Immigration is still a domain of the U.S. federal government. Significant measures were taken by the last Bush Presidency to stem the flow of illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States, including a permanent wall along the border between Mexico and the U.S., and increased patrols and beds in detention centres.
The primary argument made against illegal immigration is that it draws against tax-paid social services and jobs for legal Americans. As the recession made joblessness more prevalent, state legislators began looking for ways to stem the loss in their base constituencies.
According to a Wikipedia article, the "Impetus for SB 1070 came from shifting demographics leading to a larger Hispanic population, increased drugs- and human smuggling-related violence in Mexico and Arizona, and a struggling state economy. State residents were also frustrated by the lack of federal progress on immigration, which they viewed as even
more disappointing given that [former Governor Janet] Napolitano was in the administration."
Critics of the Bill say that it is inevitable that racial profiling will occur. Mary Bauer, Legal Director for the Southern Poverty Law Centrer, writes, "this law is a civil rights disaster and an insult to American values. No one in our country should be required to produce their “papers” on demand to prove their innocence. What kind of country are we becoming?
The idea that Arizona residents, especially Latinos, should have to carry identification showing that they are legal residents, smacks of a shameful period of not too long ago. Between 1948 and 1994 the policy of apartheid was practised in South Africa. It lawfully segregated races and led the majority black population to being stripped of their citizenship, while maintaining the minority white population in power. Many labourers, mainly black, travelled from other countries to work in South Africa to work in its mines and do work many white South Africans would not do.
Apartheid was a massively oppressive system that sought, amongst other things, to control the economic lives of all black people, and their residential location. Anyone without an approved job could be deported out of the urban areas. Most black workers in the urban areas, and all who worked on the mines, were annual migrants. These 'men of two worlds' were forced to reside with their families in distant rural areas, and to relocate themselves for 11 months of the year to work in the cities or on the mines. (Hirsch, Alan. Season of Hope : Economic Reform under Mandela and Mbeki. Internet. Accessed May 7, 2010).
Most temporary workers had to carry around a black passbook that identified their status. Failure to produce a passbook at the request of police or military was grounds for immediate arrest and detention, and quite possibly leading to deportation. Next to kaffir, which was a pejorative used to demean black South Africans, the most humiliating and frightening words, I imagine, one could have heard were "let me see your I.D." [Note: If you can find it listen to "Let Me See Your I.D." featuring spoken-word performer Gil Scott-Heron on on the Artists United Against Apartheid album Sun City.]
Do you see the similarities?
President Obama criticized the SB1070 saying it threatened “to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.” Retired basketball player and Arizona resident, Charles Barkley recently stated that all people need to stand up and make their concerns about SB1070 known. He criticized Republican Sen. John McCain for supporting the law. The lawsuits against the State of Arizona are starting to accumulate including cities of Tucson and Flagstaff. Tucson Mayor Robert Walkup told the Arizona Daily Star he fears economic repercussion against his city by other parts of the country. The National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders (CONLAMIC) filed suit "because it usurps federal immigration enforcement authority and because of concerns that the law contributes to racial profiling." A stand also taken up by Sociologists without Borders, they have also sued Arizona.
The SPLC believes that the authors of the bill have ties to racist groups because the lawyer who drafted the brief leading to the legislation was employed by Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). It is alleged FAIR has received funding from the Pioneer Fund, a group that openly acknowledges advancing research into the Darwinian-Galtonian evolutionary tradition, and the eugenics movement.
Many readers of this column are Canadian, and may take the stance of "So what?" It is your prerogative to feel this doesn't apply to you. However, I think I have made a case that the similarities between apartheid and SB1070 exist. There are as many as ten others states looking to copycat this legislation. At its base the law is in violation of human rights. It demeans people, especially those whose skin is brown. It creates an "Us and Them" mentality that goes back to the ghettos of Warsaw. If you travel to those jurisdictions your dollars are rubber-stamping that this policy is okay. I urge you to boycott Arizona and the states that are looking to adopt similar immigration policy of their own. Turn the tables on yourself. If this was you that was being targeted, rather than Latinos, how would feel when you were stopped and asked, "let me see your I.D."