Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Race, Politics, & Immigration

With the new law in Arizona which allows local police personnel to act as immigration agents many people fear that it will lead to widespread arrest and detention of Latinos legal or illegal. While this is a valid concern it really misses the whole point of the law. Except for some small town sheriffs seeking to use this for political or personal gain most local police have their hands full with the crimes they already enforce and will not have the inclination or desire to add this onerous duty to their already busy schedules. So if there is little chance of real enforcement of the law then why propose it and sign it into law?

What we are seeing in Arizona is similar to the sundown laws in the south during Jim Crow. The real purpose of these laws is not to be enforced but to intimidate. They are designed to say to all Latinos not just in Arizona but all over the southwest that we can mess with you anytime we want so don’t get comfortable. Historically whenever some whites have felt disenfranchised they have enacted these draconian and odorous laws to inflict psychological damage on those who they feel are the culprits. Do we really think that most local police will stop investigating crime and begin to focus on illegals? No, this law has broader implications and is a heavy-handed attempt to put Latinos back in their place. Don’t think for a minute that there won’t be some cowboy sheriff with a posse that won’t try to make some local political hay out of this, but overall police will continue to pursue local crimes.

I believe because this is an election year and the media can’t seem to get enough of the angry white voter, the politicians in Arizona decided to pander to the worst of our angels and send a message to that socialist in the White House that we have no intentions of just sitting back while our precious America is overrun with this brown tide of illegals that you seem incapable or unwilling to stop. I think everyone agrees that we need to secure our borders. Every country is entitled to know who comes in and who goes out of its borders, but let’s not use this as an excuse to marginalize a whole race of people. It seems important to some folks to be able to intimidate other folks but that solution has never been useful in bringing about positive change. It only seems to allow chaos and confusion to replace dialog and mutual understanding.

I find it interesting that there has been no major outcry from the libertarians or the tea-partiers concerning the fact that a government official can stop Americans and ask for their “papers”. Hell, I didn’t even know we had papers in America. I can’t imagine what I would do if a policeman stopped me on the street and asked for my papers. In my opinion the only way this could be even remotely constitutional is if we were all required to carry papers to verify our right to be in this country. Could you imagine the outcry from these patriotic white Americans if they were forced to carry papers to verify their being in America? You see it is ok for “those people” to have to prove their citizenship, but not those pure blooded Americans. When I heard about this law my first thought was did I accidentally be teleported back to an episode of “Hogan’s Heroes” and we now had Sgt. Schultz guarding our southern border?

I believe we must do more to secure our borders and for those who have to face this issue daily I sympathize with their frustration. I agree with those who are calling for a larger or even military presence on the border to stem the tide of undocumented. But the border is only one facet of the problem. We have millions of people who are residing in this country right now. What are we to do with them? What about the businesses that make it profitable for illegals to cross the border and work here? Do we ignore their role in this? Despite the decision of the folks in Arizona this is a complicated issue and one that requires more than a knee-jerk reaction. The time is overdue for real comprehensive immigration reform. We need reform that will recognize the complexities of this issue and balances the rights of current Americans with those of the immigrants. I hate to burst the bubble of the wing-nuts but you were once an immigrant in this country yourself.

It is vitally important that we implement immigration reform. We need a bill that strengthens our borders and protects this nation, but that also makes it simpler for good people to become Americans. - Dave Reichert

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