Friday, April 30, 2010

It's not Racial Profiling, we're just harrassing Mexicans

The news has been abuzz lately with talk of the new immigration legislation passed in Arizona. Like many civil and human rights advocates, I heard about the law and went "No, that's a joke right?" except that it wasn't a joke at all. As I listened to more and more reporting in the news about this legislation, I found myself turning to Jason and saying "So, when did this become Nazi Germany? Are we going to have to start requiring all legal immigrants to wear American Flags on all of their clothing so we can tell at a glance who is legal and who isn't?" because, let's face it, this law is very much akin to laws passed to discriminate against Jews in Germany. And, for a group of people who want to call the democrats, particularly the current president, Hitler they are again doing such a good job of mimicking his policies all on their own.

But, being the sort of person I am, I listened to both sides of the debate on this issue despite the fact that I wholehartedly disagree with the other side. I was willing to listen and see if anything made sense and made me say "Ok, I see the value in that". Unfortunately, nothing did. And then a conservative told me that the talk of the law being racist was all propaganda due to Obama not explaining the law properly, and that people can only be asked for their papers if they have already committed a crime. So, I went and looked up the exact write-up of the law. Sadly, I did not find that the racism was propaganda, because the law does not state that someone can only be asked for papers if there is a crime committed. It says that they can be asked for their papers during "any lawful contact" with authorities if there is "reasonable suspicion" that the person is an illegal immigrant. So, then you have to consider what is lawful contact, but as far as I can tell "lawful contact" is an officer simply stopping you in the street. And, if the officer has "reasonable suspicion" that someone is an illegal immigrant, that automatically makes any contact with that officer lawful. So, no crime has to be committed at all. Unless you count the crime of looking like an illegal immigrant.

Which brings me to the arguement that this law will not result in racial profiling. I have no idea how that can be the case, since reasonable suspicion is most likely going to be based on how someone looks. And what does an illegal immigrant look like as opposed to a legal one? There is no way to tell based on a visual assessment, which means ANYONE who looks like they might be hispanic can be stopped, which means they are racially profiling all hispanic people. And I say hispanic because that's really who they are after. My friend Jeff is an immigrant from the UK, but I somehow doubt he would be stopped on a street in Arizona and asked for his papers because he's a white guy. I don't think anyone cares about the white guys. Heck, I don't think anyone cares about anyone but the Mexicans. So, really this law is simply racism at its finest.

And, what is really eating at me about all of this is that we're not prosecuting some of the real proponents of this problem. We get angry at illegal immigrants, who are often impoverished in their own country, for coming to this country to get jobs and do better for themselves. Basically, we're angry that they're trying to get a slice of the "American Dream" that our forefathers wanted when they immigrated to this country (because you do know we're all immigrants right? Just checking) and I can't really fault them for wanting that. I can fault corporations who bus immigrants in illegally to work for below minimum wage, being paid under the table, at their farms picking our produce, or in their meat packing plants butchering our steaks that those immigrant workers will never be able to afford to put on their own tables. One of the biggest problems with illegal immigrants is that they wouldn't be coming here if no one was hiring them. But many companies are hiring them, knowing full well they are illegal, so that the corporate fat cats can make an extra buck by underpaying the workers. And it's not like no one knows about it. A lot of companies have agreements with the immigration officers that if they allow raids to be done every few months and let a few people be deported, then the officers turn a blind eye to the company practices. But who do we punish in this situation? The immigrant workers. Not the corporate fat cats who are perpetuating the problems. This makes me very angry.

And yes, I understand that if someone wants to live in this country they should do so through the proper channels, but the fact is that they are still human beings and they still have rights as humans even if they don't have them as citizens. And why can't we just create a guest worker visa like Europe has done so that immigration doesn't matter. Someone can work here and live across the border and have no negative consequences. I think that, at the root of it all, is a deeply racist and prejudiced point of view from upper class white Americans who are afraid of becoming the minority in a country where they have held the majority for so long. So, the "Dey took our jobs" group is pissing and moaning about the immigrant workers and working to get them deported for being dirty illegal aliens, but they're not pounding on the doors of the companies who took the jobs in the first place and replaced them with cheap illegal labor. That makes a ton of sense.

So yes, I hate this law. I think it's horrid, and I think that when you give everyone a "common enemy" it makes it ok for them to be persecuted and slandered and hated by the general public because you can blame them for your problems. Then nothing is your fault, it's the fault of the enemy you have created. In this case it's the Mexicans. And that makes me wonder, what's next? Internment camps? I think that this is a case of those who forget the past being doomed to repeat it.

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