By Reynold N Mason
Atlanta, May 2,2010 - Last week Arizona enacted, perhaps, the toughest immigration law in the country. Any suspected undocumented person unable to prove legal status with “papers’’ faces arrest and a fine of $ 2500.00. Critics have assailed the measure from every front. The state now can only watch as its global reputation is tarnished by these attacks, many of them unfounded. Critics have decried Arizona’s efforts as meddling in Federal businesses. They have savaged the state for looking on undocumented immigrants as second class by mandating that they carry proof of legal status, they say the law legalizes racial profiling. But Arizona’s hands were forced because the Federal government was not minding its business.
The torrent of adverse reaction to the law was as swift and unexpected as a mid-west tornado. Sister states feeling the budgetary squeeze have enacted similar legislation with nary a column of notice in the liberal press. Oklahoma for one, in 2007, enacted a law, HB -1804, cutting off undocumented immigrants from state services and making it a crime for anyone, including citizens, to transport or assist undocumented immigrants. Where was the outcry then? Where were the now vocal critics who are painting Arizona black?
Emboldened by the flood of sister state boycotts, law suits challenging the law and calls to isolate Arizona and leech out its economic life blood, as punishment for its audacity and effrontery, Mexico has now stuck its nose into this family squabble. President Calderon, perhaps pleased that the world’s attention is now focused on Arizona , rather than on his country’s ongoing drugs war, has promised more than just talk,” we are going to act”, he promised last week. True, blood is thicker than water, and Hispanics may understandably feel that this law is a kick in the guts of their paisanos. But our family fight should be allowed to continue no further. San Francisco, Washington DC. and the other sister states and cities should knock it off. Arizona does not deserve to be made the pariah and scapegoat for Federal indifference to the plight of border states. The blame lies elsewhere. Instead of vilifying a sister state, activists, if they truly want immigration reform, should to look to the Federal government and channel their outrage, spewing like magma from a long- simmering volcano, in the direction of Washington DC.
Eric Holder, now threatening to challenge the Arizona law is a day late and a dollar short. He has come to the table with unclean hands, those same hands on which the Federal government has sat for years, while Arizona, Texas, California and other border states flailed helplessly in the face of a tsunami of illegal immigrants flooding their states and taxing scarce resources. Yes, we are a country of immigrants, and immigrants have been the engine of American progress. Our credo is immortalized by these words at the base of our most treasured monuments, the statute of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
But the politics and demographics of immigration have evolved since the Irish, Germans and Italians came through Ellis Island. The new comers are our brown-skinned neighbors from the south, and they have come with the same object in mind. Now, however, Americans realize that the cost of the country’s present level of immigration is enormous and increasing. The Center for Immigration Studies put the cost of illegal immigration at $29 billion in 1995. States are grappling with the lack of a Federal solution.
States carry the burden
In 2007, there were 12 million undocumented immigrants in the US. An increase of 39 per cent over 2000. In 2002 SenateResolution 95 put the cost of managing this issue at $$13 billion. Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, (EMTLA) states are required to treat undocumented immigrants without regard to their status or their ability to pay. The cost in 1997 was $3.2 billion and is surely more today. Add to that, $28.6 billion to educate the children of undocumented immigrants from K-12, and the desperation of Arizona and other border states is understandable. Many have accused Arizona of racial profiling, of singling out Hispanics for special treatment. They are wrong.
Arizona law is not motivated by race
In signing the law governor Jan Brewer said this; “There is no higher priority than protecting the citizens of Arizona. We cannot sacrifice our safety to the murderous greed of drug cartels. We cannot stand idly by as drop houses. Kidnappings and drug-related violence compromise our safety and quality of life” Any honest appraisal of the situation in Arizona, would lead to the conclusion that this is the crux of the matter. It is an effort by the state to cope with the effects of a problem that everyone admits is no longer tolerable. What is Arizona to do when Mexican drug war that has, so far, cost over 21,000 lives, spills into Phoenix and Tucson and causes collateral damage to social infrastructure? One and a half tons of marijuana is confiscated by an authorities every day in Arizona on route to cities in the north. Phoenix has seen an increase in drug-related murders and kidnappings and its hospitals are flooded by those victimized by the violence. “There have been numerous officers and deputies killed by illegals in Arizona” says Paul Bateau, Pinal County Sheriff, “violence in Arizona has reached epidemic proportions.” More than one-half of all illegals apprehended last year, were arrested in Arizona, and 17 per cent of those had criminal records.
Looking the other way
In 2004, Immigrants paid $2.4 billion into the cash coffers of the US treasury. Allowing for costs to the Federal government for enforcement and education, the treasury is left with a positive balance of $1.4 billion, according to the Immigration Policy Center. Politicians in Washington decline to enforce the law because they want to gain favor and attract votes of America’s largest minority group, Hispanics. Businesses that hire illegals pay them slave wages with no benefits, leaving the employers with huge profits.
It is against the law to hire illegals and businesses face fines under the law if they are caught in the occasional raid. But that’s just the cost of doing business. Not a dime in was collected from fines imposed on businesses that hired illegal in the entire year, 2004. Washington just looks the other way. Ilegals are an enormous benefit to our economy, paying, according to TIME $7.0 billion into social security in 2005 alone. This amounts to a “bailout “of social security by immigrants. Washington lacks the will top cut this life line.
The Way Forward
The way forward is Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Congress must adopt Comprehensive Immigration As Soon As Possible (CIRASAP) offered by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHP). President Bill Clinton, with no elections in his future, has said “I don’t think there’s any alternative, but for us to increase immigration. I just don’t see a way out of this unless that’s part of the strategy” Republican Senator, Abraham Spenser has said that …’we must balance the needs of families and employers, and extend a safe haven to those fleeing persecution, freedom and opportunity is the cornerstone of American society, and immigrants continue to embody that freedom.” That is the way forward. Washington must mind its business not neglect it and attack Arizona because it seeks to pick up the pieces from a broken Immigration policy.
by Reynold N Mason
Washington DC - April 27, 2010 - By now, all the world knows about SB-1070, the notorious Arizona law that makes it a crime to travel anywhere in the state without “papers”. To violate this provision of the law is to risk jail, plus a $2500.00 fine. Arizona is home to 460,000 Hispanics. No one believes that police would stop a white man and demand he present his “papers” or even harbor the vaguest suspicion that he might be undocumented. The 70 percent of Arizonians support this law do so, because they do not feel threatened by it. The slings and arrows of this law are aimed squarely at Hispanics.
It is time for Americans who value freedom, justice and fair play to become good neighbors and fight this despicable law tarnishing the global image of the State of Arizona. This enactment is a betrayal of MLK, Mandela, Gandhi and countless millions who waged war on prejudice and discrimination. Black South Africans did not end apartheid by themselves, they had the support of anti-apartheid movements across the globe, from Europe to North America, who held rallies, signed petitions and organized boycotts and sit-ins. They had the support of big business, corporations who pulled out of South Africa or ceased making loans. Those among us who admire the sacrifices of MLK, Gandhi and Mandela must be willing to follow their example.
We must remember why they fought. American blacks in particular, should bring their bitter experience and skills honed fighting Jim Crow, to the front line in the battle of Arizona. Our Hispanic brothers now face the might of an anti-immigration machinery aimed at making worse, the plight of those who are least advantaged. That is as wrong as it is unjust. We must not stand by while Arizona violates the civil rights of Hispanics under its power. It is true, that for the time being, the legislature holds all the cards. But so too, did Ian Smith, B.J. Voster and Peter Botha. Yet, in spite these despots, apartheid was discredited and its machinery of racism dismantled . Then as now, rightists legislators are joining forces with ideologically driven elements and are using the judiciary and the police to enforce their will. Let us be thankful that Arizona is a democratic state, with democratic institutions. We must use them to repeal this law.
Politics as usual
We must push for comprehensive immigration reform now, not wait for the time when Washington insiders think it politically expedient. Harry Reid, in a tough fight for re-election in his home state of Nevada, has read the writing on the wall, he says he‘ll push immigration reform, now. The 25 % Hispanic population in his home state of Nevada will be heard from come November. ((The White House is paralyzed and afraid to move on comprehensive immigration reform without Republican support)). Even the erstwhile John McCain, he, who with Senator Kennedy in 2005, sponsored the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill, which called for a guest worker program and a pathway to citizenship, has flipped. In the fight of his political life against an anti-immigration rightist, he has drifted right. Republican senate point man Mitch McConnell, on Fox News Sunday, said he didn’t think the time is right for immigration reform; “not while we have 10% unemployment and drug wars across the border”. This sentiment was echoed by Saxby Chambliss, Republican from Georgia, who believes that other issues pending in congress must take precedence over comprehensive immigration reform. It’s no longer the back of his bus; it is the back of the line.
But there are hopeful signs. The debate over comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) has galvanized the Hispanic community. Hispanics the world over, have begun to speak out in support of their Arizona brothers. Hispanic leaders, like representatives Paul Grijalva and Luis Guttierez, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, (CHP) have been vocal in their opposition, and Hollywood celebrities, among them, George Lopez, Eva Longoria and Ricky Martin have taken to Twitter to express their views. Ordinary citizens are finding ways to express their outrage. The Miami Herald reports that Jesus Serrano, an independent trucker, is organizing a trucker boycott. Since forty percent of all Mexican products come through Nogales, an effective trucker boycott could raise the price Mexican products this side of the border. Phoenix Mayor, Phil Gordon, says he anticipates a drop in business because of this law. That’s a good start. Together, Americans of conscience opposed apartheid and defeated Jim Crow, so there’s no reason to celebrate discrimination today in Arizona. Congress must take up CIR now. It must pass comprehensive immigration reform for America’s secutiry and prosperity (CIRASAP) that many say “secures our borders, secures our nation and keeps families together”
by Reynold N Mason
Fifty years ago, 69 people were killed and 180 were injured protesting laws that required them to carry “passes” at all times or face arrest. The place was Sharpsville, Republic of South Africa. The apartheid system had enacted the “pass Law” to limit the movement of blacks in white areas of the country. Fast forward to 2010. Arizona enacts a statute known as SB 1070, on April 19. It now awaits only the signature of governor - Brewer to put it into effect. In much the same way as apartheid, this bit of legislative chicanery is designed to limit the movement and numbers of Hispanics in the state. Sounds familiar?
According to the U S census Bureau, 30 million Hispanics, 11 per cent of the population, called the US home in 2000. By 2007, that number had reached 45 million, 15 per cent of the population. In 16 states, the Hispanic population exceeds 500,000. The irony is the very people who thought the apartheid pass laws oppressive and discriminatory, who used economic sanctions, demonstrations and boycotts to bring an end to apartheid, have now taken a page from the apartheid law books. Like pass laws, the Arizona statute makes it a crime for an undocumented person to simply be in the state, on either private or public property. It is now a crime to invite a known illegal alien into the state or perhaps sit down to dinner with such a person. The law forbids teaching undocumented persons in schools, harboring them or conferring any state benefits upon the unfortunate souls. This provision mints new criminals out of law abiding citizens who may sit down to dinner with their newly- arrived sibling. As repugnant as this legal prohibition might appear, more invidious still, is the provision of the Arizona “pass law” that gives police the authority to question people about their immigration status and, to arrest them for trespassing should they fail to show, the sacred piece of officious paper that says: “’you have the right to be here”
Let’s not forget that failure to produce the pass on demand was a crime in Sharpsville too, for which thousands were arrested and jailed. And to be sure the law is carried out to the fullest extent, it grants every citizen the right to bring suit if he/she feels the authorities are not enforcing the law to the fullest extent. (Section 11-1051) In addition, the police are indemnified by the state, should they be sued for acts done in enforcing the law. Have no fear we got your back. The “Houdini Hispanic” who evades the dragnet however, will be cut off at the pass. He must eat, and so must work. But when he tries to solicit work on the street corner he risks jail, because it is now a crime for undocumented persons to seek work in Arizona and a crime too, for any one to employ such a person.
Will the courts save us?
The 4th Amendment to the US constitution has, for years, been employed by the courts to beat back invidious and hateful discrimination. The police have been required to prove that they had reasonable suspicion to stop any one perceived to be an illegal alien. How to tell an undocumented Hispanic from one born in the US…..that’s where the rubber meets the road. This is “stealth racism”, plain and simple, with “plausible deniability.” No, we are not racists; we are simply enforcing the law enacted by our august legislature. This is rank racism masquerading in legal garb, under a policy designed to target Mexicans. Arizona will have the dubious distinction of being the first state to legalize racial profiling. Previously, overt racism has now taken sophisticated guises. Police will not have to admit their true motives (no need for the KKK) because they can now operate behind a veil of authority conferred by SB-1070, which shields their conduct against the dreaded appellation: “racist cop”. In the shadows, behind their veil of law and authority, police can now heap indignities that bespeak hostile intent toward Hispanics, with impunity.
The new law legalizes ethnic profiling, and targets Hispanics, for suspicion of crimes based on nothing more than their race and ethnicity, or in this instance, group characteristics they believe to be associated with undocumented aliens. This is nothing if not “the use of ethnicity to determine whom to stop”. This approach is replete with constitutional peril. The New York garment workers settlement highlights this conundrum. After INS agents arrested 2,907 undocumented workers, they testified that they relied on the workers appearance, language… speaking Spanish or, English with a Spanish accent, appearing to be South American, and wearing clothes not typical of America and foreign sounding names. Ninety-six per cent of the workers arrested were Hispanics.
Admittedly, illegal immigration is a problem, and a thorny one at that. But that does not justify racial or ethnic discrimination. In the Brignoni-Ponce case, in 1975, the US Supreme Court, recognizing the illegal immigration problem, said that it was reasonable for the INS to use Spanish ethnicity near the Mexican border as a basis for detaining a person. But this may not be the only basis. This ruling may have outlived its usefulness because of the changes in the US population. This limited circumstance does not authorize Arizona to grant its police broad and unlimited power to stop and question Hispanics under the SB-1070 without reason to suspect that they have violated the law. Where would that leave Hispanics who are US citizens or legal residents?
True, twelve million illegal aliens create economic and social problems, such as increased demands on schools, hospitals and recreational facilities. But resorting to knee-jerk legal panaceas is not the answer. We must consider the public interest along with the interference the law will occasion upon individual liberty, when, for instance, a father is accosted by police at his son’s soccer match, or at the school bus stop or grocery store. No reasonable person will begrudge the police their privilege of searching someone believed to be armed and dangerous or, to detain a person when there is information that that person is carrying illegal drugs. But to countenance an affront upon law abiding citizenry, as this law does, without any suspicion that a particular person has done something wrong, would permit open season on Hispanics in Arizona, legal or otherwise. Being Hispanic in Arizona (BHA) would become as precarious as driving while black (DWB).
Large numbers of Mexicans, both native born and naturalized citizens share ancestry and physical characteristics. This alone cannot be justification for stopping all Hispanics to ask about their legal status. We need to follow the example of our Sharpsville brethren and stand against this injustice.
“……no man should be required to do what the law does not require; nor to refrain from acts which the laws permit. There are acts which the Federal, or State Legislature cannot do, without exceeding their authority. There are certain vital principles in our Republican governments, which will determine and over-rule an. apparent flagrant abuse of legislative power” [.....Justice Chase (1798)