In the post-World War II period, some Western Marxist intellectuals promoted the idea that deepening social contradictions would ultimately result in a substantial increase of social consciousness. Although this suggestion led to some indefensible acts, in essence it is a political truth. History is there to probe it, as Arizona´s right-wing is probably going to find out in the next few years after their misguided support of a draconian anti-immigrant law that will cost them dearly.
For those who missed it, on April 23, 2010, Arizona´s Governor Jan Brewer (R) signed state Senator Russell Pearce´s SB 1070 bill into law. The legislation declares the illegality of being an undocumented immigrant and authorizes law enforcement to question and arrest those suspected of being in the state without the proper documentation.
Governor Brewer, the Republican establishment, and right-wing dinosaurs from organizations such as FAIR defended the new law arguing that the state is under siege by drug dealers and criminals, and that the federal government had failed to act.
Their argument fails in several fronts. To start, it is a disservice to the immigration debate, and a cheap inflammatory tactic, to equate undocumented immigrants with criminals. Quite to the contrary, academic research suggests that immigrants tend to have lower incarceration rates than native residents. One interesting article that helps clarify this issue is “Why are Immigrants´ Incarceration Rates so Low?” by Kristin Butcher, from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and Anne Morrison, from Piehl Rutgers University.
Furthermore, for a state such as Arizona to try to legislate immigration and border protection when these matters are the sole jurisdiction of the federal government is a political maneuver that undermines our constitutional order. The United States Constitution in its Article 1, Section 8, clearly states that “the common defense and general welfare” of the country, as well as the responsibility “to establish a uniform rule of naturalization”, are powers delegated to the United States Congress.
As President Barack Obama pointed out, this is a “misguided” piece of legislation that “undermine(s) basic notions of fairness”. Some have suggested that this is an immoral law that is equivalent to the pass laws enacted by South Africa´s apartheid government. Even more, Cardinal Roger Mahony, of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, likened it to the police tactics of Nazi Germany and Communist Russia.
When in the mid-1990s California´s Republicans promoted Proposition 187, which was as mean spirited as Arizona´s law, not only was it never implemented because it was found to be unconstitutional, but it cost the Republican Party the loss of the Latino electorate and its political future for generations to come.
In Arizona, SB1070 is already awakening the social consciousness of local residents and people throughout the country who are not going to tolerate such a blatant attack on our humanistic traditions and institutions.
Progressive Americans who are against intolerance and bigotry should raise their voice in opposition to Arizona´s apartheid, and demand that the law be repealed. Furthermore, those who have business in or with the state should consider boycotting Arizona as long as SB1070 is in place.
And as far as the federal government is concerned, the Obama administration should have the political courage and determination to propose and pass through the U.S. Congress, with no further delays, a bill that guarantees a path to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented immigrants who every day go to work or study in our farms, restaurants, factories, offices, schools, and universities.
Not doing so makes us accomplices of the crime that is being committed by the Afrikaners of the state of Arizona. This, without doubts, is the central civil rights issue of our generation.