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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
Why the Arizona Immigration Law is Racist, According to Varjak 
Monday, May 10th, 2010 | 05:37 pm [commentary, politics]
Steve's New Userpic
My old buddy Varjak, to whose excellent piece on the Massey Energy mining accident I linked exactly one month ago, has written another commentary for his website, this one about the recently passed Arizona law that compels law enforcement to stop suspected illegal immigrants and ask to see proof they are lawfully in the country.

Check out the piece in its entirety
here, or be a lazy fuck-ass and just check out the selections excerpted below.

A number of people I'm friended with on Facebook are joining a group called "It's not racism stupid! You are here ILLEGALLY!" As with so many other things involved with the debate over Arizona's new illegal immigrant law, this group demonstrates many of the failings of the law in question just through its own name. It's emotional, abusive, misguided, and a gross oversimplification of an immensely complicated issue. Let's take this a piece at a time.

First, "It's not racism, stupid." (I'll correct their punctuation.) Well, let's take a look at that, shall we? Is the law racist? There's a couple of things to consider here. The law does not allow police to approach suspected illegal immigrants and require documentation of legal status. It requires it, with penalties for failing to do so of one to five thousand dollars.

[. . .]

Why else might the law be considered racist? Perhaps because it was written by racists. Russell Pierce is an Arizona State Senator with ties to neo-Nazis, just like another local anti-immigrant hero, Joe Arpaio. Personally, I'm leaning toward Nazi sympathizers being racist, but perhaps someone can make an argument to the contrary.

[. . .]

And then the final part. "You are here ILLEGALLY." I see. And who, exactly, is "you"? Is it me? (Obviously not; I'm white.) Is it Abdon, from the link above? (Apparently not, because he provided his birth certificate.) Is it President Obama? (Oh, don't even start with that shit again.) Is it the woman who has lived in Arizona for fifty years but still has ties to family in Mexico? (Probably, unless she carries her papers with her at all times.) Is it the white man who has been living here illegally for fifty years? (No.) The problem is that the "you" that the law refers to encompasses millions of people, most of whom are not illegal immigrants, but all of whom will be affected by it, and none of whom are white.

[. . .]

There are some people in the world, not solely conservatives, but primarily conservatives, who perpetually feel the need to believe that they're being persecuted. People who claim that Christians are the most persecuted group in this country are high on the list. And these people also need to have a bad guy to blame, some group or class of people who all that is bad in the world can be blamed on, so everyone will be too worked up over that to notice what is actually going on. It used to be various groups of immigrants, legal or otherwise. For a long time, it was communists. Muslims are still popular for blame. And now, Hispanics are the target. Make a broad law about immigration that impacts everyone of a certain ethnic descent, and you're another step down the road to criminalizing being born the wrong ethnicity. Chip away the stone, a piece at a time.

A mutual Facebook friend of Varjak and myself has started a group of his own devoted to a more reasoned discussion of the Arizona law, and the immigration issue in general. If you find yourself interested, and you have a Facebook profile, please join us at It IS racism, stupid, whether you're here illegally or not.

Comments 
Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 | 03:21 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
I'm just waiting for the Native American community to become offended or annoyed with all of this. I actually had a person working at a DMV in a state somewhat closer to Arizona than Maryland tell me that I needed my "reservation ID" (wtf, I asked)in order to get my liscence! No, I do not look Indian; I just have darker hair than the local genotype and a somewhat olive complexion. But Native Americans have been here since Day One, and there ARE a few of them in Az., and in all of the surrounding states, so I am just waiting to see how law enforcement determines who they should harass and who they should leave in peace.
Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 | 03:49 pm (UTC)
That is an excellent point that I hadn't considered. It parallels the concern over people who are of Hispanic origin and are American citizens, or legal residents. There are a few of them in the southwest, too, I am given to understand.
Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 | 05:29 pm (UTC) - Change your title
Anonymous
It should read "steve is an idiot and lives in mommy and daddies basement".. You must lead a sheltered life to throw the 'race' card out, as Arizona's law is not about race. It's about trespassing, usage of resources and who pays.. If I went and stood on your lawn in the middle of the night, you would have me arrested. If I buried drugs in your back yard, you would have me arrested. If I shot and killed your grandfather, standing on his own property, you pretty much would be pissed.. Arizona did what should have been done after the first amnesty 25 years ago.. But, then again, you were probably living in your parents basement 25 years ago..
Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 | 06:01 pm (UTC) - Re: Change your title
The Arizona law is not about trespassing, etc. You're right, if you stood on my property, buried drugs, endangered my family, I would want you arrested and removed from my yard. I've never said that illegal immigration isn't a problem, or that we should simply grant every illegal immigrant amnesty and instant legal status. If someone is found to be in violation of law and in this country illegally, they should be returned to their home country.

Here's the point you're missing: The new Arizona law compels law enforcement to ask anyone who looks like they might not be here legally for proof of status by establishing a right of action for anyone to sue any state, county or local government they believe is failing to enforce the statute, with a maximum penalty of $5,000 a day for each day the government is found to have been in violation of the statue, from the date the complaint was filed.

Don't take my word for it. Read the law. SB 1070, Section 2, Subsection G:

G. A PERSON WHO IS A LEGAL RESIDENT OF THIS STATE MAY BRING AN ACTION IN SUPERIOR COURT TO CHALLENGE ANY OFFICIAL OR AGENCY OF THIS STATE OR A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE THAT ADOPTS OR IMPLEMENTS A POLICY OR PRACTICE THAT LIMITS OR RESTRICTS THE ENFORCEMENT OF FEDERAL IMMIGRATION LAWS TO LESS THAN THE FULL EXTENT PERMITTED BY FEDERAL LAW. IF THERE IS A JUDICIAL FINDING THAT AN ENTITY HAS VIOLATED THIS SECTION, THE COURT SHALL ORDER THAT THE ENTITY PAY A CIVIL PENALTY OF NOT LESS THAN ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS AND NOT MORE THAN FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR EACH DAY THAT THE POLICY HAS REMAINED IN EFFECT AFTER THE FILING OF AN ACTION PURSUANT TO THIS SUBSECTION.

The law does state that officers are only to act on reasonable suspicion, and that ethnicity cannot be admitted as such, but it doesn't define what "reasonable suspicion" is.

This is all a long-winded way of saying that the Arizona law strongly encourages police to stop foreign-looking people and ask for proof that they are in the country legally. It's not about trespassing. It's about racism. I don't want illegal immigrants smuggling drugs into this country any more than you do. But there are other ways to go about solving the illegal immigration problem.
Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 | 10:12 pm (UTC) - Re: Change your title
Hmmm........gotta look up some history on this one.....it reminds me a little of how the SS in Germany during WW2 dealt with Jews and anyone who even remotely reminded them of a Jew. Even people who hid Jews went to concentation camps. And if you were military or in law enforcement prior to the war and did not agree with or abide by the racism, Goddess help you because you're going before the firing squad.
The language of this law is crazy, and I really think the lawyer who thought it up can kiss his career goodbye after the media gets finished with him.
Thursday, May 13th, 2010 | 03:55 am (UTC) - Re: Change your title
Anonymous
What are the other ways Arizona can go about solving it's illegal immigration problem?

Illegal immigrants are pouring into Arizona, and it's a huge problem for everyone. The new law leaves the door wide open for abuse, I agree. But I think the new measures are being supported by Arizonians out of desperation, not racism.

There's a lot of problems with the new law, for sure. And maybe some supporters see the flaws too, and don't like them either, but if they happen to live in proximity to a wide open border, where illegal immigrants have created a new level of crime and poverty, they feel they have to pick and choose their battles. That's not racism, it's survival instincts.


Thursday, May 13th, 2010 | 04:43 am (UTC) - Re: Change your title
Anonymous
Also too, that section you quoted about the penalties for not following the statute sounds to me like its saying the state expects law enforcement to follow the laws already set by the federal government. Its not asking law enforcement to go above and beyond what is already federal law. Its saying law enforcement will be penalized if it does any less than what the federal law allows. Isn't that just saying law enforcement must enforce the law?

Thursday, May 13th, 2010 | 05:02 am (UTC) - Re: Change your title
I can't speak for others who happen to be on my side of this, Varjak included, but I don't argue that everyone who supports this law is a racist, or that racism is the only motivation one would have to support it. You're correct -- things in Arizona, especially very near the border, are apparently very rough, and I don't blame residents there one bit for being frustrated with the violence and drug trafficking they have to live with day in and day out. Not all of them are racists. Shit, most of them probably aren't racists.

But the law itself is inherently racist. It encourages suspicion of foreigners, and compels law enforcement to act on those suspicions.

How else might the illegal immigration problem be addressed? I doubt I'll suggest anything you haven't heard a hundred times already. Securing the border itself would be a good start. Focusing immigration enforcement efforts on those who commit violent crimes, and aren't just peacefully overstaying a visa. Establishing stricter penalties for any employer who hires illegal immigrants, and enforcing them, thus removing the incentive for people to cross the border in the first place. Making it easier for those who want to come to the U.S. for legitimate reasons, to work, to attend school, to come here and stay here legally. All of those seem like better options to me than forcing cops to start harassing Mexicans.
Thursday, May 13th, 2010 | 02:49 pm (UTC) - Re: Change your title
Anonymous
I agree with you on every count, with the exception of the phrase "inherently racist." Does the new law have certain wording in it that might appeal to a racist cop's darker inclinations? Absolutely. And on that ground alone, I do not support the law. But, that's a far cry from thinking something is born out of a collective hatred of a certain race. (I'll admit though, I didn't follow Varjak's link "written by racists.") But I will when I get a chance.

I'm just very cautious about accusing someone or something of racism because its a very serious accusation.

Thursday, May 13th, 2010 | 03:28 pm (UTC) - Re: Change your title
As you very well ought to be.

And remember, the racist backgrounds of the bill's creators notwithstanding, I'm saying that the law itself is racist. It doesn't necessarily follow that its authors and supporters are racists. If I wanted to be extremely generous, I could say that the authors of the bill were unaware of its implications, that it would strongly encourage the very racial profiling it specifically prohibits. Perhaps they aren't racists, just blinded by other pressing concerns, such as violence along the border, drug trafficking, and overtaxed social programs.

But the law itself is racist, intentionally or not.
Thursday, May 13th, 2010 | 05:05 pm (UTC) - Re: Change your title
I think one of the most serious problems with this law is that it is very, very inspecific about what constitutes "reasonable doubt" and "probable cause". When I lived in Maryland, I bore a child who was born with a head full of thick, jet black hair. People who didn't know me were actually rude enough to walk up to me in the grocery store and ask me if she had been adopted! (yes...ignorance exists!)(that child later grew up looking just as Mediteranean as I do, yet at the same time, just as Welsh as her father looks) If some racist cop tried to lock us both up because I went to the store with her, it would really change the way I view protecting my children. That scenario, hopefully, would never happen, but the door to such things has been swung wide open. Probable cause really has to be much more clearly defined. And with the zeal of some of these more racist police officers, I am wondering if immigration, beyond mere border control, which could be a lot more efficient, btw, should be in the hands of the FBI, instead.
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