Arizona’s governor Jan Brewer signed a law last week, called SB 1070. It “prohibits the harboring of illegal aliens and makes it a state crime for an alien to commit certain federal immigration crimes.” Fine. ”Harboring” people who have entered the country illegally isn’t right, and neither is breaking the law, whether you’re an “alien” or not. (But can we please not call them “aliens?” They aren’t two-headed silver pod-people from outer space, okay?) Next, the bill “…also requires police officers who, in the course of a traffic stop or other law-enforcement action, come to a “reasonable suspicion” that a person is an illegal alien verify the person’s immigration status with the federal government.” Wait a second. How do you make the leap from jaywalking to illegal immigrant? Is it the iPod with James Brown and Celia Cruz songs? Or a pair of hardworking hands that are “suspiciously” dirty? Or maybe a front yard with too many weeds? What? Please tell me.
I talked about the Arizona bill with my neighbor Elsie, 82 year old, the daughter of Italian immigrants who built their own home, brick by brick. Elsie’s proud of her heritage, but we realized that if I lived in Arizona, and I was stopped by the cops, I’d be in big trouble . I always look suspicious, I’ve got a lot on my mind. Add to that a sloppy scarf, sweat pants, barking dog, a single key, plastic bags, and no ID. This “reasonably suspicious” American citizen would be hauled off. But wait a minute — what about the illegal European immigrants who are in this country? Maybe they didn’t slip across a border. Maybe they flew here. What’s the difference? They’re here illegally working as au pairs, cleaning people, busboys and so on. Would they be stopped? (I don’t like saying “they,” by the way. We’re all people.) In my humble opinion, this bill is targeted at the browner skinned immigrants.
Did you see the photos from the New York Times piece last week? (“Growing Split In Immigration,” 4/26/10) There are two: first, a Latino “illegal resident,” chillin’ outside his apartment building in an undershirt, with pregnant wife and three other children, plus an unidentified man with his back to the camera. And they’re all milling around the gravel-lined yard. The second is of a “supporter of law enforcement,” a white woman neatly coiffed and dressed, on her way into the suburban mall to shop. The “paper of record,” doing their bit to reinforce stereotypes. They made the case for Arizona right there. Well done, New York Times.
The opposition to this bill has grown over the past week from celebrities like Shakira, George Lopez, and Linda Rondstadt; to religious groups, and even one of Arizona’s congressman Raoul Grijalva, who’s called for a boycott of his own state. There’s talk of pulling baseball’s All Star Game from Arizona next year. Conventions there have been cancelled. Illegal immigration is a huge problem, our borders desperately need to be secured, no one is denying that. One color matters to Arizona: green. And maybe losing millions will encourage them to think again.