Yesterday I wrote of some of the subtext underlying the AZ bill, the Brewer role in the GOP plot to lop off millions of voters across this land. In AZ hundreds of thousands have been wrongly purged from the voter roles, most of them brown-skinned. Today I address some of the more obvious issues, which nonetheless bear repeating. First, let it be said, that I vigorously oppose the new Arizona immigration law. Should it spread to other states, and to the nation at-large, it would further a human rights outrage. This is so because it targets people by domestic law enforcement without probable cause. Most of all, asking American citizens, legal immigrants and, yes, even undocumented persons, to produce their “papers,” hearkens back to the days of Nazi Germany or the heyday of the USSR. We do not want to go there. Combined with the 2010 Census questions honing in on Hispanic country of origin, with specificity not afforded any other ethnicity, the AZ law must seem threatening to Hispanic peoples. The hostile climate will ill serve all Americans.
Most Americans believe some immigration reform is necessary. That is not inherently racist. It is how we conduct ourselves, for what reason, and what we seek to achieve that define who (and what) we are inside. How we behave and rationalize what we do forms a figurative charcoal sketch of our national character. In one state, at least, citizens-at-large (on average–actually 73-75%) are flunking the character test. I do not say all Arizonans do so. Far too many fail, however. They will tell you how horrible it is there (It isn’t). They will tell you that the death of a single rancher justifies the overarching hysteria in recent weeks. They, even many Obama supporters, will blame President Obama, who’s only been in office a little over a year, for the problems arising over three decades of neglect, as literally tunnels were built in a vast lattice-work at our southern border, even as almost everyone else has at some time been frisked/patted down in random airline searches. They will say this new AZ immigration law is better than nothing, when in fact it is far worse.
Again, I do not believe that everyone who cares about immigration reform is a racist. On the other hand, there are too many racists among those clamoring for Jan Brewer’s draconian “legal” assault on people of color. Additionally, small minds always fearing the unknown also no-doubt factor into part of the extreme backlash against brown people.
I love the raw physical beauty of Arizona, one of my four favorite places to be. If you have never seen Arizona when it’s all green for just a couple of weeks in spring, you have missed one of the most spectacular scenic trips you can imagine. I have traveled to Arizona over the past couple of decades. I do not suppose myself an expert on things Arizona. So my perspective is admittedly different from those living there. I have family members there, whom I both love and want to be safe. I believe that they are, at least as much as are residents of any other place. I have driven around much of the state, with the exception of the Yuma region. We have traveled the state by rental car, as passengers in family members’ and friends’ vehicles, and by bus. We have visited the usual tourist places and small stops and venues, both city and rural. About two years ago, I stayed at a small B and B about 30 miles from the border in Tubac, a very small community of artists and retirees. I did not fear, at least not any more than anywhere else. Contrary to small-town mythology, you do have to lock your doors in small communities too. While there, we also visited my former neighbors (from here in Virginia), who had moved to Tubac. Two couples I knew here in the Burg chose to live not far from the AZ border. They do not fear (did not, in the case of one of the couples, dear friends, who have now passed away).
We (my husband and I, along with my sister and brother in-law) traveled the arid back roads between Tubac and Nogales, AZ as my brother-in-law tried to visit the legendary “Hummingbird Man.” It was a poignant and treasured visit, not that far from the border. Ultimately we ended up near Nogales, AZ, which is right on the border with Nogales, Mexico. Neither on back roads nor windy dirt roads did we fear. Nor did we when we previously stayed in Green Valley, also with friends, on another visit. That time we drove up in the mountains, where the only thing I feared was our hosts’ very large car on narrow mountainous roads! I know what fear is. I do have fears of my own. I do understand that there can be crime-related violence anywhere. We learned that in Blacksburg. But the day-to-day fear that has been ramped up in AZ is not rational. And those who allow fear to usurp their better “angels” should try harder to resist the manipulations of xenophobes. Fear is no justification for the harm this new bill is causing and will cause.
Today’s border controversy doesn’t have to be so. But there it is. If there were the will, our borders could be secured, which makes more sense than, say, waging wars in distant countries and having 700 military bases around the world. That would not solve the essential problem, though it would at least make sense. However we choose to enforce our borders, with technology, personnel, communications etc, the “wall” makes a hideous symbolic first glimpse of a great nation.
The fundamental question, though, is why should/does all of this matter to the rest of America? It matters because people of any color should never be “suspects” on the face of it.
Whatever it is, Jan Brewer is the archetype of the purportedly “good” governor, in her warped mind, sent by God to beat back Arizona’s minorities, with hyper aggressive, way-beyond-profiling bigotry. She claims the new AZ bill isn’t profiling, though that would be bad enough. She’s right. This is far more than racial profiling, which is the enforcement of the law more against racial minorities. It’s worse when:
• Any person of color, indeed anyone whatsoever, can be swept up without probable cause and turned over to immigration, even deported if the person cannot prove they are US citizens. As I asked yesterday, can you prove your citizenship right now, this minute. Could the Man with the Tan (Boehner) were he not a US Congressperson?
•It’s an inhumane nightmare, for those who are undocumented, but who populate low-wage jobs at the behest of companies who brought them here, whether directly or indirectly through “coyotes.”
• Those detained can be separated from their families, not even allowed to communicate where they are.
• Immigration law, or other federal matters, get “Balkanized.”
• Police departments are ordered to spend their time not solving crimes.
• Police can be sued if they do not enforce the new law.
• When even US citizens (who don’t carry a passport or birth certificate at all times) can be swept up, arrested and shipped of to ICE.
Pollsters tell us that our nation’s youth are our hope for the reduction of prejudice and bigotry in this land. In AZ at least, their numbers weren’t enough. That means it’s up to the rest of this nation to have the backs of people of color. This time, those with Hispanic family roots need us. They are our family members (mothers, fathers, sisters brothers, children, grandchildren); friends; neighbors; coworkers and fellow church members. They are us. And, yes, even those we call undocumented are us. How we work out our border conflict and controversies defines who we are. I fear that the figurative charcoal sketch of our national character I mentioned earlier in this blog isn’t even much of a work in progress (so far to go). We could start by looking in the mirror. Who do we think we are? What do we want to see when we see ourselves through the artists’ vision? Most of us are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. I do hear hopeful chords struck by people speaking out around this country. I hope the voices well up to a chorus of tolerance and constructive solutions to our border/immigration issues. I will write about some more of the hopeful signs in Part 3, immigrant-related crime issues in Part 4, and a call to action in Part 5.