments on up to perhaps the state Attorney General may be subject to suit from every right-wing group with an ax to grind. The funny thing is, they're liable right now -- anyone can bring a suit about virtually anything in civil court -- but in the absence of this law, it's virtually guaranteed a suit would be thrown out on face value.

Subsection I is illuminating:

"A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER IS INDEMNIFIED BY THE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER'S AGENCY AGAINST REASONABLE COSTS AND EXPENSES, INCLUDING ATTORNEY FEES, INCURRED BY THE OFFICER IN CONNECTION WITH ANY ACTION, SUIT OR PROCEEDING BROUGHT PURSUANT TO THIS SECTION TO WHICH THE OFFICER MAY BE A PARTY BY REASON OF THE OFFICER BEING OR HAVING BEEN A MEMBER OF THE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY, EXCEPT IN RELATION TO MATTERS IN WHICH THE OFFICER IS ADJUDGED TO HAVE ACTED IN BAD FAITH."

A police shield, right there in the middle of the law. "Except in relation to maters in which the officer is adjudged to have acted in bad faith." But then it fails to go on to describe what "bad faith" means. Is it much of a leap to conclude the elephant in the room is "profiling", that just doesn't get named other than by a nice euphemism? Who will determine that? A jury of the peers of the accused? A judge? A law enforcement board of some kind? What if none of the above find evidence of profiling? What if a legal U.S. resident (citizen or otherwise) is detained, or worse, as a result of "good faith" being exercised, but suffers some injury as a result of the detention, not to mention the cost of a potential criminal defense? Sue the officer to recover damages? Nope. Maybe the officer's employer, but a suit against the officer acting as an individual is off the table. It's the American way. This provision is going to be trouble.

But the best and most entertaining part is the last subsection, J:

"THIS SECTION SHALL BE IMPLEMENTED IN A MANNER CONSISTENT WITH FEDERAL LAWS REGULATING IMMIGRATION, PROTECTING THE CIVIL RIGHTS OF ALL PERSONS AND RESPECTING THE PRIVILEGES AND IMMUNITIES OF UNITED STATES CITIZENS."

Well, subsection J seems like it may invalidate every subsection within Section 2. I'm no lawyer, but I think there are some good reasons to believe that. Whether or not the courts agree remains to be seen.

Bottom line... I'm not going to make the "Nazis!" argument about the people of my home state, because by and large this law does *not* represent the beliefs of the majority of the people of Arizona. Of course it's much more complicated than that. The bigger issue is that this is an election year, and illegal immigration is a hot potato in most border states. The economy is bad -- historically that has stoked anti-immigrant sentiment (legal or otherwise). That's just a fact of American history. When things go down the tubes, either for us as individuals or collectively as a people, there is a tendency to want to blame that on someone -- anyone.

There are two forces at work, neither of which necessarily involves Nazis or abject racism. One is that, again, it's an election year, and there's a resurgent faux-progressive conservative movement boiling over on the Right. They're just as upset with politicians as they are illegal immigrants, and just about everyone is an "incumbent" in that respect. I think SB 1070 was the Arizona legislature GOP faction's gift to the voters they most want to court. For one thing, I say shame on Jan Brewer; I remember back to when she was a member of the Arizona House and then as a Senator during Gov. Ev Mecham's 1988 impeachment laid into him with some fury. I never remember her pandering so much to one division within her party. Now I think it has something to do with the fact that she is a part-single-term (unelected) governor. She's running for Election, for the first time, and unfortunately has tossed out the old Jan Brewer in order to claw her way to hegemony over the state executive.

The other issue has to do with demographics, not just in Arizona, but everywhere. They're changing. By later in this century, assuming current trends continue, there will be no racial majority of any kind in this country; for the first time, we will just be a collection of minorities. And I think, regretfully, there are a LOT of white people in this country who are both enraged and, consequently, scared by that. Enraged in that they feel some entitlement to the leadership and policymaking of this country due to 200+ years of history. In a subconsciously racist way, they simply consider themselves the rightful inheritors of America and best-equipped to make the decisions that will shape her future. We are *barely* 40 years separated from a period of time when white racism was considerably more overt. Now I think many people who harbor these feelings, whether they admit it or not, are scared that they're about to lose their majority which allowed Jim Crow to persist a century beyond the Civil War, for example. Without the majority, they'll be forced to work with people of other minorities really for the first time not because they feel better about themselves when they do, but rather that there's no other choice. (A mirror issue is the white majority, at least those of a religious persuasion, referring to America as a "Christian nation", which of course is absurd in any sort of official context. Prod them a little further and ask them how many Catholics are included in that statement and rapidly learn what their real feelings are.)

I agree with the premise that illegal immigration is, well, illegal, and it's the job of the federal government to enforce federal immigration law. That should start doing that better. States have ways of pressing for legal remedies in case the Feds don't do it. That's the spirit of the law, since we are a nation that observes the rule of law. It's not being enforced properly, but it needs to be.

However, SB 1070 just isn't the way to do it. It's an appetizer for the far Right in hopes of scoring political points this year masquerading as a practical set of rules without enough holes in it to sink a battleship. We need some kind of guest worker program, because the allure of America on Mexico's doorstep is simply not going to go away. We need to develop a symbiosis with them in terms of guest workers. This is achievable, and could benefit both of us. We need immigration reform at the federal level, but a whole lot of GOP members of Congress say "it can't be done" this year. Why? Again, because it's an election year. There are no patriots left in this nation, no one willing to make a stand for their beliefs and suffer the consequences (i.e., not get re-elected) of doing so. Of course immigration reform could be done this year, and it needs to be. In the meantime, whoever runs INS should resign in disgrace. Or, better yet because it's ultimately her responsibility, the ineffective HomeSec Secretary (and, ironically, most recent ex-gov of Arizona), Janet Napolitano. When someone fails to do their tasked duties, you ask for their resignation. Or you fire them. But Mr. Obama doesn't rule with such firm resolve, as we have seen.

The social and political damage to Arizona is just beginning. I lived through the five-year-long quest for a state MLK Jr. holiday in Arizona that resulted in the loss of Arizona's first chance at holding the Super Bowl, among other business. We were cast by the national media as racist and backward. Of course that wasn't the case, but the media didn't have the whole story, and then as now people got their opinions from the media. In the end, the holiday came to be in Arizona -- by a public vote, the ONLY MLKJr. holiday in the entire country brought about by plebiscite. Now it's like, "here we go again".

This all wouldn't be quite so infuriating if it weren't for the sake of politics. At the same time, it should make people in Arizona and elsewhere think really hard about the nature of race relations and where we're headed in the near future. A return to images of police officers with dogs menacing non-white people and spraying them with firehoses is not the kind of place we want to go, but there is a rising tension between the races I fear will explode sooner rather than later. We have some questions to ask ourselves. Do we still believe that America is the "golden door" through which people -- arriving through LEGAL means -- can achieve opportunity, no matter where they come from? Do we believe, truly, in equality of opportunity for all, regardless of ethnicity or national origin? Do we cherish the rule of law, like we say we do? Answers to these questions have a great deal to d o with where America will find itself by the end of the century.

A couple final, specific points, about your post, Sam:

"2. Producing documentation is not a burden." The courts disagree, depending on the circumstances. If I get on a plane, I surrender my right to refuse to identify myself. If I am either under arrest or suspected of committing a crime, I'm required to produce proof of my identity (Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of Nevada, 542 U.S. 177 [2004]). Fine. But a police officer isn't allowed to walk up to me and demand I identify myself, for example, if I'm in the vicinity of where a crime was committed but not under reasonable suspicion of being involved in the crime. We don't live in a society where proof of our identity can be demanded for no reason. Of course, reasons can always be made up, and are (see "Driving While Brown", above). Face it, with my ethnicity and accent, no officer is EVER going to ask me to produce my papers in Arizona. But that's potentially not the case for a lot of my Hispanic friends who live there. Therein lies the problem in your assertion. Furthermore, to say it's "not a burden" totally invites making a slippery-slope argument.

"3. Reasonable Suspicion is how police operate. It's not automatically a racist intention." Of course it's not. But it opens up a gigantic hole that racism very well can stride right through. "NO ONE would agree that racism as a basis for reasonable suspicion is REASONABLE." Well, I don't know about that. Since 9/11 there has been increasingly loud chatter from some elements on the Right -- mainstream folks, by all accounts -- that a little racial profiling might be okay in the name of saving lives. It's a very tempting argument. So was interning U.S. citizens of Japanese descent in the war "just in case" they harbored sympathies for a country most of them had never set foot on. The question in the case of SB 1070 is what kind of predicament does it place the police in? If they appear to be hauling in illegals a little too efficiently, just because they ask every brown person they see for papers, they'll be called profilers. But if they have lots of contacts with people with Hispanic-sounding names and haul in relatively few for immigration violations, it might look like they're going easy on them. Even worse if an officer is Hispanic him- or herself. Again, the intent of the law isn't as much the issue as the details, which are highly convoluted.

"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." I'm going to have to call you out on this one, because it's a kind of "But they do it (too)!!!!!" sort of argument. What the Mexican government does to people illegally in their territory is entirely theirs to decide because they're sovereign. We're talking about U.S. -- and ONLY U.S. -- policy.

"Hysteria and hype don't help ANYONE." Yes, 100% yes. It's a lot harder with federal, phonebook-sized bills (reading the health care bill was a nightmare), but the AZ bill is only 17 pages long. Not that tough, folks.

"Someone who 'looks American' isn't necessarily here legally." True. But then why not dispense with the notion of "reasonable suspicion" that a person is in the country illegally to ask for papers? Let's have everyone carry around some form of ID, standardized at the national level, with biometric security devices, establishing one's citizenship. Like a passport but more like a... drivers license. Except you don't just check the immigration status of the brown people you pull over, because they don't necessarily "look American". If we believe justice is blind, everyone's citizenship should be checked at every law enforcement contact. I'm just following the logic. "Papers, please."

Lastly, "7. One last thing: nazis?? Really???" Just proving Godwin's Law is very much valid.

Thanks for the comment!

Posted by: John Barentine at May 9, 2010 11:14 AM

You get an extra bowl of ice cream for that post...

Posted by: Yabu at May 12, 2010 05:29 AM

Wow! Thank you. I always wanted to write in my site something like that. Can I take part of your post to my blog?

Posted by: BlackAssDoll at July 23, 2010 03:26 PM

I thought you were going to chip in with some decisive insigth at the end there. Not leave it with 'we leave it to you to decide'

Posted by: BigAss Dolls at July 24, 2010 10:00 AM

You you could make changes to the page name title Not Exactly Rocket Science: Look Before You Leap to something more specific for your webpage you write. I enjoyed the post even sononetheless.

Posted by: Team Roster at October 30, 2010 12:56 AM
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