Monday, April 26

What is Arizona thinking?

Since people from outside Arizona are asking, here is my current take on the immigration legislation -- point by point:

AZA. The legislation is really a political ploy to force the US government to act on Arizona's agenda for immigration reform.
B. As it is written it is probably unenforceable and will likely be thrown out in court.
C. Until then the City of Phoenix, the largest law enforcement entity, will likely ignore the legislation. I am guessing that Tucson and many of the other police departments will follow their lead.
D. In reality, at least in our county, Maricopa, this legislation changes nothing. Our flamboyant sheriff has already been doing a lot of what the legislation supposedly enables, under his interpretation of federal law. And as far as I can tell they are not arbitrarily harassing individuals off the street. (But they do seem to harass the sheriff's political opponents and businesses which employ large numbers of aliens.) The police aren't going to use the rules to randomly stop Hispanics. Even if they wanted to they don't have the resources to harass half the state. Besides, a lot of the cops are Hispanic, too. It is just not realistic to think that they're going to be able to actually do anything with the law.
E. I suspect that the attempted rules for engagement on this will be similar to what the Border Patrol has. And they don't stop everyone who is brown.
F. The Border Patrol is suggesting that if Arizona police turn a lot of immigrants over to them for deportation they're just going to turn them all loose because they see this legislation as an intrusion into their territory. There is turf at stake.
G. Hispanics are pretty stressed about it all. I am concerned about my neighbors and the families in our fledgling congregation. People are feeling intimidated. Even if the law is unenforceable and will be tossed out in court, Hispanics perceive that it is aimed at making their lives miserable. It is less than gracious and hospitable -- and is going to tarnish Arizona's reputation. There is nothing positive about it.
H. This whole matter is just one component in the growing influence of the extremist right here. The culture has changed since the last time I lived in Arizona 30 years ago. Somehow we've become a magnet for vocal gun advocates and the paranoid. They are more afraid of the federal government than immigrants. My sense is that Hispanics (and everyone else!) should be more concerned about the growing number of dysfunctional people carrying concealed weapons than this half-baked attempt to turn the police into immigration officers.
I. Arizona straddles the line politically. The last governor was a Democrat; this one is a Republican. Republicans are currently in control but we can expect to see a turn-over this fall. The combined dissatisfaction with the local handling of the economy/housing crisis and this crazy attempt at forcing immigration reform will probably put many of them out on the street. If the legislation is still on the books at that point (I doubt it will be) we'll be able to repeal it.
J. The amusing side of it all is that it has given Colbert fodder for comedy.
In spite of this ridiculous attempt to make political hay, Arizona is still a great place, enriched by many cultures, and on a whole grateful for its Hispanic heritage.


ncrown said...

Children are Watching

by stopdainsanity2

When I entered kindergarten – I was put into a class for the mentally retarded. Because my skin was brown my teacher assumed I did not speak English and required special bilingual support which was not available at the time. Yes – I was a Mexican-American citizen child AND I spoke English.

It literally took 2 weeks for my parents to force the school to place me in the mainstream kindergarten class — even though I could respond to questions in English. At the time if was easier for frustrated- overworked teachers (not bad people) to send me to the special needs class – no questions asked – based on my skin color. Although the error was corrected, as a child I never lost the feeling I was not welcomed and somehow my rights as a citizen were not equal to those of white americans. Be careful – children are watching.

Beth B said...

Brad, this is a bit off topic, but why is the state of Arkansas wearing the Arizona flag? = ]

Brad Boydston said...

Ncrown, I am sorry that you were treated poorly. That was wrong. I am grateful that in your case the error was eventually corrected. But I know that the hurt is not erased.

I am not in the least bit suggesting that this is not a racial issue or that Arizona has a great track-record in this area. Yes, racial profiling occurs here -- as it does everywhere I've lived.

I am suggesting that this is not only bad law but that it sends all the wrong messages. We do not want people to feel unwelcome because of their skin color or cultural backgrounds. That is unjust and it is not characteristic of the kind of society in which we want to live.

I have my doubts, though, about the impact of the law. I don't think it will survive and if it does the police don't have the resources to notch things up. And then there is the fact that suddenly the world is watching and any little screw-up will now become a federal case. Ironically, it might even be that all the attention created by this crazy legislation will actually make it harder to do any kind of racial profiling. The world is watching.

The best thing we can do at this point is repeal the law and replace the politicians. The next step after that involves multilateral immigration reform which brings all stakeholders to the table -- including Mexican officials and Hispanic leaders in the US. We need to work this through creatively -- and justly.

Brad Boydston said...

Beth, Arizona is a very confused place right now. :-)

Actually, that graphic does look more like Arkansas than Arizona. I'll replace it.