Having spent 18 of my formative years in Arizona, I think I am fairly qualified to say that Arizonans should be embarrassed right now.
When former Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano was appointed secretary of homeland security for the Obama administration, the state collectively puffed out its chest and found some strut in its step. Had Arizonans known her departure would instigate a reign of terrorizing legislature, they probably would have flocked to Napolitano’s outbound jet en masse, clung to her ankles and cried, “Please — we’re begging you — don’t go!”
The state of Arizona’s affairs is best summed up by a text message I received from a former high school classmate after touching down in Tucson, Ariz., for a quick visit: “Welcome to Arizona! We hate Mexicans.”
I would like to believe that current Gov. Jan Brewer doesn’t really have it out for Latinos, but, unfortunately for her, the evidence is piling up against her favor. Taken with the two education reforms designed to eject any traces of minority influence from the classroom, her immigration reform bill flirts with constitutionality and has rendered her pretty indefensible.
Written into Arizona Senate Bill 1070 is the power to “determine the immigration status of the person … where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States” and for “a law enforcement officer, without a warrant, [to] arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.”
Conveniently enough, the bill also reminds readers that noncompliance with federal registration laws prescribed by Title II, Chapter 7 of the Immigration and Nationality Act — that is to say, non-legal residence — is a federal crime in itself.
Disregarding for a moment the gargantuan dearth of empathy exhibited by Arizona lawmakers for their fellow human beings, the majority of whom seek nothing more than to eke out a living from the scarce pickings afforded by worldwide recession, the casual observer might note that centered in the crosshairs of this reform are Mexican Americans (and those of other ethnicities who appear Mexican), not illegal immigrants.
A routine traffic stop to cite a broken taillight can now prompt deportation. If a legally residing driver or passenger looks or sounds foreign and isn’t strapped with passport and birth certificate, an outmoded license photo might be a one-way ticket to border patrol.
And unlike airport security, these measures do not racially profile with the aim of protecting law-abiding citizens. At best, SB 1070 is an iron-fisted extension of the Census Bureau; at worst, it’s a declaration of ethnic cleansing.
Outraged celebrities, corporations and even cities, including Seattle and Los Angeles, have resolved to boycott the state, its tourism and its businesses, asserting that money talks, and the restricted flow of cash to the state ought to parch it to the point of submission. Indeed, Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who co-authored the Los Angeles rendition of the boycott resolution, suggested that about $7.7 million worth of city contracts with Arizona could be legally voided.
Critics of the boycott claim targeting the tourism industry, in which a higher percentage of Latinos are employed than any other sector, will only cripple the population that boycotters profess to want to protect. Yet the long-term gains of undisturbed citizenship and cultural respect surely outweigh the short-term economic consequences such an embargo would bring.
Though I half expect a Supreme Court case to settle the matter once and for all, it’s difficult to accept that Brewer and supporters were able to pen such a monstrosity into law to begin with. In a state whose population is about 30 percent hispanic, officials have established a far-reaching witch hunt. And, even if I can’t necessarily boycott the state and all its services for personal reasons, I intend to feel properly ashamed until my motherland gets its act together.
Hilary Lazarus is a senior majoring in biological sciences.