By Stephen Young
By Stephen Young
By Stephen Young
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
We await the call from the political trombone announcing the public stoning of Mexicans.
In lieu of immigration reform, President Barack Obama and his Justice Department sued Arizona seeking to block SB 1070. The American public howled with indignation that the president appeared to be taking the side of immigrants. Such is the national rage at listening to taped phone messages instructing them to push the "1" button for English that citizens sent more than a million dollars in tens and twenties to Governor Jan Brewer's litigation team.
The legal challenge by Obama is a bloodless matter that avoids most questions of race, as if race were a pathogen. (For a cold taste of legal banter that dices thought without any of the salt of the street, review the exchanges between U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton and various attorneys putting together the SB 1070 cocido.) If the public at large sees Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Mexican roundups and SB 1070 as a matter of state's rights, President Obama sees it as Fort Sumter. The Justice Department's major claim is that no state can usurp federal responsibilities.
The suit parses the Constitution with less verve than Sister Mary Margaret's proper diagram of a charmless sentence.
Arizona's alleged moderates, the white ones, from members of Congress like Harry Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords to state Attorney General Terry Goddard, all urged Obama not to sue. They worry about their election prospects and forget it is only the federal government that historically pries the bigot's fingers from the victim's windpipe.
Maybe lawyers can restore the integrity of the Constitution, a document that forbids states like Arizona and towns like Freemont from fueling diasporas with their own immigration policies.
But what can lawyers do about jackals always tracking the immigrant's dusty footprint?
What do we do about the pregnant 31-year-old woman who was the target of another U-turn stop because of a faulty license-plate light on the back of her car? She was slammed into the hood of her vehicle when she did not readily consent to a search for non-existent narcotics. A U.S. citizen of Latin descent, she clearly remembers being told: "I can be an asshole if you're going to be a bitch."
What would you tell the 17-year-old child, an American, who was followed into a gated community on her way home from school? When asked for identification, she produced a valid Arizona driver's license. The officer insisted upon further proof, claiming he was required by law to get more documentation.
Though she speaks perfect English and knew the law wasn't scheduled to go into effect until this week, she was frightened half to death. She allowed the officer to tail her another couple of blocks to her home, where she retrieved her passport for inspection.
Each of these crude assaults upon dignity happened without benefit of SB 1070. Each happened to an American.
While Jan Brewer, state Senator Russell Pearce (1070's author), Barry Wong, and Joe Arpaio sport conservative mufti, this is neither a right nor left issue. The feckless few, Goddard, Giffords, and Mitchell, are not without incriminating shadow.
Historically, America attacks immigrants, only embracing the foreigners long after the Yankee has pummeled them to within an inch of their ethnicity. Progressives and those who should know better have their place in this roll call of sulfurous shame.
What? You thought local fecks invented political convenience, not to mention ignorance? To provide perspective, here is the first president of Stanford, David Starr Jordan, on immigrants: "Most of them . . . are very different from the Anglo-Saxon — very much less capable of self government, and on the whole, morally and socially less desireable."
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, celebrated suffragette and rum obsessionist, viewed alcohol as an immigrant issue: "Patrick and Sambo and Hans and Yung Tung, who do not know the difference between a monarchy and a democracy, who never read the Declaration of Independence."
Understanding that this sort of drivel always has been a part of the national fabric is not to excuse it. We must not tolerate the midway we've been invited into, where barkers with badges play whack-a-Mexican for the delight of gap-toothed voters.
But it is useful to understand that politicians are not going to rectify the situation. Splenetic officials who fan the fever of common boobery must be kicked to the curb. Remember, too, the fair-weather moderates when they come calling for your campaign contribution.
And we also must stand up individually.
To the pious constitutional scholars who yelp, "What part of 'illegal' don't you understand?" there is but one answer:
Why, none of it, sir. None of it at all.
If you live in Phoenix, you will be asked by out-of-state Nellies why you don't move out of a state whose legislature notoriously canceled the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Because the fight is in Arizona; I would not be anywhere else.
My hand to Mexicans, and my fist to crackers.
Daniel Magos agreed to the use of his name in this article, but some others requested anonymity out of a sense of caution. Our subjects came courtesy of the ACLU and other activist concerns. We are indebted to Daniel Okrent's exemplary Last Call for references to Jordan and Stanton.