America's War on Brown People Has Gone Too Far

A hostile Supreme Court. A feckless Obama administration. America's war on Mexicans has gone too far.

America's War on Brown People Has Gone Too Far
William Westfall

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wasn't merely skeptical; he appeared contemptuous of the Justice Department's argument trying to stop Arizona's cops from deporting undocumented Mexicans.

"But if, in fact, somebody who does not belong in this country is in Arizona, Arizona has no power?" asked the incredulous Scalia. "... Are you objecting to harassing the — the people who have no business being here? Surely you're not concerned about harassing them?"

God forbid.

Nor did Scalia suffer cara de culo alone.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts concluded an observation by noting, "It seems to me that the federal government just doesn't want to know who's here illegally or not."

With these comments the United States Supreme Court signaled that its expected ruling this month will, in significant part, validate Arizona's Senate Bill 1070.

If that happens, being brown will permit cops across America to ask: Which brown are you?


A journalist I work with, Monica Alonzo, grew up on the hardscrabble west side of Phoenix with brown skin.

Although she was an American, something as simple as stopping to fill her gas tank could prompt a cruel refrain: "Go back to Mexico."

She remembers the white school board members who voted themselves out of paying taxes to support the mostly Latino school in the town of El Mirage. Her cousin was routinely pulled over if he ventured into a neighboring white community.

But these are memories, not complaints. This treatment did not stop Monica Alonzo. She made herself into an award-winning investigative reporter.

Today, she buys gas where she chooses.

She put the petty meanness behind her and made something of herself.

But SB 1070 changed everything.

In Arizona, brown people, citizen and immigrant, must now prove their papers are in order. We sic badges and dogs on people of color. Sheriff Joe Arpaio's men wear ski masks and arm themselves with automatic weapons to stop Mexicans with cracked windshields. Families are separated, with parents deported and children left to fend for themselves. Those who remain are terrorized.

After one Arpaio sweep through the town of Guadalupe, children were too frightened to attend their Catholic confirmation, lest relatives be arrested.

Like the pre-Civil War era of free and slave states, America is about to divide along color lines. Six states already have a version of Arizona's bill and are awaiting the ruling for implementation. In all, 16 states filed amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court to support SB 1070. (Texas is not among them.)

Where once we depended upon the federal government to protect minorities from firehoses and segregated schoolhouses named Booker T. Washington or George Washington Carver, this month the Supreme Court is poised to tell us how far local cops can go to detain brown people.

As if the federal government hadn't gone far enough.

In fact, President Obama has deported 1.5 million Latinos, more than any president. Such a massive displacement of humanity does not come without brutality. In the first six months of 2011, 46,000 mothers and fathers were shipped back to Mexico and left their children in America. And more than 20,000 other parents were ordered out but have yet to depart. Roughly 22 percent of all deportees were forced to abandon children — children who are American citizens.

What SB 1070 does is criminalize the undocumented. The law forces all police officers to ascertain a person's immigration status whenever a cop interacts with a brown person. Lights on a license plate too dim? A call about domestic violence? If an officer harbors any suspicion, he or she must ask for proof of citizenship. And if a cop doesn't do that, any citizen can sue the cop for not taking deportation seriously. To protect against lawsuits, the cautious cop must question all Latinos.

The stated purpose of SB 1070 is "attrition through enforcement," a chillingly efficient phrase. How does the cop on the beat tell a Mexican from a Mexican-American? And so, the 74 percent of all Latinos in America who are, in reality, U.S. citizens must be harassed about their origins. Unlike everyone else, they must carry papers.

Why?

Obama sells the roundup of brown people through a program called Secure Communities. The alternative is clear enough.

Have we forgotten that the Irish, Italians, Jews and Cubans generated almost as many mug shots as American dreams?

Polls show that SB 1070 and similar laws in other states are supported by voters at rates between 60 to 70 percent nationally.

In states that have passed laws allowing local law enforcement to hunt the undocumented, the financial impact has been devastating.

Last August, Monica Alonzo examined labor shortages in the farm economy, where an estimated 80 percent of the workforce is undocumented. She learned that efforts to recruit Americans to pick crops have failed abysmally.

In the late 1990s, Alonzo reported, "California launched a 'welfare to farmwork' program in the Central Valley at a time when regional unemployment was as high as 20 percent. ... A massive campaign addressed training, transportation, and other obstacles to getting workers in the fields. Though there were more than 100,000 potential workers, only three jobs were filled."

Things weren't any easier in the state of Washington. There, "a labor shortage for the 2006 cherry harvest prompted an advertising blitz to recruit about 1,700 needed workers, particularly for the much larger apple harvest that was just around the corner. Only 40 people took jobs."

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17 comments
merican
merican

Why dont you, your brown kids, and your money, go back to mexico and stay there.

Colin
Colin

What are you talking about?

Sanders Kaufman
Sanders Kaufman

It's funny to see bigots offended at being called racist. It's like a worm, offended at being called a slug.

Timetomoveon
Timetomoveon

Maybe you could try a little harder and come up with a more accurate buzzword than "racism?" Language != race.

Sanders Kaufman
Sanders Kaufman

If we cared, we would ask them where they were from. But we don't care where they're from - Africa, Mexico, France - it's all good. We're just happy they got here. That's how we do things in this country because that's the kind of people we are.

Sanders Kaufman
Sanders Kaufman

If Republicans don't want to learn how to talk, that's fine with me. But as a conservative, I'm against the government telling me what to say or how to say it. That's not conservatism - that's just racism.

Sanders Kaufman
Sanders Kaufman

I can't wait to see some Texican cop, arresting a white boy from Plano on suspicion of being an illegal alien from Norway.

Mypiece
Mypiece

You're a red haired and green eyed Hispanic... 'unfortunately' your children are not... Can't help but think this may be a Freudian Slip... resentment maybe? Maybe not. On the surface you're argument is so simplified but at least I get your concern. To a degree I think you may be right. So, I propose that for the next ten years the cops stop EVERYONE and determine citizenship... maybe by then we can get this non sense under control. After all, the supreme court of the land gave the ok on random stops or even complete barricades to check for illegal activity. So, once again, let's stop everyone at such check points. HERE"S MY ID OFFICER!

Mypiece
Mypiece

I am so fed up with these tiresome 'journalists'. I use the term loosely. I'm fed up with them using historical truisms to cast themselves in the 'righteous' light. Yes, America has a history of wrong doings. Name me a culture that doesn't? Please, I would like to know of one. However, dragging up these wrongs and parading them alongside their own positions do NOT make their positions correct. The frigging Nazi's were masters at it, having learnt their propaganda techniques from many of the journalistic heroes of the American golden era of Progressives. The very same heroes that many of todays 'journalist' still follow. Oh, yes. They gave us so many great ideologies such as the aforementioned propaganda, euthanasia, interrogation techniques, sterilization and so on and so forth. All of which were always paraded with truisms to make them seem righteous where applicable or humane and the right thing to do at other times. People, we're doomed to repeat history if we don't truly learn from it. Also, if you do happen to crack open a history book... read up on the author, lest you be duped by yet another progressive. They love to mangle history's truisms.

JC
JC

You have wrongly assumed that the Vatican has traditionally condemned the growth of scientific knowledge. I'll spot you Galileo (which wasn't really about the Vatican disagreeing with science, but I won't argue the point). Can you name a singe other instance? Nope. There isn't one. Besides that, even the Vatican itself supports the theory of evolution.

Aaron
Aaron

The problem America has is with illegal immigration, not legal immigration. It does not help when 90% of illegals are Hispanic. All cops do in Arizona is ask for valid government identification. What is wrong with that? I have been to a few countries and they all ask me for an I.D. or my passport. Also, you have countries in Latin America whose immigration laws are strictly enforced. Ask an immigrant and they will most likely say that TRYING to make it through Mexico is hell.

Timetomoveon
Timetomoveon

Most African countries just summarily execute illegal immigrants.

BC
BC

Having lived in Mexico City for 3 years as an ex-patriot, I can assure you that if you are stopped in Mexico, you better have proof of who you are, what your status in Mexico is, etc. Mexico has some of the most restrictive immigration laws in the World. Try to get into Mexico from the Southern border.

Timetomoveon
Timetomoveon

Weird. I'm white as can be and I need to carry an ID to travel just about anywhere

Sandra
Sandra

I guess I don't have to worry. I am a red haired, green eyed Hispanic. But unfortunatly my children are not. They are as brown as the charro beans I cook for them. Why do my children have to carry ID to travel cross country, when every one else's do not? I know, I will just not visit a state with such laws. I'll take my money elsewhere.

 
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