Arizona's New Law: You Can Call It Unconstitutional In 2011
Arizona is fighting hard against Florida, South Carolina, and Texas for who can bring the most outright crazy to the table, with their new law mandating that police(who, I'm sure, really don't want to be saddled with also being INS deputies--consider the caseload and lawsuits this will bring, and that's not counting that nobody will want to go to their state) have to stop anyone who looks like they might be an immigrant.
I do not expect anyone to be stopped because they look French, English, Swedish, or Canadian.
A number of perfectly legal citizens will be harassed over this. If you immigrated here legally, at least there are such things as papers. But what if you were born here? Do you normally carry around your birth certificate with you? And then much more absurd, but sinister, ramifications in a prank pulled by an Arizonan on his neighbor, who wrote, in tape "I AM A MEXICAN, PULL ME OVER" on the poor fellow's car. That's obviously silly, but consider the same technique applied differently and more seriously. That's how witch hunts happened. You just need people to have an incentive to inform on their neighbors.
And this is such a boon to exploitative employers--ones like the Wal-Mart that locked its illegal immigrant workers in at night--and other human traffickers. Now their captives will be afraid to go outside under most circumstances, because they can be arrested just for looking Latino and having no papers.
A number of reasons, mostly to do with cynical short-term political gain at the expense of Latinos. But I'd just like to sketch out one which, for the GOP, if it wasn't an intended result, it's certainly a lucky benefit for them. This will depress Latino voter turnout, at a time when the GOP--which had done well for a while in cultivating Latino voters--have been systematically alienating said Latino voters. In Arizona, it was enough to swing four counties that had gone for Bush to Obama in 2008, when McCain--from Arizona--was his opponent.
Right now, the GOP neither feels it can depend upon Latino voters, nor pursue their present incoherent nativist ideology without feeling free to throw Latinos under any number of buses. In such situations, you want to minimize the potential voter turnout of the group you've pissed off. Arizona is 30% Latino.
Obviously, illegal immigrants cannot vote. But again, what do you think will be the determining factors for initial probable cause when police apply this law? Could it be that someone looks Latino, or speaks with a Latino accent? Or simply that someone speaks a foreign language in public? Or will it just be Spanish they target?
It's very vague and very broad and invites arbitrary application. And that's just what will make lots of Latino voters deem going to the polls--despite plenty of reason, especially now, to vote this governor, and others, out--not worth the bother.
It's hard enough to get people to go vote in the best of circumstances, but when you apply to a group of people the deterrent that they will be harassed at or on their way to the polls--and polling places will be very convenient central locations to ask for papers--then you minimize their impact in the vote.
This will obviously either be sued away or ruled unconstitutional. But not this year, not until after November at least. And that's all that's needed to marginalize Latinos out of the process, which is why the Republican and non-Latino governor happily signed it while obviously not giving much thought to the harm it will cause, not to mention the burden on the police.
This will hurt the GOP in the long term, but they have never bothered themselves thinking except in the most optimistic terms about their future.
"Eternity in the company of Beelzebub, and all of his hellish instruments of death, will be a picnic compared to five minutes with me & this pencil." --E. Blackadder, 1789 Questionable
words & pictures from John Linton Roberson