Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Arizona, Immigration, Racism, and Federal Inaction

As I'm sure you've heard by now, a new Arizona law requires all immigrants in the state to carry their documentation on them at all times and present it upon a suspicious police officer's demand. For your roundup of news and background on this new immigration rule, check out Feministe, with a truly comprehensive link list. I can't imagine this law will last long, as it is straight up unconstitutional and enforcement promises to be a real nightmare. Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva has asked that organizations boycott the state in the face of a bill that he maintains is essentially codified racism.

Is this law primarily motivated by racism? This seems to be the consensus, and Latoya over at Racialicious even documents refried bean swastikas plastered on state buildings in protest (vandalism which reporters awkwardly mischaracterize as a hate crime). Our own Just A State School Girl picked apart the risk of racial profiling the bill presents earlier this week. NMDan of Daily Kos agrees with this take, and argues that such blatantly racist moves will motivate the electorate and ensure the swift downfall of the GOP. The vote did fall along party lines, but I am hesitant to characterize the Republican party as purely racist while Democrats are stalwart defenders of freedom. There is plenty of room for skepticism that anyone in DC is really dedicated to tackling immigration policy, Democrat or Republican.
I completely agree that this bill is racist, counterproductive, and needs to be discarded immediately. Georgia is similarly trying to legislate immigration through the DMV (it is stupid and racist as well, but that's another post entirely). However, I think this is also a great time for the country to discuss the real problems with border control in the Southwest. Meghan McCain runs through some of the reasons that Washington really needs to focus on this issue, and why states feel forced to blaze their own paths. The threat that Arizonans are not addressing with this bill is border control. Undocumented migrants are not a criminal threat to society and their immigration is no justification to impose a police state. Arizona residents do face real threats from others who are exploiting our porous borders. Drug violence along the border is completely out of control, and the federal government is not deploying anywhere near the kind of resources that are needed. And in what world is it at all acceptable that human traffickers can cross the border and leave their victims/clients in the desert to die? Securing the borders from drug cartels and human traffickers should be a federal priority, and DC's lack of attention to these issues is a betrayal of Southwesterners, Mexicans, and immigrants (documented and undocumented alike.)

Although it is easy (and appropriate) to get worked up about Arizona's recent moves, I find myself more disappointed with a federal government that has refused to take responsibility for immigration reform and border control. Calling the bill "misguided" is not leadership, in the same way that getting didactic with hecklers is not the same thing as actually advancing LGBTQ rights. The president took a similar tone at a recent speech about healthcare reform in Maine, explaining to the audience:
Can you imagine if some of these reporters were working on a farm and you planted some seeds, and they came out the next day and they looked and - 'Nothing's happened. There's no crop. We're going to starve. Oh, no! It's a disaster!' It's been a week, folks. So, before we find out if people like health care reform, we should wait to see what happens when we actually put it into place. Just a thought.
Maybe we should be patient. But honestly, I am seriously sick of the status quo (in healthcare, immigration, gay rights, and more!), and am not interested in being lectured to. The American people are starving for change, which you did promise, and the condescending tone is really not making your ass-dragging case (Congress, that includes you too!) It's game time, so stop the campaigns and execute!

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