Friday, April 23, 2010

Police State in Arizona

Scary Crooks and Liars headline: Gov. Jan Brewer makes it official: Arizona is now nation's first police state for immigrants

Actually, it's worse than that. It's a police state for everyone in Arizona now.

Media Matters reports:

AZ Bill "Requires Police" To Determine A "Person's Immigration Status." The Los Angeles Times reported that the newly passed Arizona immigration "bill, known as SB 1070, makes it a misdemeanor to lack proper immigration paperwork in Arizona. It also requires police officers, if they form a 'reasonable suspicion' that someone is an illegal immigrant, to determine the person's immigration status." The legislation passed 35 to 21. [Los Angeles Times, 4/14/10, emphasis added]

Those "Unable To Produce Documents Showing They Are Allowed To Be In The United States Could Be Arrested, Jailed For Up To Six Months And Fined $2,500." According to the Seattle Times, under the Arizona immigration bill "the police would be authorized to arrest immigrants unable to show documents allowing them to be in the country and the legislation would leave drivers open to sanctions, in some cases for knowingly transporting an illegal immigrant, even a relative. Immigrants unable to produce documents showing they are allowed to be in the United States could be arrested, jailed for up to six months and fined $2,500. Currently, officers can inquire about someone's immigration status only if the person is a suspect in another crime. The bill would allow officers to avoid the immigration issue if it would be impractical or hinder another investigation." [Seattle Times, 4/14/10, emphasis added]

AZ Bill "Makes It Illegal For Anyone To Transport An Illegal Immigrant, Even A Family Member." ABC News reported that the Arizona immigration "measure allows police to detain people on the suspicion that they are illegal immigrants, outlaws citizens from employing day laborers, and makes it illegal for anyone to transport an illegal immigrant, even a family member, anywhere in the state." [ABC News, 3/26/10, emphasis added]

So if the police don't like something about me (I'm white, not Latino), they can lie about forming a "reasonable suspicion" and also require me to prove that I'm an American citizen or legally able to stay in the U.S. And if I happen to pick up a hitchhiker who is an illegal immigrant, and the police stop my car, I get to spend time in jail along with the person I picked up. Obviously, this law will be used to harass Latinos in general and immigrants, legal or otherwise, in particular, but it could be used against anyone. Say, for example, white-looking people at a pro-immigration rally. Or white-looking people handing out leaflets supporting immigrants. Or someone who gets angry at a police officer's high-handedness at a traffic stop.

And what are the documents that will satisfy the requirement of proving that one is legally in the U.S.? Is a driver's license from another state enough? A birth certificate? A social security card? If I ever have the misfortune of going to Arizona while this law is still on the books, I'll make sure to bring my passport with me.


  1. Hi Rebecca,

    By and large, I favor as open an immigration policy as possible. At the same time, I think that should be national policy, not the result of a refusal of the government to enforce its laws.

    As matters now stand, the US has two contradictory policies: one that is written into law and another that is unofficial in order to benefit employers, on the one hand, and immigration rights advocates, on the other hand. That approach, to me, is a real danger to the notion of justice and invites people, with good intentions, to want to make the law that exists on the books be what is practiced. Calling such people racist, it seems to me, is wrongheaded and is part of what is wrong with our side of the political spectrum.

    You are certainly correct that the law could unfairly single out Latinos. I, however, have to agree with Arizona's governor when she say this is the fault of the US government, not Arizona. The US government needs to get its act together on immigration and decide, one way or another, what to do about those who immigrated illegally, as the word illegal is normally understood. It can create a path to citizenship or it can kick them out. But, no one should be angry at citizens who think the law on the books should be enforced or call them racists.

  2. Immigration is a matter of national government policy - it's not something that states are responsible for. I have my doubts about whether certain provisions of this law are even constitutional. If the good people of Arizona are so concerned about illegal immigration, perhaps they should pressure their representatives in Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration law, instead of supporting a racist law that will target thousands of Latino (and other) American citizens.

  3. Rebecca,

    I did not say I support the Arizona law. What I said is that you cannot use the word "racist" to the extent that the law is merely intended to enforce US immigration law - unless you are saying that US immigration law itself is racist, something you do not appear to be saying. And, that is true even if the law effectively singles out one group of people, Latinos. Why? Because it is Latinos who are the group that is the main violator of the US immigration law.

    Suppose, to follow your logic, large numbers of Japanese people were selling and eating blowfish sushi. As you may know, such fish carry a poison that can be deadly. Yet, it is a delicacy. The law in the US makes the sale and, most likely, purchase/eating of such product illegal. On your theory, since enforcement of the law would impact a lot of innocent Japanese (and few others) in the effort to stop criminal activity, enforcement would be racist. In my book, the allegation is ill conceived allegation - pure politics - to prevent enforcement of the law.

    As for the Arizona law itself, it may or may not be Constitutional. I have no idea. I would, however, rather doubt that it is unconstitutional for a state merely to act to enforce Federal law. In fact, state courts do that all the time. If a green carded person is charged with a crime and wants to plead guilty, judges normally warn the person that he or she will be deported and, as such, should think twice before entering a plea bargain.

    Rebecca, demonizing people who disagree with our point of view on immigration is wrongheaded. My secretary frets about illegal immigration so I have had substantial occasional to listen carefully to her point of view. She is no racist, by any stretch of the imagination. Her concerns, which I think are common among people like her, are real ones. She frets about the fact that, in our state, tuition in state schools is lower for illegal immigrants than it is for her children, that she pays extra taxes, which she says she cannot afford, to help people who, under our law, have no right to be in the country, etc., etc.

    Now, as I said: I favor as open an immigration policy as possible. But, frankly, when my secretary says that she, who is, due to divorce from her creep of a husband, a single mom, can hardly pay her bills yet she is expected to support people illegally in the country and be disadvantaged compared to people illegally in the country, I have no good answer. Do you? And, I see attitudes as you express as strong reason why people who, by income and background, are natural Democrats, hating liberals. Think about it.

  4. I'm not talking about people like your secretary - the questions she raises are good questions, and should be taken into consideration when considering reforming immigration law. I"m not labeling her a racist.

    I'm objecting to the Arizona law in particular. It goes beyond federal law - see for example the second paragraph that I quoted. Why does Arizona, a state, have the right to jail people for up to six months for not being able to produce papers proving they're legally in the U.S.? Isn't this a matter of federal jurisdiction?

    And how is the first quoted paragraph not a blanket permission to stop anyone and ask them for their papers? What will be the standards for a police officer to form a "reasonable suspicion" that someone is an illegal immigrant? As I said in my post, this seems to me to be an excuse for police officers to stop anyone they don't like and to harass them.

  5. Rebecca,

    I am not in favor of Arizona's law. All I was saying is that the real culprit in all of this is the Federal government, not Arizona and not people seeking to force the government to follow the law.

    On the other hand, I do not see how the government, state or federal, can administer the current law without adding something draconian that singles out Latinos. They, after all, are the group with millions of people violating the law. So, I am not really sure that what Arizona is adding to the law amounts to a real, or a theoretical, concern. After all, laws can be administered in a fair or an unfair or, as with Federal immigration law, basically not at all.

    Do you see a way to solve my blowfish problem - which is the same problem as the immigration problem

  6. Even Brit Hume (hardly a liberal), has spoken on Fox about how the law will cause civil rights violations against Latinos:

    Crooks and Liars also cites another article about a truck driver in Phoenix who was arrested because he couldn't immediately produce a birth certificate: And this is someone who was born in the U.S. ICE claimed in response that this was "standard operating procedure." If so, I'm glad that I'm not living in a border state where not carrying one's birth certificate can lead to being handcuffed. To me, this certainly seems like police state tactics.

  7. Rebecca,

    I do not favor the Arizona law.

    As for the event you quote, the law has not gone into effect in Arizona so it could not be the basis on which anyone could be stopped. Ergo, I do not see your point, unless your point is that the existing law is a problem. If so, have you protested the law already on the books?

  8. Rebecca,

    I just read this article about the new law that will go into effect in Arizona. I am not saying I agree with the article. I am, however, wondering whether your sources have the law that was enacted quite right. If this article is correct, then your sources would be mistaken.

    The article makes some interesting points about the pre-text for enforcing the new law. If the law includes what the author claims, then your sources really are mistaken.