Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What's So Wrong About Enforcing Citizenship Laws?

A friend, who I consider of at least average intelligence, and reasonably reasonable, just innocently put out the statement, "The folks opposing the efforts of Arizona to enforce citizenship laws have yet to convince me why it's a bad thing."

Well, of course, I gasped in shock. How could any right thinking person not recognize this obvious evil? But then, I tend to get outraged easily and these are easily outraging times. So I've learned to maintain my calm and think about a reasonable answer that might explain "why it's a bad thing."

Simply, it puts the concept of justice as we've practiced it in the USA for over 200 years on its head. We have a justice system in which we value the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, and we have a dedication to freedom that includes freedom of movement and travel without harassment from authorities. Each of those is reversed by the Arizona law.

What has been voted on by the legislature and is awaiting the governor's signature is a law that requires all law enforcement figures to presume that anybody who may not have been born here is here illegally, without any proof or reasonable suspicion that any crime has taken place. All immigrants (and anybody who might look or sound like an immigrant) would essentially be required to carry their papers proving they're here legally with them at all times and subject to this question on a continuous basis for simply going about their daily business.

People who came to this country legally - and many who were born here but "look wrong" - will be subject to a burden that no other citizen or legal immigrant is subject to. And, of course, only a complete fool would deny that this is aimed solely at those of Latin decent. No British tourist or immigrant is likely to be hassled under this law. But Latinos who've lived their entire lives in Arizona will be.

This law has very little to do with "enforcing citizenship laws" and quite a lot to do with holding out one group of people and making them subject to additional official harassment. That is racism, pure and simple.

And, of course, there's the question of proper authority. Border patrol is the jurisdiction of federal authorities, not state or local police. This law creates an unnecessary burden on the police as well, who will be charged with carrying out this racist policy.

Of course, where there is evidence of a crime, the proper authority must investigate. And if, in the course of investigation of a local crime, police determine that a suspect may be in the country illegally, they should turn that fact over to the federal authority to prosecute. But the presumption of a crime is un-Constitutional and un-American.

When I was young, and the Soviet Union was still our greatest threat, one of things we were told that made our country so much better, was that we had no need for "Internal Passports." That in the USSR, people had to carry papers to travel from town to town, whereas we were free to move about within our borders. When I think of the effect of this law on the Latino population of Arizona, I am reminded of this and again, I say, anything that makes us resemble the old Soviet Union is most likely un-American.

Requirements for internal passports, the presumption of guilt before evidence of a crime, and a policy that singles out one group for official harassment all add up to why I think "it's a bad thing," a dangerous thing, and one more major blow to democracy and freedom and all that I love about America.

I don't know if that will convince my friend, but I certainly know where I stand. And I won't be standing in Arizona anytime soon if this becomes law.


  1. I'm not going to argue pro or con for the law because I am an Arizona who is a British immigrant (although I came here young and my father was an Arizonan) so I see multiple sides to the issue. I also won't go on at length how the current Arizona Legislature is totally out of whack due to term limits and serve as excellent reason why term limits don't work. Most reasonable Arizonans know our legislators are whackos and are working to get the two main ingredients for that disaster: term limits and "clean election" campaign laws reversed because they created a problem worse than the original one.

    In a sense any legislation on immigration seems to always do the same thing...make the problem worse. I do agree with one component of the law, every law enforcement officer in this state must be allowed to enforce immigration laws. On the issue of "sweeping" on suspicion, I have real problems.

    My biggest point on this issue always is and stays the same. We have been dealing with the illegal immigration issue for as long as I can remember (1968) and everyone shrugged their shoulders until it crept north in California and to "Yankee" states back east. I don't think anyone who has lived in Arizona for a long time can have any idea of what we've been facing for decades.

    It seems everyone has an opinion but no practical real solution to the fact we've been driving on surface streets for 30 years and have speeding 100 mph chases go past in the middle of the day. On a regular basis. Not to mention the toll of sex trade, human smuggling, drug mules, houses crammed with people in filthy conditions. The cheap labor and lowering of everyone's wages and value of their work and on and on.

    It always ends up in some mish mash of left-right you're-a-racist blah blah blah fight and with all due respect, in a refined way, that's what this reads like to me. I respect you and we have distinct ideological differences but I believe it is incumbent on people like us to open civil dialogue to resolve these topics without just posturing a position.

    (I probably should've written a blog response on this. I always hesitate on the topic because I inevitable get called things I am not.)

  2. JR - I understand the power of the "racist accusation" and hesitated using it. But, I really do feel it is appropriate here. When a law will be used against a single ethnic group while giving others a free pass (really, what cop is ever going to stop you and ask for proof that you're here from Britain legally?), then what other conclusion can I come to? Yes, we need to have a dialogue about all issues, and try to refrain from name calling. But I see this law a true danger.

    The problems you mention - drug trade, human smuggling, etc. - are all real, and need to be addressed. This does nothing to solve those serious issues. It only punishes those who "look like" our images of those criminals. Again, this isn't serious legislation; it's scapegoating based on a racial profile.

    If the intent were simply to allow local officials to enforce immigration laws (questionable in terms of jurisdiction, but a reasonable discussion to have), and not to go on a which hunt, then that's what they should have written. Instead they over-reached and turned every local officer into a Gestapo agent.

    True, I have not lived in Arizona, and I may not understand the full depth of the immigration problem there. Perhaps I should have stuck with writing about California issues. This was a rare breakout from my usual policy of staying out of other people's fights. For that I am sorry.

    However, I have lived in the United States of America for all of my 48 years, and I have degrees from my studies of our political history and systems of administration. And I stand by my analysis that this law - as written - is a dangerous step that makes every one of us less secure in our freedoms.

    "When they came for (fill in the blank) I said nothing because I wasn't (fill in the blank). [Repeat]. Then when they came for me, there was nobody left to speak out."

    I chose to speak out before they come for me: Having an accent or dark skin is not probable cause that a crime has been committed.

  3. I agree with the crux of what you're saying and am composing a blog response now, which probably will go up tomorrow at 4AM.

    I really struggle with this because it never fails, all sides of the issue pull the race card, while the real problem never gets resolved.

    As an aside, what always remains unmentioned is we have counties and cities where the almost all of the law enforcement officers are Hispanic (Latino) and have "turned a blind eye" for years. In fact I lived just north of the border for 7 years and have been pulled and I know it was because I was "white" and told "it didn't look right." The reverse does happen in this state.

    More in my response. I absolutely do get though the "when they came for..." part of this. Trust me, I am as frustrated on this issue as anyone.

  4. i would like to tackle a few of jr's points.

    drug trade: the tighter you make that southern boarder, the more drugs just come in thru canada. like "bc bud," from british colombia, and ecstasy manufactured in europe and asia. heroin from asia comes in straight thru west coast ports in those huge shipping containers. lol coke comes in from everywhere. and of course, the shit wouldnt be coming here at all if there werent such a huge market for it. so is the drug trafficking the symptom or the problem?

    sex trade: heard about the recent arrests in new york of gambino mobsters for sex trafficking? the sex trade will be alive and well, with or without latinos. market, symptom, and/or problem again.

    lowered wages: dey took er jerbs!
    get real. do you think the hispanics wanted to work for those lower wages, or do you think employers reveled in their prejudices and took advantage for profit? thank your blessed capitalism for that mess. also, the current economy probably would have lowered wages anyway. and dont forget how and why hispanics started coming here anyway: to pick our food like slaves so we could have it cheap. i am so sorry you/we couldnt just put them out to pasture when we were done using them. again, thank your blessed capitalism, and the american desire for cheap goods, no matter the real cost. nothing is ever free, and we should have known we would pay eventually! you cant have your cheap cake and eat it too i'm afraid.

    cramped living conditions: first of all, why the hell do YOU care? secondly, could that be due to outrages housing costs? employers paying them barely enough to survive b/c they know they can get away w it? hmm...symptom and problem again...

    stress on services: you didnt point this out, but lemme touch on it anyway. if the health care industry and our general infrastructure werent so bad, and if they werent being worked like slaves for scant wages, would they then be a stress on services? symptom and problem again.

    and dont even try telling me that i dont understand b/c i dont live down there, indy's hispanic population has skyrocketed in the last 20 years. 10,000 in 1990, 40,000 in 2000, and i bat it has doubled since then.

    it is time to start looking in the mirror and not at them w an indifference of the past and current circumstance. stop bitching about the symptoms, and attack the actual problems. they arent leaving, thats for damn sure.

    racist? no, just narrowly focused and ignorant of what causes what.

  5. @achampag Whew! That's quite a rant and I would expect nothing less from you. I think you do me a disservice and mis-characterize my intentions. The crux of your argument seems to be "well all this stuff is going to happen anyway so why not just let people trample across the fragile eco-system of the desert and let it happen. It sure would save us people with much smaller populations, a less fragile environment, where it's a minor problem, a whole lot of trouble and keep from having to hear about it."

    I've said for decades the drug war is insanity because the real problem is the American people...they want to send themselves into oblivion. Why? You tell me.

    Read my blog today if you want to be civil and hear my side of it.

  6. @jrsnyderjr

    "That's quite a rant and I would expect nothing less from you." nice little jab man. "rant?" would you have called it that were i a man?

    "I think you do me a disservice and mis-characterize my intentions." strongly disagreeing is a disservice? what intentions exactly, other than typing? what exactly do you intend to do? and if you found my comment offensive, how do you think a hispanic person would feel about their impact on this country being relegated to drugs and sex trafficking?

    "The crux of your argument seems to be..." um, you got this part so wrong i wonder about your reading comprehension skills. i didnt say we shouldnt do anything about it. quite the contrary, i implied that we should deal w the actual problems. although this does kind of raise the interesting question of how legalization would affect things, but i digress...

    "just let people trample across the fragile eco-system of the desert" i didnt touch on this at all. and as a matter of fact, i think we should just have open borders, then they wouldnt have to trample across anything. =)

    "fragile eco-system of the desert" um, how exactly is the desert a fragile ecosystem? i would really like to know this, and no i am not being sarcastic.

    "It sure would save us people with much smaller populations, a less fragile environment, where it's a minor problem, a whole lot of trouble and keep from having to hear about it." wow. just wow. i will leave out the environmental aspect, b/c i am not sure how one would decide their fragility. we could go round and round on that, esp considering our coal plants.

    indiana has a hispanic population of 322,000, as of 2008. (yes i know arizona has almost 2 million.) thats not nothing. and i have to hear about and deal w this issue all the freaking time. i have crappy county health care...who do you think i have to compete w for care? for appointments? who do you think i sit next to at the clinics? I AM ONE OF THE POOR PPL WHO HAS TO RELY ON SERVICES!! i dont have a college degree yet, who do you think i have had to compete w for crappy jobs? and many jobs you can just forget about now if you dont speak spanish. i also have to deal w hispanics due to my current job, since we have an office out west. also, first generation hispanic men, as part of their culture, are more aggressive towards you have any idea what i have had to deal w at certain jobs? nope. you do not own this issue, dear arizona, not by a long shot. you just dont hear me bitching about it, b/c i am more understanding. i dont blame them for wanting to be here, and i know how we opened the door for them.

    "Read my blog today" yeah, not so sure about that.

    "if you want to be civil" another jab mr offended high and mighty?

  7. Next comes the internment camps...

    "What happened to Juan?"
    "He went out last night without identification."
    "That's very sad. We'll miss him."

    I'll never understand anti-immigrant sentiment in a country where most people can trace their genealogy back to a boat. I guess kids just don't learn enough enough about the persecution of the Irish, then the Germans, and then the Italians that came to this country in the 19th and 20th centuries. The supreme court decision Meyer vs. Nebraska didn't overturn laws making it illegal to teach German to children in many Midwestern states until 1923! Fortunately that
    precedent is on the books today so states can't forbid the teaching of Spanish.

  8. So the law would be right if we had a politically correct pool of illegals that were 1% Asian, 50% White, etc.? It will inconvenience 'brown people' in Arizona, but they just have the misfortune of being the same ethnic group (or not) as the majority of illegal immigrants.


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