Sunday, July 18, 2010

the arizona tea party

i hadn't planned to write about the immigration stuff, and have several other topics on my blog-list, but yesterday i made a comment on facebook about arizona's law and a friend posted back with a relevant question: do i think we should open the borders and simply let anyone come in? when i tried to answer, i realized it was too complex to confine to a facebook 'news' comment, so here it is.....

there's just so much to this question, and much of it rooted in history--in multiple histories. so i'm trying to discuss it in several different parts.

1. since history is so crucial, i need to start on the most practical premise. whatever the govt does -- and i'm trying to avoid here the 'we' that implies all of us make these decisions. 'we' don't. the government, the rich, the corporations, they make the functional decisions. they make the laws. 'we' get to vote on some of the things they do, or which of them represents and enforces the laws. so whatever the government does, this is 2010, and the US is a rich superpower, which will make laws, many of which must be made and all of which will be obeyed by most of us, out of belief in the righteousness of 'law' or out of 'patriotism' or out of belief in a specific law or, i suspect most commonly, out of lethargy and/or cowardice. but laws will exist, and to whatever extent 'we the people' can affect them, we need to consider them in any practical effort to deal with situation they involve. thus the question becomes not whether there should be laws against illegal immigration, but what laws might be the most helpful to the people they impact on. what then makes the arizona law the best, the worst, or whatever?

2]the arizona law stinks. as most progressives have noted, it is racist. giving the governor the benefit of the doubt, let's say she truly doesn't mean it to be racist. okay, it's a large benefit of a large doubt, but i'm willing to let her have it.
but that doesn't make it any the less racist. the fact is that the particular illegal immigrants involved in this question are not flying in from denmark. i would be willing to bet that if this law passes, not a single blue-eyed blond will be stopped by the police, unless she's traveling with a dark-skinned friend. they will be looking for mexicans, who tend to be darker skinned than euro-americans. they will be dark skinned regardless of their immigration status, which means that legal immigrants and their offspring will be harrassed and will be forced to carry documentation with them at all times. this is only a step or 2 removed from 'colored' toilets and water fountains. it inherently applies only to people who look like they might be mexican. this will involve not only hispanic people, whatever their status is, but pakistanis, indians, people from the near- or mid-eastern countries, native americans, and [ironically] lighter skinned african americans. since the police have nothing else to go on , they will have only their own visual judgement t determine who looks like they might be illegal. whatever their individual beleifs, the police will either have to enforce racism or risk losing their jobs.

3]whatever ends up being done legally, it will have to be hypocrical. the history of the US is a history of illegal immigrants--or of immigrants that would have been illegal if the Native Americans had anticipated what would happen to them. europeans came to the americas to escape poverty, imprisonment, the rigid class systems of their homelands. they were the 'tired, the poor,' the 'huddled masses yearning to breathe free.' they were the equivalent of the mexicans trying to cross our borders. that alone should highlight the built-in hypocracy of any current anti-immigration policies.

then consider what these tired/poor/freedom-yearning invaders did; they took over the land, expelled and/or massacred the people already there, destroying in the process the social organizations that had existed on this land for centuries.

4] finally, as each new wave of immigrants came here, the descendants of those early disenfranchised europeans used them for cheap labor, persecuted them, eventually more or less absorbed them into the dominant culture [i'm leaving out here that vast company of unwilling 'immigrants,' the african slaves, who as we know were treated even worse than the desperately willing arrivals.] i'm not suggesting our history is worse than other countries' in that sense. historically, you come to a new country either as an immigrant, in which case you'll be treated as a second class citizen or worse, or as an invader, in which case you get to do the oppressing. there aren't many pretty pictures here.

5] so back to point 1. immigrants from poorer countries have come to the US, and will continue to do so. Laws will be made to make sure this is done legally and in limited numbers. such laws are necessary if the majority of us, or at least of the non-poor among us, are to go on living our more comfortable lives. how can these laws be the least unethical laws possible? [a moment to pray to whatever being created me: thank you for not making me a politician or law enforcer. this makes it much easier to worry about ethical laws.] i would suggest looking at who has benefited from large numbers of illegal, and thus desperate, inhabitants. the well to do will need to hire legal workers at minimum wage, so their interests shouldn't be considered. on a purely practical level, they benefit from controlled illegal immigration. if the 'girl' who cleans your house is here illegally, she isn't going demand decent wages. that needs to be factored in to whatever laws happen. somehow, the country's history needs to be acknowledged in considering how to do to illegal immigrants what was not done to the country's earliest settlers. that should function at least as a curb to the more cruel or rigid legislations.

Given how many of our legislators are christian, as they are constantly telling the rest of us, i would like to see them read their own new testament before they make immigration legislation. do unto others as you would have them do unto you. whatsoever you have done to the least of my brethren you have done also unto me. if you really believe that, then keep in mind that whatever laws you make against illegal immigrants, you are making against your own messiah. while i don't want to see any legislation being made on theological grounds, it's not a bad idea for all legislators to examine their consciences, as the catholics say, before supporting any laws. religion does not belong in the laws of a free country, but compassion, under any inspiration, does.


Nathan Roemer said...

The following link is to the full text of Arizona Senate Bill 1070.

It's worth reading the actual legislation before you form your own opinions.

In summary, this legislation allows state and local law enforcement in AZ to assist the federal government to enforce immigration law. Essentially it does this by REITERATING the definitions of immigration-related offenses already outlined in existing federal law. Then, it gives state and local authorities the directive and power to enforce these laws.

1. THE ARIZONA LAW DOESN'T STINK ANY MORE OR LESS THAN EXISTING FEDERAL IMMIGRATION LAW. The legislation, itself, is essentially the same. The main difference lies in enforcement. The federal government has failed to enforce the law; and this legislation intends to use state and local officials to enforce what the federal government has not--but the definitions of what is illegal when it comes to immigration already exist in federal law.

The point here is that if you disagree with the AZ law, then you probably disagree with federal immigration laws as well.

2. THE AZ LAW IS NOT RACIST. Progressives have a vested interest in painting the legislation as racist, but the law says nothing of race whatsoever.

Karen says the law is racist because it will disproportionately affect people of a particular race. And, will affect a larger number of the races she identified than people, say, from Europe. However, statistical facts do not have any bearing on intent. In AZ, Hispanic people make up by far the largest portion of those who break immigration laws in that state. What that does NOT change are these facts: 1) They are breaking the law, and 2) AZ, and the federal government, have a right to enforce the laws that our elected officials create. Are other laws that are broken in the areas where the Asian mob commit the majority of crime, for instance, racist? Are the people who come up with those laws racist? Of course not, or at least, I hear no such outcry!

It's also worth noting that the same PROBABLE CAUSE rules apply. Even under the AZ law, you cannot ask someone to prove their citizenship just because they're walking down the street and look like a Mexican. However, a state trooper could ask for proof of citizenship if you are stuck in the back of a truck with 100 other people if your truck was pulled over for speeding on a known human trafficking route. Probable cause, not the colour of your skin, is the rule here.

Nathan Roemer said...


The point of immigration law is to regulate and maintain knowledge of those coming into a country. It's part of being a sovereign nation, but apart from that, it's a practical necessity.


Application for citizenship ensures many good things, from obvious qualifications like determining that the applicant is not a terrorist, to making sure that the person will be able to take care of themselves living within our country and culture. It even helps to ensure that the applicant won't bring harmful diseases with them.


Karen touched on this, and it's pretty self explanatory. However, I would like to point out that there is a moral and ethical difference between social injustice and social inequality. It's my opinion that "Progressives" tend to view the latter often as severely as the former, probably due to the fact that progressives also tend to favour socialism to capitalism (again, my observation).

NOTE: There may be some towards the more extreme end of the spectrum who believe that the world should have open borders and that we should all receive the same, no matter what. To those people, ALL immigration law (along with ANYTHING that creates inequality) will be wrong, and this whole debate is rather moot, isn't it?


The more you learn about a place in which you wan to live, the more you want to live there. This goes for any country, or even any city. Call it a "sense of community." I don't think many people would call it a bad thing, and it's certainly something gained by those who immigrate into the United States through the legal path to citizenship. Speaking to these people, you know they're proud to be Americans, and you can't help but to be glad they're here.


Whether or not the current laws are the "right" ones, they are the laws. And I believe we either need to enforce the law, or change it. For now, the law needs to be enforced as it stands. Without doing so, any reform to that law will be equally meaningless.

There are a lot of things to weigh when considering how many people to allow into this country, or whether or not to make the process easier. And, I do believe there is a good balance to strike between the multiple extremes out there--the pros and cons of which could take volumes to write. Personally, I believe we need to find a way to make it easier for those seeking the American opportunity to try to do so, whilst not creating an undue burden on those who have worked hard to make their own lives here already. Isn't that where we can balance all of the issues of history and hypocrisy?

As it stands, there are a lot of people here who have made their first act in this country to break and disrespect the law of this land. Compare that to someone who does immigrate here after coming out of the vetting process proud to be in this country and eager to take advantage of the opportunities it affords--wanting to contribute his or her fair share, and grateful for what he or she can gain. Personally, I'd like to see this country full of the former and emptied of the latter.

Ken G. said...

Nathan asks, "Are laws ... in areas where the Asian mob commit the majority of crime, for instance, racist?"

To me, this seemingly innocent question really gets at the heart of the issue here. Arizona SB1070 is a reaction to a handful of brutal crimes committed by international drug cartels, bringing their product from Latin America across the Arizona border.

Unfortunately, SB1070 does not address enforcement of laws against the drug trade, it simply scapegoats anybody who looks or sounds like a drug smuggler. This, pure and simple, is why SB1070 is racist.

Here's the thing; drug smugglers don't consider themselves to be immigrants. They're only here on business.

The vast majority of immigrants (legal or otherwise) are here to try to make a better life for themselves and their families. They not only obey (other) laws, but are more likely to be victims of crimes, since they are afraid to complain to the authorities.

As Nathan said, if you have problems with SB1070, you probably have problems with existing Federal immigration laws, and I do. They do not recognize the reality of immigration, including our demand for immigrant labor (not just "the girl" cleaning house, as Karen mentions, but the food industry from picking of fruit to cleaning restaurant kitchens, and much more).

Federal immigration reform with a path to citizenship for those who follow the rules and contribute to society is a must.

Cutting our demand for imported drugs (whether smoked, shot up, or put into our automobiles) is number two.

And calling out racist attempts to scapegoat large groups of people for other people's crimes is a constant.

karen lindsey said...

whatever this is, please explain. who can't post so far and what should i do about it?

karen lindsey said...

anyway, nathan. i just read the law which, as i imagine is generally the case with written laws, would make a splendid example for writing classes on how not to write. but i did read it. i'm sure given the time and willingness to plow thru more thoroughly i'd find things i don't like about it, but it doesn't specify that cops can stop anyone they think is an illegal immigrant, and it doesn't add anything about carrying your green card or passport or other proof that you're here legally. but the governor did talk about that, and did say the cops should stop anyone they think is an illegal immigrant.i saw this tape on several news programs. when the reporters asked about racism, she said no no it couldnt be used racially -- as indeed it says in the law itself. when the reporters asked then how the cops were to decide who seemed to be an illegal alien, she got all vague and said they'd figure that out later. is this in a proposed amendment to the law, or a new law, or simplly an enforcement proclamation or some other rule with a different term than 'law'? in any case, that's what i'm specifically referring to in the blog, and unless she was making it all up, it seems to be something she's telling cops they have to do. and lacking any specific details of how you spot an illegal alien driving a car, the only way to tell the difference between an illegal alien, a legal alien, a foreigner who has become a citizen, or a born-in-america second generation or 3rd 4th or 5th generation american of hispanic origin, or a non hispanic citizen who looks hispanic ,is that they do in fact, look hispanic. and on the tapes she specified that when stopped the person has to present proof of citizenship. so if you look hispanic, you have to carry proof of citizenship. if you don't look hispanic and you're stopped for some non-immigration-related reason, like speeding or driving thru red lights or whatever, you don't have to show such proof. that is discrimnination, and it's racial discrimination. which is why the publicity over the decision started in the first place. [and by the way, as i think you know, but just to clarify it, i most certainly am one of those progressives who believes socialism, or communism if it ever existed, would certainly be large improvements over capitalism. that of course is another discussion, and one i'd be happy to go into here another time].

since i have issues with the whole idea of nations and nationalism, i can only feel ambivalent about anyone's right to determine where someone else can live based on a my-people-got-here-first ideology. but obviously nations exist, and obviously we live in them, and they will always have laws about who else can live in them. i'm not sure that's good, for all the reasons i went into before, but since i can't wave my magic wand and change human history, i can only, however grudgingly say, yes, this is the history i'm in. we are very very far from that lovely marxist dream of one day the state withering away. so the question is not should there be laws around immigration, but how can those laws be made to be the least oppressive laws possible? and how can the closest-to-fair laws be enforced in the closest-to-fair way? asking police officers to judge in a wholly superficial way who is likely to be an illegal alien is nowhere near fair--to the cops themselves, thrown into a role they haven't asked for; to the legal residents or visitors who 'look like aliens,' or to the illegal immigrants themselves. since this is going at at the mexican border, rather than say the canadian border, someone being or looking hispanic is the only clue the cops can possibly get. and that is racist.

karen lindsey said...

hi nathan, ken, anyone else. i know my penultimate comment here doesn't make sense. i tried to explain on my post to nathan, but i only get about 4000 words and wanted to use them for the issue at hand. so that little post is about this: above the box i'm typing this into--which is the 2nd panel on a page that has the comments etc--there is a headline 'leave y our comment' and under that in smaller type, 'please let me most. i can't post so far.' this appears next to any comments on any post, and i have no idea what it means or who can't post. apparently i CAN post, since my comments have appeared. anyone have any idea what this thing means?

karen lindsey said...

p.s. no. 2--i had to take out the last part of my answer to nathan, and it something i want to breifly address--nathan you asked if people would complain of laws against crimes committed in areas where asian mobs committed crime, or at least i think that's what you meant. depends on the law. but if police officers were told to question anyone who looked like they might be an asian mobster, you bet progressives would be pissed, and even moderate liberals. and i think that you would be too, if you were one of the ones stopped. i hope you would!