Tag Archives: Arizona

The Court Got It Right!

Yesterday, the Supreme Court threw out most of the anti-Latino Arizona immigration law and neutered the rest, which was frankly a surprise to me considering the make-up of this gang. To their credit in this instance they did strike a blow for fairness and this ever elusive thing called justice. Being an African American I have seen and know bigotry firsthand so I think this qualifies me to have an opinion with respect to what this law would do if allowed to stand as the law of the land.

Of course, we now wait for the biggest decision of our lifetime – the healthcare decision. I hope Chief Justice Roberts Jr., who by the way sided with the 5 to 3 majority in immigration law remains sane and takes the position of the liberal Justices on the bench when deciding the healthcare issue. The American people could use his vote when it is rendered and expected to be announced Thursday.

This was a huge victory for justice although they did not eliminate the most notorious part of the Arizona law, which was the requirement that police can check the immigration status of anyone who is detained. This is the part known as the “papers, please” that conjures images of a police-state in my mind that could easily be expanded to include other minorities like us or just us. I can recall there was a time when such laws pertained to black people – they were called Black Codes.

However, it appears that the court had this in mind as it wrote “This opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect”. Which sounds like – we’ll be watching closely. Thankfully most of the less publicized but equally onerous and un-American provisions are now history.

More importantly, the court’s reinforcement of the main tenet was that the federal government has the responsibility for setting immigration policy, not the states. We do not need — and, thanks to this ruling, will not have — 50 sets of laws specifying who gets to live in this country and who doesn’t. This would open the floodgates to bigotry. Like I said, I have seen this before and not too long ago.

This law had another more ominous design, which would have, if sustained,  make it a state crime for anyone who failed to have proper immigration papers; in other words, failing to produce the right documents when asked could have subjected a person not just to deportation but to criminal penalties. The court ruled that this was preempted by federal law, which imposes no such sanctions.

The danger here is this as it relates to the so called “papers please law” it gives police broad authority to arrest anyone — without a warrant — suspected of some “public offense” that makes the person liable to deportation. The court recognized, and rightfully so, that this is a license for police to arrest suspected illegal immigrants indiscriminately, based solely on the possibility that they might be here without the proper documents. Keep in mind the “Black Codes”.

As the court noted in striking down this provision, “The result could be unnecessary harassment of some aliens (for instance, a veteran, college student, or someone assisting with a criminal investigation) whom federal officials determine should not be removed.” Need I say this is what African Americans have been saying all along – we call it “racial profiling”.

Thanks to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy who wrote the majority opinion for pointing out something that many who seek to participate in the immigration debate fail to understand: “As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States.” I think he was right to say it’s not a crime for “illegal” immigrants to live and work here without the proper documents. By “here” I mean all 50 states. The United States is one country with one immigration policy, and the Supreme Court means to keep it this way.

In closing, until the healthcare verdict, let me ask you to recall not too long ago this state was the last to recognize Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday as a holiday.  Therefore I say, Arizona’s thinking – draconian! VOTE!!! And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…



A Manifestation of the Right – Armed and Dangerous

We’ve witnessed another sad day in America’s history to which I extend my condolences to the families of the dead and wounded. On Saturday in Tucson, Arizona where the savage murders that took the lives of a federal judge, a nine year old child, seriously wounding a Congresswoman and many others was simply a despicable act of terrorism. But what is disturbing is that I have not heard anyone from the right who screamed “Terror” for much of the last decade use the word.

I want to commend Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik, who is leading the investigation into the shootings, for his honesty. He did not mince words in saying that vitriol spewed, mostly by Republicans, contributed to the tragedy in Tucson. He said, “There’s reason to believe that this [suspect] may have a mental issue. And I think people who are unbalanced are especially susceptible to vitriol… People tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that. That may be free speech, but it’s not without consequences.”

America has a long history of such tragic situations. There was the Oklahoma bombing, the murder of an abortion doctor, and the Holocaust museum shooting in recent memory. If we go back to the 1960’s, there was assassination after assassination: Dr. King, President Kennedy, his brother Bobby, Medger Evers, Malcolm X – get my point. No! Well the common thread linking such acts of violence were WORDS used by those who possessed views from an ideologically extreme perspective.

These self-righteous Tea Baggers and conservatives whose been doing what is tantamount to yelling fire in a crowd don’t seem to understand that what they are saying has a dangerous impact upon society and unstable individuals. Words are powerful and there are some in our society who are not equipped to understand that these people are making a living by using this divisive speech causing some to take much of this vitriol literally. It might even be a more sinister reason; playing to the hatred and bigotry that exists.

Let me start at the top with the new leader, a man who cries at the drop of a dime might have shown some emotion over this tragedy, if for no other reason than there was a nine year old innocent child killed, but there were no tears. During his remarks at a news conference Sunday, “the newly elected House speaker was as dry as tumbleweed,” said Courtland Milloy. Why had the man who cries just by thinking about the welfare of children not shed a tear over the death of a 9-year-old girl in that rampage?

We’re talking about a rampage that arguably can be contributed to the insane vitriolic language that the right has spewed since President Obama, an African American, began campaigning and was elected. It is Obama’s opponents who carried guns to his speeches and cited Jefferson’s line that the tree of liberty “must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

Mr. Speaker told the National Review just last year that then-Rep. Steve Dreihaus (D-Ohio) “may be a dead man” because he voted for President Obama’s health-care law. “He can’t go home to the west side of Cincinnati”. Stephen Broden, a tea party-backed former Texas GOP congressional candidate, has said, “Our nation was founded on violence. The option is on the table… I don’t think that we should ever remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms.”

Rep. Michelle Bachmann said, “I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax, because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us, having a revolution every now and then is a good thing, and the people – we the people – are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country.” Then there was Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate in Nevada, who suggested “Second Amendment remedies”. These are just a few examples of discord that creates such a charged political climate which can cause an unhinged person to act in horrendous ways with dire consequences.

Am I suggesting that the shooter’s motive in this case could have nothing to do with the statements of these people – possibly! But, no one should be surprised when misguided ideologues start showing up at town meetings armed with assault rifles – or at supermarkets with handguns. Remember, the Tea Party rallies when they gleefully brought them to where the president was speaking.

The conservative leadership must finally take on their fringe when it uses language that intimates threats of bloodshed. That means more than just highly general statements praising civility. I am all for and support the right to bear arms. However, I am also sane enough to know that everyone who buys a gun should have one. Its kinda like you have the right to jump off a bridge but that does not mean it is a good idea.

There is one statement that I will leave you with and it’s from the Congresswoman who struggles for life today. “We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list,” she said, “but the thing is that the way she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there are consequences…”

Whoa, let’s take a step back here.


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What Next???

I was once told that the definition of insanity is to continue to do what you have always done and expect a different result. This becomes obvious when it comes to matters of race. As sure as things change they remain the same. Every minority group has struggled to achieve the “American Dream” in its own distinctive way. I must say, and most would agree, that African Americans have endured the harshest treatment. Certainly, people of our hue have had to suffer these indignities longer than any other ethnic group. Having lived through the Jim Crow era I can’t avoid hearing echoes of a horrible time that I had hoped was long gone. Through the use of Black Codes during that era the authors went to great lengths to try to keep “agitators” from awakening the Negro sense of pride and injustice, which brings me to the new laws in Arizona.

Recently, Arizona passed a law that said a certain ethnic group MUST carry papers to prove they are legal, which sounds a lot like the “Black Codes” from the days of slavery. Then, like now, those codes were meant to control the labor force and to separate one race from another. Although there was the general perception that the illegal immigrant was the “New Negro”, we don’t have to pretend anymore. Arizona’s passing of that, at best, mean spirited immigration law “breathing while Latino” wasn’t about high-minded principle or the need to maintain public order. If I can keep it real, it was all about putting Latinos in their place in the same manner as it was designed to do long ago, but it didn’t end there.

On Tuesday, the Governor signed a measure making it illegal for any course taught in the public schools to “advocate ethnic solidarity.” Arizona’s top education official, Tom Horne, fought for the new law as a weapon against a program in Tucson that teaches Mexican American students about their history and culture that he claimed was to teach “ethnic chauvinism.” He has complained that young Mexican Americans are falsely being led to believe that they belong to an oppressed minority. History tells us the same claim was made during slavery and segregation when they said, “Negro’s love the Master”. Therefore, they felt the way to dispel that notion was to pass oppressive new legislation aimed squarely at Mexican Americans. That’ll teach the kids a lesson, all right: We have power. You don’t.

The education bill begins with a bizarre piece of nonsense, making it illegal for public or charter schools to offer courses that “promote the overthrow of the United States government.” Then it shifts from weird to offensive, prohibiting classes that “promote resentment toward a race or class of people,” that “are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” and that “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” If you think about this language – we all should be concerned.

I am going to overlook whether it can apply to any other ethnic group – for a moment. Let’s just look at the intended targets. More than half the students in the Tucson Unified School District are Latino, the great majority of them Mexican American. The land that is now Arizona once belonged to Mexico. Might teaching that fact “promote resentment” among students of Mexican descent? Or does this mean they do not want to teach basic history? What about a class that taught students how activists fought to end discrimination against Latinos in Arizona and other Western states? Would that illegally encourage students to resent the way their parents and grandparents were treated? Ok, I’ll digress. There was no history concerning Negro’s presented or taught until about 1900.

Let say the Mexican American students should not be taught to be proud of their heritage. The good “citizen’s councils” of Arizona do know that about 30 percent of the state’s population is Latino, and that number continues to rise. As a result, I would argue that this demographic shift has induced culture shock among some Arizonans who see the old Anglo power structure losing control. It is evidently threatening to some people that Mexican Americans would see themselves as a group with common interests and grievances. Or even more threatening that they might see themselves as distant heirs to the men and women who lived in Arizona long before the first Anglos arrived. Therefore, any sense of solidarity among Mexican Americans must be delegitimized. This ethnic group has to be taught to see itself as a population of unaffiliated individuals.

It’s important to distinguish between Arizona officials’ legitimate concerns and their illegitimate ones. The state does have a real problem with illegal immigration, and the federal government has ignored its responsibility to enact comprehensive reform that would make the border more secure. To which I believe is the fault of the “Party of No”. But Arizona is lashing out with measures that will not just punish the undocumented but it will negatively affect Mexican American citizens whose local roots are generations deep. Mexican Americans are inevitably going to feel proud of who they are and where they came from; even if acknowledging and encouraging such pride in the classroom is against the law, which is simply absurd.

It was once proclaimed by a great man that injustice any where is injustice everywhere or was it injustice to anyone is an injustice to everyone. I said that to say this, in 1896 there was a landmark case Plessy v. Ferguson where the US Supreme Court decided in the jurisprudence of the United States upholding the constitutionality of racial segregation in public accommodations (particularly railroads), which established the doctrine of “separate but equal” that was the law of the land for a half century. Less we not forget…

Arizona on my Mind

I am of the opinion that something’s are right and something’s are wrong. Then there are something’s that I’ve witnessed and something’s I know. As an African American, I can report that I was once Negro, Colored, or worst; so I know mean spirited inhumane laws. The draconian immigration law passed last week in Arizona, directed at a particular group of people, seems like the modern day version of “Separate but equal” or Jim Crow raising like a Phoenix for the “wing nuts”, which brings me to Arizona.

In light of what we know, Arizona has passed and signed a law that directs the police to stop anyone under the guise of “reasonable suspicion” to verify that they are not in the state illegally. I guess the real question is how are the police supposed to decide whom they view as a “reasonable suspect” for being in the country illegally? Since the great majority of undocumented immigrants in Arizona are from Mexico, aggressive enforcement of the law would seem to require demanding identification from anybody who looks kind of Mexican. Or maybe just hassling those who are brown and poor. So the state of Arizona wants us to believe that this law is not ripe for abuse. We have been down this road before and know all too well its impact.

This law is appalling, in my opinion, and on so many levels. It stinks of racism; it’s arbitrary, oppressive, and frankly bad policy. It invites racial profiling because it compels police to search for undocumented immigrants based on an ill-defined “reasonable suspicion” of illegality. This means local police will use skin color, accent or limited proficiency in English as the basis for suspicion. There already are many cities in Arizona that have been widely and credibly accused of doing just this in hundreds of lawsuits. When you consider that the police lack any sure fire method for spotting illegal immigrants based on “reasonable suspicion,” Arizona police will inevitably target the legal sort as well, in blatant violation of their civil liberties.

Now here comes the insanity. The law allows any citizen to sue local police for failing to enforce immigration law. This means police will be distracted and diverted from other priorities. It is compounded by the threat of fines of up to $5,000 per day for police agencies that fail to enforce the law. It also poisons police relations with immigrant communities. By fomenting the justified fear among immigrants that any contact with law enforcement agencies will lead to questions about their status. The law makes it increasingly unlikely that immigrants will not report crimes, cooperate as witnesses or provide tips to police. Not to mention is it preempts federal law. Federal law treats illegal immigration as a civil violation; Arizona law criminalizes it by using the legally dubious mechanism of equating the mere presence of undocumented immigrants with trespassing.

Now let’s revisit some recent history that speaks to overzealous police actions and we have seen the video’s of what happens. Let’s go back the infamous Rodney King beating, for example, we saw the video and they tried to convince us that we didn’t see what we saw. We must also remember that the cops involved were acquitted at the first trial. You know the “Blue Shield” – protect their own will also happen here. Then there was the young man in New Orleans who was shot in the back multiple times as he ran across a bridge when police said he was charging and shooting at them. Or the bachelor about to be married was murdered leaving a party in New York the day before his wedding.

More recently, there was a situation where a student at the University of Maryland was attached and beaten unmercifully by three officers, who falsified (lied) in the official charging documents. If not for a video surfacing their crime would not have been known. I think it is worth mentioning that this victim was “white”. In Prince George’s County Maryland, it is common knowledge that an interaction with that police force could likely be a death sentence, or a beating for sure, and there history proves this to be true. These are just a few examples to remember in light of this new law. Oh, does anyone remember Professor Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr., B.A., Ph.D. arrested for being in his own home. I don’t have enough paper to list the many occurrences.

Let me take you back to another act of unconsciousness concerning the history of this place in the desert. They were the last state to consider or honor the Martin Luther King Birthday, after it became a federal holiday. The state was boycotted and when the loss of revenue began to hurt, they reluctantly agreed to recognize it. Then there was the guy who ran for president, who was staunchly against the holiday and like then he supports this too. He calls himself a maverick, but said last week he is not a maverick, never called himself a maverick. Dude there is video. However, he proclaims to be a practitioner of “straight talk”. Could this be described as xenophobic or unprincipled?

It sounds like the people who are responsible for this law probably only had contact with those Hispanics who trim their lawns. This is what I know!!! The law requires police to question anyone they “reasonably suspect” of being an undocumented immigrant. It is a mandate for racial profiling on a massive scale. Legal immigrants will be required to carry papers proving that they have a right to be in the United States. Those without documentation can be charged with the crime of trespassing, jailed, or deported.

Don’t forget, these were the same types of sanctions imposed upon “Negro” not very long ago. This could very well be what the comedic genius Richard Pryor meant when he famously said, “America got them some new Nigger’s”.


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