In the interest of full disclosure, I have lived in Arizona for a fairly significant period of my life, and I understand the frustration many Arizonans feel, in that the federal government has largely dropped the ball on the problem of illegal immigration, at least from some perspectives.
But to pass a racist and pointless law in response is simply not the way to go about fixing such a problem. In fact, it’s absolutely the opposite approach from one that makes sense.
Like I said, the SB 1070 is a racist law, certainly not worthy of most Arizonans. The entire premise of the law is based on the concept that it’s possible to look at someone and determine that they are in this country illegally, which is a ridiculous concept on its face. It’s based on two concepts that are classically racist; the first is that all criminals stick out like a sore thumb, and that all Latinos look alike.
If it’s really that easy to spot “them,” then why aren’t the people in favor of this law rounding up all these people themselves and turning them in to the Border Patrol? And if they’re not doing that because, well, it’s the job of police, well then, I have another question for you – how much time do you think a typical police officer has, to go chasing after Latinos? If they already know who’s who, what’s preventing them from calling ICE now?
Basically, during a recession
in which Jan Brewer was nearly forced to fire thousands of teachers a year ago,
before the stimulus bill was passed and essentially saved her ass, and police
forces have been pretty much frozen for lack of funds, she’s now going to give
already stretched police forces even more to do? She’s going to take police off
the streets so that they can be trained to spot Latinos who are here illegally?
And how much of their time should they
waste spend during their crime-fighting
workday looking for people who are here illegally? According to this law, the
officer has to stop, ask them for their “papers,” then call ICE, wait for ICE
to show up and verify the paperwork and release them into ICE custody. That
may be feasible in more sparsely populated counties, but come on; in
places like Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa and Tucson? Why are these right wingers so
keen on wasting taxpayers’ money? Has anyone bothered to do a cost-benefit analysis on this?
And I hope to hell I don’t have to tell those reading this just how unconstitutional this law is. It’s so unconstitutional on so many levels, even Scalia, Alito and Thomas (Oh my!) will have a difficult time supporting this piece of shit. First of all, constitutionally speaking, states have no jurisdiction whatsoever with immigration matters. The southern border of Arizona isn’t actually in Arizona’s jurisdiction; it’s a United States border, and only the United States and Mexico have jurisdiction there.
As I said, there’s already nothing stopping a police officer who encounters someone he or she knows to be here illegally from turning them over to ICE or the Border Patrol. The problem with this law is that it mandates police to do so much more. You see, folks, there’s this little section of the Constitution called the Bill of Rights; I’m sure everyone’s heard of this, but I get a sense that a large number of people – usually the loudest amongst us – forget about those rules when they become inconvenient.
You see, in order for a police officer to stop you on the street, according to this Bill of Rights (Specifically, the Fourth Amendment), he must have reasonable suspicion that a specific crime has been committed, and that you quite possibly could have committed that crime. There are no “fishing expeditions” allowed in the law.
Here’s the section of the law that attempts to force this crap legislation back into the “constitutional” category, but fails miserably. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
B. FOR ANY LAWFUL CONTACT MADE BY A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL OR AGENCY
OF THIS STATE OR A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE WHERE REASONABLE SUSPICION EXISTS THAT THE PERSON IS AN ALIEN WHO IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES, A REASONABLE ATTEMPT SHALL BE MADE, WHEN PRACTICABLE, TO DETERMINE THE IMMIGRATION STATUS OF THE PERSON. THE PERSON'S IMMIGRATION STATUS SHALL BE VERIFIED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PURSUANT TO 8 UNITED STATES CODE SECTION 1373(c).
There is absolutely no way SB 1070 could fit within the context of the Bill of Rights, and the above attempt to shoehorn it in there is pathetic. If an officer stops someone on the street and asks to see their “papers,” what “reasonable suspicion” is that based upon? Is it “reasonable” for an officer to suspect that someone with Latino features wearing old clothing might be here illegally? In what way is that different than an officer stopping a black man on the streets of a neighborhood that is predominately white because he must be there to commit a crime? There literally can’t be any “reasonable suspicion” in this case, short of catching those running away during an ICE raid. “Reasonable suspicion” requires that police have “probable cause” to believe that a crime has been committed. Stopping someone on the street in this case does not meet that level.
If a bank is robbed, and the people in that bank give police a description of the robber, if an officer stops someone who meets that description, he’s met the definition of “reasonable suspicion.” If an officer stops a vehicle matching a description of the getaway car, that definitely falls under the “reasonable suspicion” category. But claiming “reasonable suspicion” when police start harassing Latinos who are cutting grass or planting flowers simply isn’t going to fly. Do we really want to live in a country in which police are forced to assume that every Latino who labors in a low-paying job must be undocumented?
It’s not just the Fourth Amendment that takes a beating with this law. The Fifth Amendment’s ass is kicked as well. See, here’s the deal, folks. You are ALWAYS entitled to “due process.” This law makes a mockery of the concept of due process. Check out this onerous section of the bill:
A. IT IS UNLAWFUL FOR AN OCCUPANT OF A MOTOR VEHICLE THAT IS STOPPED ON A STREET, ROADWAY OR HIGHWAY TO ATTEMPT TO HIRE OR HIRE AND PICK UP PASSENGERS FOR WORK AT A DIFFERENT LOCATION IF THE MOTOR VEHICLE BLOCKS OR IMPEDES THE NORMAL MOVEMENT OF TRAFFIC.
B. IT IS UNLAWFUL FOR A PERSON TO ENTER A MOTOR VEHICLE THAT IS STOPPED ON A STREET, ROADWAY OR HIGHWAY IN ORDER TO BE HIRED BY AN OCCUPANT OF THE MOTOR VEHICLE AND TO BE TRANSPORTED TO WORK AT A DIFFERENT LOCATION IF THE MOTOR VEHICLE BLOCKS OR IMPEDES THE NORMAL MOVEMENT OF TRAFFIC.
1. "SOLICIT" MEANS VERBAL OR NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION BY A GESTURE OR A NOD THAT WOULD INDICATE TO A REASONABLE PERSON THAT A PERSON IS WILLING TO BE EMPLOYED.
Keep in mind, this comes from the same ideology that keeps telling us that hate crimes legislation is a bad idea because it requires law enforcement to determine the thought processes involved in such crimes. The above section actually makes it illegal for a car to stop and pick someone up along the side of the road if the police officer essentially guesses that the people picked up are going to work somewhere. Of course, the only way the officer could possibly know this would be for the officer to follow them all the way to their destination, which could be as much as 50-70 miles away.
And read the above more closely; doesn’t it preclude the use of car pools? Think about it; tthey’ve just made it illegal to wait in front of your house for your co-worker to pick you up and take you to work.You're especially screwed if you all work for someone as an independent contractor.
Then, there is the portion of the bill that actually indemnifies police officers who detain those who have no “papers,” while another portion of the bill actually allows citizens to sue their local government if they feel they’re not enforcing the law effectively.
Let me spell this out for you.
According to this law, beginning August 1, any officer in the state of Arizona will have license to harass anyone they decide might not be carrying “papers” proving their citizenship. Yeah, we can't imagine police abusing this power, can we? Of course, if they do abuse that power, well, that’s just too bad; you can’t sue them. But at the same time, if some individual citizens feel that police haven’t gathered up enough undocumented aliens, they may file suit in state court and demand that they do more.
This is courtesy of the same ideology that whined that there wasn’t enough “tort reform” in the health insurance reform legislation. Suing your doctor because he cut off the wrong appendage is apparently too stressful on the judicial system and the medical profession, but allowing every crank who feels there are “too many Mexicans” in Arizona to have their day in court, well, that's just peachy, isn't it? They don’t see anything wrong with that? Really?
And what are these “papers” the law talks about, anyway? Does this mean we really have to carry documents “proving” our citizenship at all times now? Do we really want to live in a country where the innocent have to walk around with proof of their innocence at all times? I prefer living in the United States, thanks very much.
Besides, identification cards don't work. When are we going to get it through our thick skulls that identification cards only determine the actual identities of honest people? If people want to assume a different identity and they have a little cash, they will carry around fake documents. In fact, many undocumented immigrants apparently have Social Security cards and state ID cards; just what is a police officer supposed to look at that tells him, absolutely, that someone is here illegally?
This law is just beyond asinine. If every non-federal police officer in the state was to catch ten undocumented immigrants a year, it would put a huge dent in the number, but it wouldn’t eliminate them. But they won’t catch that many, anyway. There are, at most, about 450,000 undocumented immigrants in Arizona, according to the most biased estimates around. (Having spent most of the last year there, living in a Latino section of Tucson, I find it hard to believe there are that many.) Meanwhile, there are almost 2 million Latinos legally living in Arizona. That means, while police are trolling for those who might not have “papers,” their chance of getting lucky and finding one is one-in-five, at best. That is, it would be one-on-five if undocumented immigrants didn’t have access to supplies of “papers” to “prove” they belong here.Exacerbating the problem is the huge number of Mexicans who come over the border perfectly legally to shop at Arizona merchants every day. On a typical weekend, the number of Sonora license plates in Tucson is staggering. So, you have police weeding through the 2 million Latinos who live there legally and the Mexicans who legally come over the border to spend money in the United States, in order to find some of the 450,000 undocumented immigrants, who largely try to hide. Good luck with that.
This law needs to go. In fact, a cynical side of me says the whole law is a scam. I refuse to believe that it passed both the Arizona House and Senate with the idea that it would become law and stay that way; the concept is just too ludicrous for words. This law looks like more red meat for the right. Think about it; they pass a law that morons of that stripe high five and scream over and praise as a wonderful move by Governor Brewer. That gets the "base" psyched up, that the Republicans are again watching their backs. But then, the courts declare it unconstitutional and make it go away, and the right wingers get to bitch and cry about the "liberal" courts.
But whether my cynical side is correct or not, it’s still set to become law on August 1, and we have to make sure the people of Arizona know that most Americans take Constitutional principles seriously and that this law is unacceptable. Progressive radio talk show host Mario Solis-Marich is organizing a state boycott, and he’s looking for ideas on what to boycott at his website, Nuestra Voice. I’m at a loss, since summer in Arizona is like Minnesota in the middle of winter. But if we all put our heads together, we can put some pressure on them. It worked with Martin Luther King Day; it’ll work this time.