Monday, May 10, 2010

Legitimate Thoughts: Arizona Law SB1070

Amongst other things the new immigration bill in Arizona has been called a triumph in border security, a step in the right direction, and, most abhorred of all, just. But what exactly does this bill do?

Well, here it is:

The new law makes it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally. Immigrants unable to produce documents showing they are allowed to be in the U.S. could be arrested, jailed for up to six months and fined $2,500

­­­ Cooper, Jonathan J.
"Arizona Immigration Conflict Heats Up.”

Associated Press 04 26 2010, Print.

And more specifically, for those that may consider CBS liberal hate-speech (because FOX is truly “fair and balanced”, right?), here are the words from Arizona Senate Bill 1070 itself, which can be found online if you look for it:

1 Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona:

2 Section 1. Intent

3 The legislature finds that there is a compelling interest in the

4 cooperative enforcement of federal immigration laws throughout all of

5 Arizona. The legislature declares that the intent of this act is to make

6 attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local

7 government agencies in Arizona. The provisions of this act are intended to

8 work together to discourage and deter the unlawful entry and presence of

9 aliens and economic activity by persons unlawfully present in the United

10 States.

Now, this doesn’t sound all that bad, I’ll admit, and in the letter of the law it makes perfect sense: why let illegal aliens take away jobs from citizens while siphoning away social services from the tax-paying populace? As American citizens, born and raised, why should we pay more so someone that gives nothing can in turn have public services?

Such goes the argument of supporters for this racist bill. Yes, racist. Let me tell you why.

For one, it has been shown that while it is true that illegal immigrants have a negative impact on the economy in some ways, they also contribute in others such that the net effect is actually a small positive impact albeit still insignificant:

[E]conomists generally believe that when averaged over the whole economy, the effect is a small net positive. Harvard's George Borjas says the average American's wealth is increased by less than 1 percent because of illegal immigration.

The economic impact of illegal immigration is far smaller than other trends in the economy, such as the increasing use of automation in manufacturing or the growth in global trade. Those two factors have a much bigger impact on wages, prices and the health of the U.S. economy.

Davidson, Adam.
"Q&A: Illegal Immigrants and the U.S. Economy."

NPR March 30 2006, Print.

But that aside, aren’t illegal aliens responsible for a disproportionate amount of the nation’s crime? What about drug cartels and trafficking?

To answer the latter, no, from first-hand experience I know that the average Mexican is not involved in drug trafficking and does his/her best to avoid the cartels (if you didn’t catch it from my name, I’m Mexican.); to answer the former, yes, but not in the way Bill O’Reilly fan-boys may think:

In particular, first-generation immigrants (those born outside the United States) were 45 percent less likely to commit violence than third-generation Americans, adjusting for individual, family, and neighborhood background. Second-generation immigrants were 22 percent less likely to commit violence than the third generation. This pattern held true for non-Hispanic whites and blacks as well.

Sampson, Robert J.
"rethinking crime and immigration."

Contexts Winter (2008): 29.
Web. 28 Apr 2010.

Yes, contrary to popular belief illegal immigrants (they are “first-generation”) are far less likely than good ol’ legal Americans to commit crimes. Specifically for illegal aliens, because they’re illegal they are less inclined to risk arrest and subsequent deportation. But they are still illegal, and herein lies what, to me, is the only valid argument for this bill.

The argument goes that by giving law enforcement the authority to stop suspected aliens and asking them for documentation, that illegals will be deterred from entering the country altogether; meaning this bill only affects illegal aliens, not legal residents. Granted, according to the letter of the law, legal Americans should have nothing to worry about since this only grants authorities the right to question suspected illegals.

But there’s the hazy part: suspected.

What justifies “suspicion”? What does an illegal alien look like? That’s the question proponents of this bill are hesitant to answer because to many “illegal” has become synonymous with “Mexican” and this is racial profiling. Regardless of how much training police officers and other law enforcement may receive to spot suspected aliens, the image that comes to mind when people think of an illegal is still someone with brown skin who speaks Spanish—or in short, a Mexican.

I’d like to take this opportunity to remind those that don’t know: Mexican is not a race (i.e. white, black, Native American); it’s an ethnicity (e.g. American, British, German). Mexicans come in all colors and none is less “Mexican” because of it. A Mexican man can have blonde hair and blue eyes (not uncommon in parts of Northern Mexico) and look more the part of a Scandinavian than a Mexican, but in Mexico, nor here, does he have any less of a claim to his heritage—just ask my father, a red-haired, green-eyed, full-blooded Mexican.

So yes this bill is meant for illegals, but what about Mexican-Americans of color? If a brown-skinned man is simply talking to some friends or relatives in Spanish and a cop overhears, does that give the cop the right to assume that this citizen is an illegal criminal?

Proponents are quick to assert that this is not a big deal--he shows his documents, proves his legal, end of story--but what if a brown-skinned man is simply taking a walk around his neighborhood without his driver’s license or other forms of documentation? Does that make it alright for the cops to detain him until a family member or friend can prove he’s not illegal? And even then, what’s to keep ICE from deporting him anyways especially if he doesn’t speak great English? This may sound like a stretch but it has already happened before, without the provisions of this bill in place, and it happened to an American citizen that did speak good English:

Neil Rambana, an attorney in Florida who'd reported an earlier case of a client of his that ICE had misclassified as a noncitizen, is helping another US citizen, Mark, in the middle of a surreal and excruciating experience with the DHS. [Added 4/24/09 Immigration Judge William Cassidy in Atlanta wrongfully deported Mark on December 9, 2008 to Mexico, and from there he ended up in Guatemala via Nicaragua before returning to the U.S. on Tuesday, only to be arrested by DHS at the airport.]

Stevens, Jacqueline.

"U.S. Citizen Deported to Mexico,

Shipped to Guatemala,

Now Held in Jail."

States Without Nations (2009): n. pag.

Web. 28 Apr 2010.

Yes, you read right, another.

None of this is to say that I support or condone illegal immigration, far from it. Both as an American citizen and a Mexican-American, I staunchly support immigration reform--including measures for increased border security and a strict but fair path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already here--but there is something called dignity that this bill shamelessly treads on. I myself am not a Mexican-American of color, but I have relatives and friends in Arizona that are. They are American-born, American citizens, but just because they happen to speak Spanish to their parents and don’t look “American” it's alright that they be constantly harassed by law enforcement, and possibly deported, simply because they "look" illegal?

Americans are not all white, nor do they conform to one generic stereotype, but if law enforcement detained a White-American because he didn't have proof of citizenship on him it would be called out for the gross injustice that it is; I know this because it already happens.

A prominent example is the case of Manuel Bartsch, a German-born illegal alien brought to the United States by his step-grandfather:

Manuel is an ordinary 18-year-old. He can be found working out on his school's football fields or hitting golf balls with his friends. It wasn't until December 2005 that he realized he was different. He needed his Social Security number to take the college boards and realized he didn't have one -- and it was only then that he learned was not a legal resident of the United States.

Golden, Jessica.

"After Graduation, Teen Faces Deportation."

abc News 19 May 2006: n. pag.

Web. 30 Apr 2010.

The case received extensive media coverage from news outlets and support from Americans normally oppose to amnesty for illegal aliens, citing how he “thought of himself as American, not German” and how the only life he had known was in the United States.

Bartsch was eventually allowed to stay after a mass outcry arose over the “injustice” being done to him, but how many countless illegal Hispanics are brought over without their knowledge, yet how often are they still held accountable for something they did not do intentionally? This is a double-standard seen time and time again. What, then, is it about speaking Spanish and having dark skin that automatically makes it alright in the eyes of too many?

Come on Arizona, what happened to civil rights? Shame on you.