Arizona Reminiscent of Palmetto

As a kid growing up on the US-Mexico border in Brownsville, Texas, I was fascinated by a piece of local history about the Battle of Palmetto Hill. Considered the last battle of the Civil War, it actually took place after the War had officially ended because news of surrender had not yet reached the hinterlands. Ironically, even though the Civil War ended 145 years ago, the news has apparently still not reached all remote areas of our nation, like Arizona.

In that state, whose population is 30% Latino, the government seeks to broaden police powers to identify and apprehend undocumented immigrants, in effect legalizing racial profiling of Latinos, trampling on federal jurisdiction over immigration policy and enforcement, and undermining the ongoing efforts of the US Census to accurately count undocumented immigrants.

Just as the Civil War was largely about race and the balance of power between states and the federal government, Arizona’s bold – and reckless – move echoes an inglorious chapter from our nation’s past.

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Shared Culture, Shared Burden

It is hard to conceive of a more complicated relationship than the one between Mexican immigrants who only recently arrived in the United States – legally or illegally – and Mexican-Americans whose families have lived here for generations.

It’s a relationship that is center stage now that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed SB 1070, a ghastly piece of legislation intended to get rid of one group by targeting and inconveniencing the other. It is no surprise that, when opponents of the law turned out recently in dozens of U.S. cities to condemn what is a license to racially profile in trolling for illegal immigrants, Mexican-Americans were well represented among the protesters.

They know a bad thing when they see one. The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act is a hypocritical and self-destructive law that is probably – in a legal sense – not long for this world. Hypocritical because Arizona now wants to play the victim of an illegal immigration problem that it helped create by offering illegal immigrants a friendly hiring climate for decades. Self-destructive because Arizona – if it succeeds in ridding the state of illegal immigrants — is sure to suffer from boycotts, diminished productivity, and lost federal revenue tied to Census figures. Not long for this world because it violates the 4th Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure, the 5th Amendment’s right to due process, and the Necessary and Proper Clause which makes plain that enforcing immigration law is the job of the federal government and not of individual states.

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An Experiment America Can’t Afford

I walked out the doors of the Washoe County Detention Center the other day, five or so feet behind a middle-aged gentleman, a woman who looked like his wife, and a thinner version of the man who appeared to be his son. The man held the door for his family and for me and chuckled when I said thank you and complimented his T-shirt which read “I’d like to help you but I can’t fix stupid.”  He volunteered that he had worn the shirt on purpose because his other son had “decided” to land in jail the night before just as he had done on another occasion in the not too distant past.

When I got to my car, I tuned into KUNR and listened bemused at the news that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer had signed that state’s new immigration bill into law. It was to be expected after all. Arizona has been the flashpoint for many immigration-related acts of stupidity over the last several years if not decades and Arizona officials seem to repeatedly “decide” to take same unconstitutional, un-American, anti-immigrant positions despite the best efforts of rational, cooler heads, including until recently, Senator McCain. To illustrate Arizona’s latest plunge into idiocy, let me cull out portions of this foolish experiment.

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