Monday, April 26, 2010

Arizona Lays Down the Gauntlet for Latinos Everywhere

Arizona has become the first state in the union to legalize racial profiling with the signing of a law to "identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants." (NYT) Signing the bill into law last Friday, Governor Jan Brewer has set off the outrage of Latinos and other conscientious Americans, not least the president, who take issue with the idea that cops can now stop anyone they suspect is in this country illegally, and fine and detain them if they fail to present proper documentation. (HuffPo)

So, Latinos, are your papeles in order?

It's shocking, isn't it, to watch elected officials with the support of their constituents enact hateful legislation right in front of our very eyes. The amount of time and money that has been poured into marginalizing one group and amplifying hysteria around an issue that will not go away speaks to the shortsightedness and bigotry that still exist in our government. As a Latino myself, I can't even imagine what I would say if some cop pulled me over on my way to work and asked to see my proof of residency. That's progress for ya.

True, Arizona has a high undocumented population and the state is the busiest illegal entry point along the U.S./Mexico border. With over 400,000 undocumented residents, yes, it's understandable that Arizona would want to address the strain on its resources and its identity - after all, how do you govern over a people who you don't even know are there? You've got close to half a million people under your watch whom you are morally and legally bound to serve and protect, but they have no obligation to you. From that perspective I understand the frustration of the people of Arizona.

These issues, however, all point to the need for comprehensive immigration reform. We can't apply martial law to the border, we can't just round up people based on the color of their skin and we can't just force everyone to wear their badge of citizenship. That's not what America is about. This isn't the former Soviet Union, this isn't Stasi-era East Germany, this isn't any Latin American country (pick one) under military rule. We're a country of visionary leadership, of innovative solutions - why haven't we been able to come up with a process to bring undocumented residents into the legal system, tax them appropriately and bring them from the shadows into our society? They're already here, they're already working (most of them), so what other choice do we have that doesn't compromise the principles on which this country was founded?

Our own hate and mistrust will be our undoing. This legislation in Arizona is frightening and needs to be challenged. Who's for a march on AZ?


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