Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Arizona and Immigration

I don't live in Arizona nor do I live in any border states where illegal immigration is an issue. I think that is something that people commenting on this issue should divulge before they comment on it. This is not to say that people who are not experiencing the direct problem should not have an opinion or should not have the right to express it, but I do think that it is important that full disclosure should be maintained when opinions are expressed. Since immigration is supposed to be the topic of this blog, I will only say one more thing about disclosure; perhaps if there was more disclosure by our politicians as to how they are making their living outside of the halls of Congress and more disclosure by some of our more vocal pundits as to how profitable and rich their opinions are making them, and where this profit is coming from, perhaps both their various stances on certain legislation and perceptions about certain topics would be better understood. More later.

Anyone who has been following the news recently is aware of a new law in Arizona that allows law enforcement personnel to ask for proof of citizenship from anyone they think might be illegally staying in this country. Since this law was created by Arizona, most people would understand this to mean that people of Mexican heritage are the main targets of the law. I don't think they are looking to apply it to Canadians. Unfortunately, Arizona is home to a large percentage of Mexican Americans, and other people of a skin color that is not white. While I saw the governor of Arizona say that there would be some type of training provided for those attempting to enforce the law, I have to think that this training will have to center on HOW ask for the proper papers as opposed to whom to ask. It is a shame that many police officers in Arizona will now find their already difficult job made more difficult as they try to guess who is legal and who isn't.

So, how do you ask an American citizen to provide proof of their citizenship because they happen to look like an illegal immigrant? Since I not only do not live in Arizona but would probably not be mistaken for Mexican, I can't imagine how this would work. Nor can I imagine how I would feel if the next time I was in my local Burger King using their free Internet, a police officer asked me to prove I was not downloading pornography because a significant percentage of white males in this country engage in that activity. OK, so maybe not a good analogy. How about this one? It seems to be the same conservative, right leaning people that are currently demonstrating in the streets against the government's forays into our private lives are OK with that same government using a guilty until proven innocence approach to the immigration issue. The same people who paint a Hitler mustache on our president our OK with Arizona utilizing a technique right out of the Nazi playbook. (Imagine here a German soldier asking for your papers in any of those WWII allied resistance movies).

America used to be proud of its melting pot status. You know, give me your poor, your tired huddled masses... It is on the Statue of Liberty. So often I hear people say that proof of America's greatness is the fact that so many people want to come here. So, do we want them to come or not? The fact is, we are all immigrants to this country at some point in our genealogy. (My apologies to any American Indians who might be reading this, present company excepted for you). When our ancestors came here, whether 2, 5 or 10 generations ago, chances are they were not welcomed by those already here. Yes, I know they all mostly came over legally on a boat. But they were as desperate and anxious to start a new life as those who come across the border now. If you don't think that in that desperation and hope that some of our ancestors might not have taken a short cut if they could have walked here, you might want to think again. Just like some of our ancestors came to America and caused trouble (I am of Italian ancestry so I can say Mafia here), some of today's immigrants are trouble makers and should be returned from whence them came. But, just like the vast majority of our ancestors came to this country for the right reasons, so do most of today's immigrants come to America. To better their lives and to establish a better life for their children.

Perhaps someone can help me here. When a person is arrested, don't the police have an ability to determine if that person is a citizen or not? Doesn't the "processing" of a suspect include checking for priors (like on Barney Miller), and fingerprinting them. Don't they ask for a social security number? I would like to think that something is done at that point that would establish that this person is not a citizen. If so, then couldn't that be the beginning of the process of deportation? Again, perhaps I am oversimplifying the process, but I am looking for something that upholds our tradition (and constitution) that says innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until papers provided.

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