All eyes are on Governor Jan Brewer today.
On her desk is SB 1070, an anti-immigrant bill which would effectively make all Latinos the target of arrest or interrogation, whether or not they are U.S. citizens, lawful immigrants, or undocumented foreign nationals. Indeed, such a hate-motivated bill may well compel all Latinos to pack up and leave the state. Brewer’s choice is clear to anyone who cherishes freedom and democracy—veto SB 1070, and toss it into the dust bin of history where it belongs, together with Jim Crow, the Nazi Nuremberg laws, and South African Apartheid.
But, believe it or not, the Governor is actually considering signing this venomous bill into law. Last night, in yet another surreal Arizona moment Governor Brewer addressed the 41st annual Chicanos Por La Causa anniversary dinner amid calls in the audience for her to veto SB 1070 and surrounded by protesters that chanted and marched outside the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel where the dinner was held. At the dinner, organization board chairwoman Erica Gonzalez-Melendez urged Brewer to veto “the most hateful piece of legislation directed at Latinos” aptly pointing out that SB 1070 will do nothing to fix our broken immigration system and only “panders to the racist fear mongers of our state.” But, Governor Brewer refused to say what she would do, invoking political-speak instead, “I am not prepared to announce a decision on Senate Bill 1070,” she said. “What I decide will be based on what’s right for Arizona.” http://bit.ly/96KJlT. (Note to reader: there have been several surreal moments in Arizona this week. On Monday Senator John McCain, who once described himself as a “maverick” and champion of comprehensive immigration reform, told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that “the drivers of cars with illegals in it … are intentionally causing accidents on the freeway.” Then on Tuesday an Arizona state House committee approved a measure which would force President Obama to show his birth certificate if he runs for re-election. http://huff.to/9bfpzg)
What is right for Arizona is for Governor Brewer to jealously protect the rights of all its citizens and follow the U.S. Constitution, not turn Arizona into the Fourth Reich. Let’s be frank, by passing SB 1070 lawmakers have sold out Arizona taxpayers in a cynical effort to garner votes and look tough. The bill does nothing to build a functional immigration system, secure the border nor rid the state of dangerous criminals. Nor does it protect the wages and working conditions of US workers. Instead, it targets day laborers and ordinary citizens whose appearance might raise “reasonable suspicion” of unlawful immigration status in the mind of a police officer. If Governor Brewer signs SB 1070, people in Arizona with foreign sounding accents or who don’t “look American” had better not run into the wrong cop (or even the right cop) because the law mandates they prove they are here legally.
SB 1070 is not the product thoughtful policy making; it is hate speech masquerading as legislation. This sounds extreme until you read SB 1070 which is a hodgepodge of mean spirited provisions that will effectively transform Arizona into a police state for anyone whose skin is a shade other than white. The bill’s effect may very well be to make Arizona “Latino Free” and force those who stay behind—U.S. citizens included—to feel like hunted criminals. Frankly, there is no other way to describe SB 1070 which would make not having immigration documents a state crime, allow law enforcement officers to arrest anyone who could not immediately prove they were in the U.S. legally, and subject a brown-skinned person who leaves home without a wallet to arrest. Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles was hardly exaggerating when he compared SB 1070 to “German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities on any suspicion of documentation.” http://bit.ly/9ZIQ9K.
SB 1070’s outright decimation of civil liberties and American values aside, Governor Brewer’s signature on the bill will likely reek economic devastation on Arizona, costing its taxpayers billions in lost revenue. The Immigration Policy Center (IPC) reported this week that “if significant numbers of immigrants and Latinos are actually persuaded to leave the state because of this new law, they will take their tax dollars, businesses, and purchasing power with them. The University of Arizona’s Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy estimates that the total economic output attributable to Arizona’s immigrant workers was $44 billion in 2004, which sustained roughly 400,000 full-time jobs. Furthermore, over 35,000 businesses in Arizona are Latino-owned and had sales and receipts of $4.3 billion and employed 39,363 people in 2002, the last year for which data is available. The Perryman Group estimates that if all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Arizona, the state would lose $26.4 billion in economic activity, $11.7 billion in gross state product, and approximately 140,324 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time. Putting economic contributions of this magnitude at risk during a time of recession would not serve Arizona well.” And this loss of revenue to the hard working taxpayers of Arizona does not take into account the cost of defending the inevitable lawsuits that will be brought against the state for civil rights and other violations. According to the IPC, “Arizona would probably face a costly slew of lawsuits on behalf of legal immigrants and native-born Latinos who feel they have been unjustly targeted” leading to millions of dollars in expenditures. http://bit.ly/dbguDK.
As I wrote previously on this blog, SB 1070 is not the problem. It is an awful symptom of the failure of the Administration and Congress to enact immigration reform. In the void, local and state authorities have run roughshod over the civil liberties we cherish as a nation. What we see today is a perfect storm of crises—ICE’s neglect and abuse of immigrant detainees which has culminated in 107 deaths in immigration detention since 2003, the serious civil rights abuses in the notorious 287(g) program which is administered by ICE and “deputizes” state and local law enforcement agencies to enforce immigration law, and an immigration bureaucracy that thumbs its nose at the needs of American business and families. As a nation we must demand that Congress and the Administration put politics aside and get to the hard work of building a safe, orderly, fair, and functional immigration policy designed to protect civil liberties and serve the needs of all Americans.
As for today, Governor Brewer has a choice. She can succumb to hatred and fear by signing SB 1070 or allowing it to become law without her signature (it is hard to say which would be more cowardly). Or she can show uncommon political courage and veto the bill, thereby drawing a line in the Arizona desert over which racism, intolerance, and injustice dare not cross.