April 26, 2010

Raging Arizona.

Have you heard the one about Arizona?  No?  On Friday, Arizona passed a law innocuously referred to as "immigration reform".  In short,  Arizona's law orders immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times and requires police to question people if there's reason to suspect they're in the United States illegally.  Per the Arizona Daily Star:
"Without debate, the Senate on Monday approved a far-reaching measure designed to give police more power, and more impetus, to stop and arrest those who they believe are in the country illegally.

SB 1070 would require police to make a "reasonable attempt" to determine the immigration status of anyone they come into contact with during an investigation. And it would make the mere presence of an illegal immigrant anywhere in Arizona a violation of state trespass laws.”
Wow.  Just wow.  May I point out the "without debate" part?

Dude. I realize there is need for ensuring that folks living in our country are working legally (although, to be fair, let's not even begin to discuss that often, illegal immigrants are doing work that we "legals" have no desire to do anyway.  Something Hispanic and Chicano comedians gleefully point out in their stand up routines - without a hint of irony or embarrassment.)  However!  Let us assume that illegal immigrants ARE, indeed,  stealing jobs from us hardworking folk in America.  Fine.  I am with you for the sake of argument.

So yes, agreed.  Something needs to be done to ensure that "foreign" folks working in America have earned the privilege to work in America (either by jumping through the crazy hoops constructed from red tape and barbed wire or by marrying a white girl and getting her pregnant.  Ah, I kid my husband!  )

What really concerns me is the vague wording (I have seen teenagers be more direct with their words.) The lack of a requirement for a warrant??  Requiring police to make "reasonable attempts"???  The whole "probable cause" bit which can lead to all manners of impulse decision making?    Yes, a closer inspection of some of the language in the bill certainly sheds a more sinister light. 

Section 1, subsection E.:
Excuse for a moment, while I find a broom to scoop up my brain, since my head has just exploded. 

Again,  I understand there is a need for immigration control.  I understand that many of our border states are facing some particular challenges. I have had friends and family in Arizona and California my entire life and it is my understanding that some areas of the border are experiencing significant challenges in the area of safety. So while I have not been to Nogales since my mid-20s,  I am certainly aware that it is not as safe now as it was back then.  Fine.  I get it.  But the last I checked, our nation's police forces are comprised primarily of humans.  And humans?  Are highly fallible and at times, are prone to mistakes.

So, to grant broad-sweeping powers to police such as this? Is frightening.  What happens if someone leaves their house, forgets their papers and they get pulled over for a minor traffic violation?  What happens if they lose their papers?  Seriously, the same husband who loses his car keys on a daily basis?  Guards his papers and documentation like Gollum hovers over his precious.  My husband would be more likely to lose our children, then his papers.  Trust me,  replacing documentation is very scary, very time-consuming and leaves a person feeling very vulnerable.  I doubt I know of any immigrant who wants to be carrying his/her documentation on their actual person.  You want that stuff locked up and safe.

But what really frightens me the most??  This question, the one the police will now have to ask themselves on a daily basis: 

What does an illegal immigrant look like?

Obviously, it is personal.  My first airplane trip ever was to Tuscon, to see my grandma.  I was about Anjali's age and I have very vague recollections of it (the flight itself, seeing the cockpit and my grandma playing the guitar.)  As an adult, I have traveled back to Arizona many, many times - seeing relatives on both sides of my family, visiting my friend Jolene (who I helped move there post college graduation during a seriously wacky roadtrip. Gayle and Oprah have nothing on us. )  I have spent hours upon hours in that state, driving all over it, watching the amazingly diverse scenery go by. It is a state that I truly love.  It is a state I feel at peace in.  

Dammit, they broke my heart on Friday.

Image Courtesy of Gizmo Ave.com ... 

Just south of Tuscon lies the spectacular aircraft boneyard of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base - a truly breathtaking sight.  

Let us hope that Arizona does not become a boneyard for civil rights, for our Constitution, or for basic decency.


FFF said...

well said! totally agree. and, the police can still arrest you if they incorrectly think your papers are a fake, which is another problem with the law. my 36 year old naturalized husband was in Mexico for business and had his US passport and his Texas driver's license. he could recite his social security number, and had his work ID. The US Customs officials wouldn't let him enter the country and held him in a cell for 9 hours because they said his passport was a fake, when it wasn't. When he didn't confess to anything, they just let him go.

I also hate going down what does an illegal immigrant look like road. If I speak with an accent does that make me more likely to be illegal? If I'm overweight does that make more or less likely? Facial hair? Yuck.

Anjali said...

Thank you for writing this for me. My brain is clogged with pollen this morning, and there's no way I would be able to compose an intelligent post about it. (Also, I'm raging mad.)

Now I can just link to yours. :)

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

I wish they'd held off until I had moved back across the country-I'm a little worried about what would happen if my dad and I were pulled over. I can't help remembering the last time we were in Nevada (2008) and my parents asked a security guard at the Hoover Dam for directions in perfect (but in an Indian-Britishy) English and he mocked them to their faces and responded to them in Pig Latin, and then Spanglish while they stood there looking confused and weirded out. It was only when I hissed that we were all American citizens who spoke English that he stopped. Seriously gross. I can't say I plan to never visit AZ (it's way too beautiful for that and I want to hike the Grand Canyon some day) but it's distasteful to me that I will likely have to go to an American state with my passport.

There is so much more I could say about this law (related to my job) but it's privileged and confidential. Needless to say, a lot of federal attorneys (including me) have been working on this since before Christmas.

Amanda said...

Have to side with you on this one. Vague laws never work out, and always someone must take the time, energy, and expense of going to court over it so that it is fair. While working taxes, I found many wonderful people whose only mistake was to immigrate illegally, because they could not understand or felt they could not navigate the red tape that surrounds our system (in one memorable instance, one guy didn't even have an address, or postal service to the area in Mexico where he was from). And, I have watched those with stolen SSN#'s make life hell for the person's social they stole. Unfortunately, this is such a complex issue that there is no easy answer. But, I agree with you about this law. Profiling never helped anyone.

Cara said...

Actually, I don't think this law will stand up to constitutional scrutiny, though the Supremes have surprised me before. And while we may need better answers, I really hope it doesn't stand up to the moral scrutiny of Arizona voters.

I just found my husband's naturalization certificate mixed in with a bunch of old papers I was getting ready to throw out. (Its now in a much safer place.) And we certainly don't carry his passport when we travel within the US. Then again, I don't carry mine either. Are they going to just take my word for it that I was born here? After all, he's a blue-eyed, light-skinned European. I'm a dark American mutt who clearly has some Mediterranean of some sort in her ancestry.

Melanie said...

I get that SOMETHING has to be done, but I lack the intelligence to come up with a good solution...... that said its a slippery slope for sure....so sad.

elizasmom said...

I'm a naturalized citizen, and I know I would be totally safe if I went to Arizona, whether I carry my papers or not. Why? Am white, white, white.

So, I have seen time and again people with the same documents, in the same line, as me at immigration (before and after we were naturalized) get all sorts of shit because they had a not-European look or accent.

Based on my personal experiences, I can tell anyone who will listen that there is NO WAY this law is not a racist POS civil rights disaster.

Unknown said...

I'm an American of Puerto Rican and Italian descent, my husband is of Scottish descent. I have the tan skin, dark hair and eyes. While I don't live in Arizona, I have to wonder...I know that I'm not the only American of hispanic descent out there, so how would I prove to a police officer who has this newly annointed power that I'm American? Do I carry around my passport? As a citizen of this country I've always felt that this is a very difficult issue for me to chose a side because I'm hispanic.

Where I was raised, illegal immigration was and still is a very heated issue. I see the loitering outside of local businesses, overcrowded houses, I've read of the gang violence against citizens of our country(MS-13 was a serious problem on Long Island in NY which is where I was raised) and disgustingly, violence against immigrants by Americans. 5 TEENAGERS beat and murdered an immigrant one Friday night for fun on Long Island a couple of years back. It does bother me to see immigrants rioting and fighting for rights when they aren't even citizens. THAT REALLY GETS ME!There is the ugly side of it that makes me angry as an American, that this issue hasn't been resolved because it doesn't just affect Americans, it affects the hispanics who are here legitimately trying to make a better life.

It also makes me upset and sad that the people that we chose to represent us, and citizens of our country, can be so hypocritical. Both sets of my grandparents came to this country to create a better life for their families and the United States offered them that opportunity. If that had been taken away from them and the millions of others before them, where would our country be? To me, our culture is so unique because of what past immigrants have contributed.

I'm very proud of my heritage, but if someone asks me what's my nationality, I always reply American. When you ask people that question it's so funny that almost everyone will reply everything BUT that. We need to keep that in mind, because the majority of us that were born here are all descendants of immigrants.

Gori Girl said...

Aditya and I won't be considering a trip to Arizona (and we'd both really like to see the Grand Canyon) until the law is repealed. I think the last time I was this pissed at politics was when I heard that California struck down Proposition 8.