Its official designation is SB 1070, and it has thrust the state of Arizona into the international spotlight.
It is a law that has created a political rift, and a moral chasm wider and deeper than the state’s Grand Canyon.
When signed into law on April 23, 2010, this legislative attempt at enforcing illegal immigration control in the state of Arizona was recognized by proponents and critics alike as the “broadest and strictest immigration measure in generations.”
With language that gives police agencies broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally, and provisions making failure to carry immigration documents a state crime, the bill signed into law by the Republican governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, fueled nationwide protests directed at the law’s potential to encourage racial profiling of Latinos.
Though Gov. Brewer would eventually sign a bill that made changes to the controversial law specifically adding guidelines that only allowed police to stop “suspected illegal immigrants” while enforcing some other law or ordinance, in the words of Dan Pochoda, legal director of the Arizona ACLU, in terms of preventing racial profiling, “It doesn’t deter anything.”
Though Brewer has tried to quiet critics and skeptics of the immigration law by giving assurances that law enforcement in her state will be trained to enforce the law without racially profiling Latinos, many are unwilling to accept her optimistic notion that “We have to trust our law enforcement.”
As an African American, I am the first to admit that my distaste for this legislation emanates from the tainted American and global history of racially biased profiling and subsequent persecution, facilitated by legislation or policies represented as being in the best interest of a state, country or sovereignty.
Though our forefathers who survived the treacherous middle passage during the slave trade would be more appropriately termed “reluctant immigrants” rather than illegal immigrants, we all know too well the codes and laws once used to control our movements, assemblies and basic freedoms in a legally sanctioned attempt to thwart our access to opportunity and viability within this nation.
Until Jim Crow laws and legal segregation were challenged, we were subject to an unequal and unfair level of scrutiny by the police and the judicial system, and unlike the targeted Mexican illegal immigrants, we were actually citizens.
We shouldn’t forget about our African brothers and sisters who once could not travel their native soil of South Africa without the benefit of identification and travel passes.
Maybe Arizona saw some validity in Apartheid, and used it as a blueprint for this law?
Clearly, the issue of the 500,000 unauthorized immigrants believed to live in Arizona, as well as the 11.9 million nationwide, is a subject that warrants immediate attention and the implementation of responsibly determined border and immigration controls.
What does not bode well with me is the broad-stroked aggressiveness of the Arizona law, and its undeniable focus on a group of people who do not have the luxury of assimilation like some other groups similarly guilty of living in this country without the benefit of legal authorization.
According to Kevin Boyle, in an essay published on inc.com, addressing the root causes of immigration, 150,000 Irish men and women came to this country illegally in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Spurred to immigrate to the states from Ireland due to an unemployment rate of 17 percent, a struggling industrial base and an antiquated educational system, many of these fair-complexioned illegals overstayed tourist visas. Yet by virtue of a shared language and a physical appearance more consistent with that of the American dominant culture, they were able to live productive lives unhindered by legislative or law-enforcement initiatives to control them.
Imagine the almost incomprehensible ramifications of an Arizona-like law that targeted states in the Northeast and their illegal Irish populations. Somehow, I don’t see that going over too well in the Irish enclaves of South Boston.
Never shy about injecting divisive rhetoric into any public debate, the patron saint of political foolishness, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, has attempted to dismiss the Arizona immigration law’s potential for racial profiling.
Palin has asserted that, “There is no ability or opportunity in there for racial profiling…shame on the lame stream media again for turning this into something that it is not.”
For those of you out there still undecided about this issue, I suggest you use my personal barometer. Whatever Sarah Palin believes and feels the need to make public, think and support the opposite.
Only then can you be assured that you are actually normal and intelligent.