AZ Goes After Children

What’s the matter, Arizona? Couldn’t find someone your own size to pick on? You have to go after children now. What a big, bad state you turned out to be.

This fall, Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce is expected to introduce a bill that is already getting a fair amount of national attention. The legislation would deny state-issued birth certificates to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants – those so-called “anchor babies” that nativists and others on the right have been trying to marginalize for more than a decade. And why is that? It’s because U.S. citizenship acts as a protective cloak over these children and prevents those on the far right from doing to them what they’d really like to do: deport them along with their illegal immigrant parents.

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Profiling Paradox of AZ Law

The supporters of Arizona’s new immigration law, SB 1070, do have a way of talking in circles. Most of the time, they don’t even seem conscious of their contradictions.

One minute, they’re badmouthing the federal government for being ineffective in securing the border and stopping illegal immigration. The next, they’re defending the state law by insisting that it’s a mirror image of federal law, the same approach that we were just told is ineffective — but apparently still worth emulating.

One minute, they’re insisting that they care about the rule of law and that’s why they oppose illegal immigration. The next, they’re declaring their support for a state law that is blatantly unconstitutional — or, in other words, contrary to the rule of law.

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Fear and Loathing from Texzona

I wasn’t surprised by events in Texas and Arizona or by their timing. I’m not even taken aback by the statements of Fox News contributor and business anchor, John Stossel.

For the last eighteen months, ten Republican members of the Texas Board of Education have systematically rewritten the curriculum to be used in Texas public schools. They labored to eliminate the so-called “liberal bias” they and their party perceived in the way history and social studies were taught. The Board highlighted the Second Amendment over other equally or more important constitutional provisions such as the right to free expression, to the free exercise of religion, to be free from state established religious beliefs, to the freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the civil rights amendments. The Board sought to eliminate discussions regarding the separation of church and state embodied in the First Amendment’s establishment clause and to downplay the role of the Civil Rights Movement in shaping our country. The Board even partially succeeded in eliminating any mention of the contributions of ethnic minorities to the cultural, political, and economic development of America.

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Oh Wait, There are Other Types of Immigration?

The latest discussion on immigration has largely focused on the illegal immigration of people crossing over into the United States from Mexico. After taking a backseat into issues regarding our financial crisis, healthcare reform, and political tactics, the passing of immigration law SB1070 in Arizona has rekindled the discussion on immigration and our need to find an effective and just solution. Supporters of the law believe that the law will discourage illegal immigrants from entering the state. Critics believe that the new law will encourage discriminatory actions and encourage racial profiling. I will not focus on the new law enacted in Arizona, but rather take a broader perspective of how immigration affects the United States in a global economy.

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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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