Sunday, May 2, 2010


"They are lazy and no good...They have too many children and you can't understand a

thing they say...They take away jobs from hard-working Americans and they get into fights,

rob, break into homes and clog up our jails and courts." This is not a rant by a current resident

of Arizona. Rather, it is a compilation of criticisms and comments made about the rapid influx

of Irish immigrants who flooded into this country after the Great Potato Famine. According to

the new book, The History of White People, the Irish like the current influx of illegal Mexicans,

were faced with the belief they weren't "White" and were attacked because they would "muddy

up" the races if allowed into our nation.

Arizona's governor just signed into law measures which make illegal immigration a state

crime requiring police to stop and question suspicious people about their immigration status.

It's clear that few French Canadians will be stopped and searched near Lake Havasu; but every

person of color, particularly brown, will be subject to being stopped and searched anytime and

any day. The new law raises to a sacrament the process of racial profiling. Are we determined

to prove Santayana correct? Doomed to repeat our mistakes eternally?

Over the last ten years, the protection guaranteed Americans by the Fourth Amendment

has been eviscerated. The amendment is supposed to protect us from unreasonable search and

seizure by the government; but since September 11th, the Fourth Amendment has been on life

support. The Patriot Act allows the government to open your mail, bug your computer,

subpoena records of books you borrowed from the library, all without ever having to notify

you that you are being or have been investigated. Telecom companies allowed the government

to open and read your email and tap your cellphones, as well as monitor all your cyber activity,

without a warrant. Questioned about this travesty, Congress passed laws defending this and

further dilutions of the Fourth Amendment. And now, Arizona has given the police the power

to stop "anyone", not just Latinos, demanding proof they are in this country legally. That's the

foot in the door. From there, the police can do anything to you, including lying about what you

were doing or what you were planning to do. It used to be police could only check into

immigration status if they were investigating a crime. Now, they can claim they stopped you

in Phoenix simply because they "thought" you might be here illegally. From now on, you're

taking a big risk just vacationing in Arizona.

The governor of Arizona and police officials downplay this extraordinary expansion of

police powers; claiming the police would never abuse such authority and there will be clear

criteria established and abuses dealt with swiftly. (Complaints about police abuse and brutality

in San Francisco are so backlogged, they aren't dealt with for years in many cases.) What is it

you said Mr. Santayana? We already know the FBI, NSA, and Pentagon violated the provisions

of the Patriot Act frequently. They abused the use of "national security letters", they illegally

collected data, and they tapped phones without warrants. We know local police departments

all over the country spied on peace groups, Arab organizations, and charities; once again in

violation of the law and meaningless assurances. In Arizona, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe

Arpaio has been accused of raiding entire towns trying to round up illegal immigrants. His

actions have gone so far beyond the law that the Justice Department has prohibited him or

his department from engaging in any more raids. If you believe giving police the power to stop

"anyone" to check on their immigration status will not lead to abuse, I have some lovely

beach front property to sell you right outside of Tucson.

Arizona's governor claims she had to sign this bill because the federal government has

failed to protect the nation's borders. Supporters of the legislation say Arizona is in crisis and

needs a drastic solution. The only problem is illegal immigration has dropped over 20% in

the last year; and it is estimated the population of illegal immigrants in the state has dropped

by over 100,000 people. The governor signed the bill because she faces a tough primary

election campaign. Senator John McCain, also facing a tough primary opponent, has now

repudiated all previous positions on immigration reform and endorsed this law. Not a single

Democrat voted for this law. Yet, despite cries about inaction in Washington on immigration

reform by Arizona Republicans; when Democrats announced they were going to bring

immigration legislation to the floor of the Senate, Republicans immediately attacked, accusing

them of playing politics with the issue.

Imagine a crime is committed in a heavily Latino neighborhood of Phoenix or Tucson.

Imagine the police trying to go door-to-door canvassing the neighbors to find witnesses or

gather information. Who will talk to them? Who will cooperate with them? There is already

great distrust between poor people and people of color with the police in America. This new

law will make police work all but impossible in the very neighborhoods who need it the most.

Imagine Joe Arpaio armed with this new law. He has shown a total disregard for civil

liberties throughout his career. Now he has legal authority to stop anyone. In the past, he has

raided and harassed journalists, city council members, mayors, and anyone who publicly

disagrees with or criticizes him. Now his tactics are perfectly legal.

In a state as regressive as Arizona, imagine the rise of anti-war groups, radical

environmentalists, progressive political organizers like ACORN, or vocal critics of the police

and law enforcement; ask yourself if this law could be used by the powerful monied and

political interests in the state to moderate a perceived social or political crisis? It could and

it will!

I have often said Americans don't deserve America. In 2001, Americans were stampeded

like sheep into surrendering key rights which distinguished this nation from all others. One

of those rights was freedom from government intrusion, specifically the freedom of our person

and property from unreasonable search and seizure. Without this one right, the word freedom

is meaningless. Despite the obvious racial component of this new law, despite the fear and

distrust this will create between the police and the people (especially the poor and working

poor), despite the regressive politics this law represents; the real concern is how cavalierly

Americans sacrifice their civil liberties on the altar of fear and prejudice.

The New York Times quotes fifty-two year old Grammy Award nominated Ron White

about the new law. He is relieved something is finally being done about the "illegals". He

adds, "I wouldn't want to show proof of citizenship, but I don't feel it's racial profiling. You

are going to look different if you are an alien and the cops know it." My advice to Mr. White

is to retain a bulldog of a lawyer right now. And when confronted by a policeman under any

circumstances, do not respond to any questions asked. Simply repeat over and over that you

want to consult with your lawyer. If you think I'm exaggerating and want to keep on believing

the police are your friends and that politicians love American freedoms above all else; then

pray, Mr. White, pray that at some future date you're not singled out of the crowd for looking

suspicious and then interrogated. You may lose more than you could ever imagine when that

"alien" you speak of becomes YOU! What do you think? I welcome your comments and

rebuttals. Please send them to


  1. the real concern is how cavalierly Americans sacrifice their civil liberties on the altar of fear and prejudice. We have developed into a police nation. I was in arizona last fall and they closed whole interstates to conduct searches of all passing. I bet New york would have invaded Virginia if they had trampled on commerce let alone personal rights like that. Ole Patrick Henry would have made sure of that. I also feel americans have become cows (not deserving the a r d in coward) and will follow anyone to slaughter. The bill of rights is on life support and it is pitch fork time.

  2. Rightly or wrongly, I'm ambivalent about this. I don't want to see our privacy rights trampled, but, to tell you the honest-to-goodness truth, I've had it with people insisting that they have a "right" to live and work here illegally and mass-protesting any effort we make to consider much less pass ANY legislation enforcing our immigration laws.

    If undocumented people took a humbler tack and said, "We'd rather not be here, and we certainly don't want to break your laws much less take any jobs or resources away from American citizens. We'd rather be back in our native countries with our families and friends. But we come here because we and our families are starving and desperate and we don't know what else to do." But when they say, in their own words, "How dare you try to stop us from exercising our right to break your laws and live and work here whether you like it or not," I say round 'em all up and unceremoniously send them back to where they came from, maybe after a good, sweaty stint in Joe Arpaio's "tent city."

    Now maybe I'm being irrational and mean-spirited with this. But, like I said, I've had it to the brim and beyond with people feeling entitled to trample our laws and taking to the streets with signs and shouts and threats when anyone talks about stopping them.

  3. thanks for the insight and your opinion Mr. Ward
    Take Care