Monday, April 26, 2010

Passage of Arizona’s “Sieg Heil” Law, AZ SB 1070, Does Not Come Without Consequences

Only days after unelected Governor Jan Brewer wielded the zealot’s pen, fallout from the signing of Arizona’s draconian “let me see your papers” anti-immigration law, AZ SB 1070, has begun. “I firmly believe that God has placed me in this powerful position of Arizona’s governor to help guide our state through the difficulties that we are currently facing,” she told a religious gathering last year. In light of Arizona’s dire financial straits, and the likelihood the law will further exacerbate the state’s economy, straining its already burdened law enforcement resources to the breaking point, the Governor may be seeking a lot more divine intervention in the days ahead.

In remarks that veered from the strange to the bizarre, Governor Brewer said she will “not tolerate racial profiling or racial discrimination in Arizona” while signing a law that does just that. The central provisions of the law make it a misdemeanor to lack immigration paperwork and compels police officers to determine immigration status if they form a “reasonable suspicion” that a person is in the U.S. illegally. As legal experts have noted, the constitutionality of “reasonable searches and seizures” has engendered mountains of case law and precedent.

Recognizing the glaring unconstitutionality question, the Governor has issued an executive order “to develop training to appropriately implement SB 1070” including “what DOES –- and DOES NOT –- constitute “reasonable suspicion” that a person is not legally present in the United States.” (Emphasis mine, CAPS the Governor’s. Blogging is one thing, but capping words in an official document makes one wonder about the competence of the (un)elected official.)

That Brewer should deem it necessary to issue an executive order to clarify the law only begs the question as to its constitutionality, noted Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva. Mr. Grijalva added that he would be a prime target of this law if he were to be stopped without proper identification papers. Evidently, the state’s top Republican has already instructed law enforcement on what to look for:
“Illegals are intentionally causing accidents on the freeway,” said Senator McCain. Presumably, if someone who “looks” and “talks” a certain way (i.e., like an illegal) is rear-ended on the freeway by a Caucasian who claims the accident victim “caused” the accident by driving slowly, the victim with the illegal “look” must prove legal residence or be arrested. And the accident victim with likely be charged with causing the accident, because Arizona’s senior senator said so, for driving while looking “reasonably” illegal. Congressman Brian Bilbray of California, elaborates: “trained professionals” will “look at the kind of dress you wear, there is different type of attire, there is different type of -- right down to the shoes, right down to the clothes.” Apparently, Bibray’s powers of discernment can tell Rep. Grijalva is in this country legally, simply by looking at his clothes and shoes. Or is it because Rep. Grijalva is an elected United States Congressman from Arizona?
In a sharply worded rebuke to proponents of the law, LA’s Cardinal Archbishop Roger Mahoney called it the “country’s most retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless anti-immigrant law,” based on the “flawed reasoning” that immigrants come to our country “to rob, plunder, and consume public resources.” This law, he continued, cries out for comprehensive immigration reform. “We have built a huge wall along our southern border, and have posted in effect two signs next to each other. One reads, ‘No Trespassing,’ and the other reads ‘Help Wanted.’ The ill-conceived Arizona law does nothing to balance our labor needs.”

Archbishop Mahoney said, “I can't imagine Arizonans now reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities on any suspicion of documentation. Are children supposed to call 911 because one parent does not have proper papers? Are family members and neighbors now supposed to spy on one another, create total distrust across neighborhoods and communities, and report people because of suspicions based upon appearance?”

Think again, Father. To be sure, most Arizonans will not behave like Nazis, perhaps, but history also teaches us that once fear of the “other” and authoritarianism take hold, Nazi-like behavior is not restricted to a certain people or culture; it is universal. The Teabagger rabbles are prime examples of proto-fascism impelled by xenophobia, racism, and Beckista-fed paranoid fear. Currently, there are some 1,000 similar statutes introduced in other state legislatures, most by Republicans. Immigrant-bashing is well underway. In a recent poll, 82 percent of self-identified Tea Party supporters said illegal immigration was a “very serious” problem. That poll also found that Teabaggers constitute about 18 percent of the voting public, are primarily white, older, more affluent males who vote overwhelmingly Republican.

Can the Democratic Party do without this rabble? The answer is YES, principally because the vast majority of Teabaggers never supported the President and Democratic candidates in the first place. Can the Democratic Party dismiss its Latino constituency? The answer is a resounding NO. As the fastest-growing demographic in this nation, Latinos wield increasing political and economic influence, Arizona notwithstanding.

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The Republican Party has largely made its bed on the immigration issue; now it must suffer the consequences of sleeping on its bed of thorns. With erstwhile pro-immigration reform candidate Gramps McCain leading his Republican colleagues down the lily-white brick road, the question for Democrats is to make them pay for it, with their votes against immigration reform, and their sharp tack to the right as the party of older, ultra right wing, mostly white males. If Republicans believe that an immigrant-bashing message and lies about our economic recovery will deliver them the House or the Senate in November, they are sorely mistaken.

When the face of the Republican Party is represented by an aging hypocrite with multiple political facials, an Arizona state senator (once photographed with a neo-Nazi) considered “an eccentric firebrand” and “politically incorrect embarrassment” by more moderate members of his party, one of whom lamented Arizona is “going to look like Alabama in the ’60s,” not to speak of Teabagger darlings Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann -– Democrats have reason to be optimistic about retaining their majorities in Congress come November.

On the question of immigration reform, Democrats plan to reintroduce the bipartisan legislation sponsored by John McCain (before his reincarnation as a non-maverick, goose-stepping wingnut) and the late Senator Ted Kennedy, with support from George W. Bush. Then they will dare Republicans to vote against it. That bill, introduced in 2005, would implement guest-worker programs and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

The largest arrow in the quiver of the U.S. Latino population, aside from the moral one, is economic. Nowhere have such laws succeeded in this country after the heavy economic cost on the community was realized. The lessons of 60s Alabama, for the Republican who mentioned it, for all the violence and confrontation, is that civil rights defeated apartheid in the United States. Such will be the fate of Arizona, as it tumbles down the rabbit hole of history, 1930s Nazi Germany style.

This grotesque law granting the police extra-constitutional authority to trample the Fourth Amendment rights of U.S. citizens, will not stand.

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