Let’s start out by saying that Arizona’s new anti-immigrant law is unconstitutional and cannot stand in any reasonable society. The worst in the nation, the law allows police to stop anyone suspected of being undocumented, and demand proof of citizenship. Those unable to produce documents showing they are “legal” can be arrested, fined $2,500 and locked up for up to 6 months. The law makes it a crime under state law to be in the U.S. illegally, whatever illegal means.
It is a wretched and regressive piece of legislation, to be sure, in a state that will become majority of color in ten to fifteen years, and in a nation that is browning by the day. After all, the reality that a majority of the babies born in this nation will soon be of a darker hue unsettles some people.
No doubt, Gov. Jan Brewer has scored some points among the shrinking base that remains the party faithful, not to mention the anti-immigrant hate groups such as the nativist Minutemen that harass and beat “suspected” immigrants, a.k.a. Latinos. Just looking at it from a purely common sense point of view, it is utter political suicide to spit in the face of a soon-to-be majority of your state, in order to garner the support of an increasingly unhinged, extremist base. And yet, apparently this is what it takes to shine in the GOP these days.
The governor has assured us that there will be no racial profiling permitted under this law. That assertion is utter foolishness. This law is nothing more and nothing less than an expression of hate, a codification of xenophobia and the legalization of racial profiling. Taking it a step further, this is the criminalization of Latinos and presumed Latinos. To take the racial profiling out of a racial profiling law is to accomplish the impossible. That’s like trying to take the racial profiling out of the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, or extract the “unequal” from Jim Crow laws. That’s the whole point of it, after all. You can’t have it both ways when you dabble in racist policies. Someone, apparently a supporter of the new law, decorated the Arizona capitol steps with a swastika made of refried beans. And South Carolina’s lieutenant governor blamed a lazy workforce for allowing illegal immigrants to thrive in his state. That is what you’d expect in this environment. This is what we’re dealing here.
I don’t know what it is exactly about Arizona, but I do know that the state needs to be boycotted like a Montgomery bus. That state must realize that you cannot treat any group of people as lesser than the rest, nor can you disrespect the country’s largest minority group and expect to emerge unscathed. There must be a price to pay this time, and what better place to start than with the Arizona economy? When an Arizona lawmaker wants to boycott his own state, you know how bad it is.
I had to google my brain to retrieve some information on another controversial, racially-tinged episode in Arizona political history. I came up with the 1980s and the Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday. In 1987, then-newly elected Arizona Governor Evan Mecham - who defended his use of the term “pickaninnies” for blacks - rescinded the King holiday in Arizona. John McCain, who himself had voted against the holiday in 1983, defended the governor’s decision to rescind the holiday on the grounds that it was an imposition on states’ rights. Not unlike today with his support of the horrid immigration law, McCain was dabbling in racial politics and shoring up his mavericky rightwing bonafides.
I wonder what Dr. King would have said about Arizona’s racial profiling law. Certainly, he would have called it an unjust law, one which is “out of harmony with the moral law,” and “degrades human personality”. As King articulated inLetter from Birmingham Jail, “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’”
And indeed, the Arizona law is an unjust law not even worth the paper on which it was written. Certainly, this is not the first anti-immigration law, and sadly it likely won’t be the last, in this nation with a long history of thriving on both immigrants and jingoism. But we must not participate in the madness, and we must not let the promulgators of such junk think they can get away with it.
This article first appeared in The Black Commentator and is republished with permission.