Archive for Arizona
On Wednesday August 15, eligible undocumented immigrants throughout the nation began to apply for work permits under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. As The New York Times put it, “The work permit young immigrants can receive with the deferral opens many doors that have been firmly shut. They can obtain valid Social Security numbers and apply for driver’s licenses, professional certificates and financial aid for college.” On the same day, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer issued an Executive Order aimed at keeping those doors firmly shut in Arizona.
Her order [pdf] directs state agencies to initiate any changes necessary to prevent “Deferred Action recipients from obtaining eligibility . . . for state funded public benefits and state identification, including a driver’s license.”
Brewer’s order contradicts Arizona’s current policy that provides driver’s licenses to undocumented individuals who have secured jobs and attorneys doubt that it will have any practical effects.
Brewer’s action might have been motivated by her notorious animosity towards President Obama (pictured above in an encounter in January, 2012). An editorial in the August 17 issue of the Arizona Republic characterizes Brewer’s executive order as a “Move that Goes Too Far”.
in her efforts to oppose the president, “Even if the issue is something as seemingly straightforward as allowing Dream Act kids to obtain driver’s licenses, a fundamental precondition for Americans seeking to improve their lot in a mobile society.”
This is just another episode in Brewer’s relentless campaign against the undocumented. It is another instance of the racism that has tarnished Arizona’s reputation. Sadly, it delights racist voters, which evidently trumps human decency.
Today the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Arizona (or other states such as Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah which all have some type of tough state immigration laws) have little room to legislate regarding immigration policy. The Supreme Court declared immigration enforcement is a federal issue. However, the Court ruled that law enforcement officials in Arizona could still ask about immigration status if they had reasonable suspicion that the person being stopped was undocumented. I wrote about how this would target Latinos in my first blog on racismreview stating that I would not go visit my parents in Arizona without my passport.
Based on today’s Supreme Court ruling, I will still not travel to Arizona without my passport.
The fact that the arguments of the case turned to issues of federalism rather than arguments about equal protection and/or civil rights violations should come as no surprise. It was set up that way from the start. Solicitor General Donald B. Verilli assured Chief Justice Roberts that this case was not about racism towards Latinos. CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears tellingly states:
Even before the solicitor general began speaking midway through the argument, Chief Justice John Roberts framed the debate away from what has become a major complaint about the law: that it would target mostly Hispanic people for scrutiny and detention. “I’d like to clear up at the outset what it’s not about,” Roberts said. “No part of your argument has to do with racial or ethnic profiling, does it?” Verrilli readily agreed.
In this context the Court unanimously sustained the law’s section referred to as the “show me your papers” policy.
In doing so, it continued the larger policy that says it is okay to subject an entire ethnic and racial group of people to fundamental questions of belonging and acceptance by allowing law enforcement officials to question whether they belong here in this country legally or not.
This perpetuates and contributes to what Professor Leo Chavez refers to as the “Latino Threat Narrative” which situates all Latinos—whether legal immigrants, undocumented, or U.S. born—as outside of the American national community and sees them in a suspicious light. According to Leo Chavez, even U.S. born Latinos are seen as: “ ‘alien-citizens,’ perpetual foreigners despite their birthright”. Today’s Supreme Court decision reinforces that Latinos are seen and can be treated as “alien-citizens.”
In 2010, the Arizona state legislature passed a blatantly racist law, SB 1070.
One of its most notorious provisions (Section B) is particularly loathsome. It requires officers of the law who have “lawful contact” with an individual to make a “reasonable attempt” to ascertain the individual’s immigrant status “where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States.” Two questions arise. First, what motivates the officer to initiate the “lawful contact”? Second, how does the officer arrive at a “reasonable suspicion”? The tool used in both cases is racial profiling.
The Obama administration challenged SB 1070 in court. Judge Susan Bolton of the Federal District Court issued a preliminary injunction against sections of the law, including Section B. The State of Arizona appealed Judge Bolton’s ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which upheld Bolton’s decision. Subsequently the State of Arizona appealed to the Supreme Court, which heard the case on April 25. There was some discussion of Section B during the hearing. Astonishingly, some Justices made comments that suggested support for this provision.
If the Supreme Court rules in Arizona’s favor, racial profiling will be legalized in Arizona for years. What’s next?
Brisenia Flores was a 9-year-old girl murdered in Arizona by anti-immigrant vigilantes, yet her death – unlike that of the 9-year old killed last week in Arizona – is getting almost no attention in the U.S. mainstream media.
According to reports by the UK press, Brisenia Flores was gunned down at point-blank range in her own home in Flores, Arizona, as her terrified mother Gina Gonzalez, who had also been hit, played dead on the floor.
Shawna Forde, the head of the Minutemen American Defence group, is on trial accused of two charges of first degree murder. Her trial is underway in Arizona now. Forde and her co-conspirator Bush — who reportedly has ties to the white supremacist Aryan Nation — broke into the home of 29-year-old Raul Flores, Brisenia’s dad, on May 30, 2009. This was just six weeks after Forde’s issued a call for a political revolt. As related this week at Forde’s trial:
According to testimony, Bush shot Flores, then Gonzalez. Gonzalez was hit in the shoulder and leg and slumped to the floor. She testified that she played dead as she heard Bush pump more bullets into her husband as Brisenia woke up.
“Why did you shoot my dad?” the girl asked, sobbing, according to Gonzalez’s testimony. “Why did you shoot my mom?”
Gonzalez said she heard Bush slowly reload his gun and that he then ignored Brisenia’s pleas and fired.
It’s hard to comprehend such an act of violence, especially one involving a child. Certainly, the links to anti-immigrant politics and rhetoric seem to be much clearer in this case than in the more recent shooting, but this story is receiving virtually no attention from mainstream media. In part, this is the white racial frame at play, drawing our attention to white victims and obscuring from view the lives of people of color.
As you’ve probably heard by now, Jared Lee Loughner is accused of a horrific attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ.) and the murder of six other people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old little girl. Loughner also injured 14 other people. Remarkably, Giffords survived – in no small measure due to the heroic actions of a gay, Latino intern who rushed to administer first aid - and doctors are cautiously optimistic that she will recover. While the facts in this terrible case are still unfolding, the initial indications are that the shooting points to some profound connections between white power, terrorism and the mainstream political culture of the U.S.
Hate group monitors, including Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates and Mark Potok at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), have noted the ties Loughner had to white power groups through his posting to various web sites and his YouTube channel. Elise Foley, reporting at the Huffington Post, suggests that Loughner had ties to the American Renaissance, a white nationalist group that operates under a pseudo think tank called the New Century Foundation. Among a number of notions it holds rooted in white supremacy, the American Renaissance is also opposed to the entry of “non-whites” into the United States and supports Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law. The group is known for its anti-semitism and a number of media outlets have pointed to the fact that Hitler’s Mein Kampf was listed as one of Loughner’s favorite books, leading to questions about whether anti-semitism and anti-immigrant hostility were motives in the shootings. Giffords is the first Jewish U.S. representative to be elected in Arizona (and an opponent of SB 1070) and Gabe Zimmerman, a Giffords aide who was killed in the shooting, was also Jewish. Potok is more circumspect when he observes:
I didn’t see anything that suggested racial, anti-Semitic or anti-immigrant animus in Loughner’s writings. Certainly, there’s nothing I saw at all reminiscent of American Renaissance, which focuses heavily on the alleged intellectual and psychological inferiority of black people. At this early stage, I think Loughner is probably best described as a mentally ill or unstable person who was influenced by the rhetoric and demonizing propaganda around him. Ideology may not explain why he allegedly killed, but it could help explain how he selected his target.
One thing that seems clear is that Giffords … was the nearest and most obvious representative of “the government” that Loughner could find. Another is that he likely absorbed some of his anger from the vitriolic political atmosphere in the United States in general and Arizona in particular.
I tend to agree with Potok here. I doubt that any official ties between Loughner and white supremacist (or nationalist) groups will be unearthed. But, even though he Loughner isn’t much of a “joiner” doesn’t mean he’s not a political terrorist – he is. He even calls himself a terrorist. And, that’s what he is. The only problem is that he’s white, so lots of people are going to have trouble recognizing him as a terrorist.
“[He] was clearly mentally unstable. But the political themes of his instability were those of the American far Right. Loughner was acting politically even if he is not all there. He is said to have called out the names of his victims, such as Roll and Gifford, as he fired. As usual, when white people do these things, the mass media doesn’t call it terrorism.“
While lots of liberal bloggers have picked up this white-terrorism meme, there is almost nothing in the mainstream media about the whiteness of this suspect. The white mainstream is already framing this shooting as the act of a crazed, lone gunman, rather than part of a consistent pattern of right-wing violence perpetrated almost exclusively by white men who are responding to a political climate that is increasingly stoked by vitriolic rhetoric.
Sarah Palin has been a chief instigator, although certainly not alone, in generating this deadly rhetoric. Palin bears a special responsibility for the shooting given her frequent, and reckless, use of the gun metaphors such as her Twitter update: “Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: “Don’t Retreat, Instead – RELOAD!” (Indeed, Palin’s rhetoric was so inflammatory during the presidential election that the Secret Service blamed her remarks about Obama for increasing the number of death threats against him.) Giffords was well aware of the threat posed by Palin campaign rhetoric like this map with cross hairs mimicking a gun scope on 20 Democratic districts, including Giffords’ own:
After the shooting, Palin’s political action group tried to scrub the Internet of traces of the map, but to no avail. Lots of evidence of Palin’s vitriol still exists on the web, including an interview Giffords did last spring directly addressing the poster. Speaking to MSNBC reporter Chuck Todd after her office was vandalized in March of this year, Giffords tells Todd:
GIFFORDS: Community leaders, figures in our community need to say “look, we can’t stand for this.” This is a situation where — people don’t — they really need to realize that the rhetoric and firing people up and, you know, even things, for example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list. But the thing is that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gunsight over our district. And when people do that, they’ve gotta realize there’s consequences to that action.
TODD: But in fairness, campaign rhetoric and war rhetoric have been interchangeable for years. And so that’s — is there not, is there a line here? I understand that in the moment it may look bad, but do you really think that’s what she intended?
GIFFORDS: You know, I can’t say, I’m not Sarah Palin. But I can say that in the years that some of my colleagues have served — 20, 30 years — they’ve never seen it like this.
Todd dismisses Giffords concerns here, and I have to wonder if part of the dismissal has to do with the fact that Sarah Palin is a white woman, and thus, somehow less threatening. What’s relevant here for my point is that Chuck Todd is part of the white mainstream that initially dismissed this violent political rhetoric as worthy of concern, and will continue in his role on MSNBC to be one of the framers of this event as the act of a “lone gunman” who is “mentally unbalanced.” These are partial truths.
What Todd and others like him in the white mainstream do when they repeat these partial truths over and over again, is that they hide from view the larger truth about the way whiteness and white supremacy are implicated in this violent political era.
Concepts like ‘institutional racism’ can be hard to get a firm hold on sometimes. Then, along comes a perfectly illustrative example, and it’s really clear what institutional racism looks like.
This week NPR reported the shocking details of the funding behind Arizona’s immigration law. Private prison corporations, such as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), among those who were the primary drafters and proponents of Arizona’s SB 1070 legislation. The law would systematically fill Arizona’s prisons with hundreds of thousands of brown-skinned undocumented immigrants in a way never done before. And, at the same time, it would mean hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to private prison companies who are in the business of housing them.
The private prison industry is a result of neoliberalism which holds that “the market” is a better solution for society’s problems than government. When it comes to the private prison industry, the “pitch” to local communities is that these are industries that provide a “stable employment base.” Some of this comes through on the CCA website:
“currently holds approximately 75,000 inmates including males, females, and juveniles at all security levels, in more than 60 facilities under contract for management in 19 states and the District of Columbia. CCA currently partners with all three federal corrections agencies (The Federal Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshals Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement), nearly half of all states and more than a dozen local municipalities. Since its inception, CCA has maintained its market leadership position in private corrections, managing more than 50 percent of all beds under contract with such providers in the United States. … The company also provides valuable economic benefits to its local community partners by paying property, sales and other taxes, and providing a stable employment base that focuses on building careers with unlimited growth and development opportunities. As a strong corporate citizen, recognized by Corporate Responsibility Officer magazine, CCA contributes generously to host communities through volunteerism and charitable giving.”
Of course, what doesn’t get addressed in the glossy corporate promotion materials is that the prison-industrial complex is one of the central mechanisms that maintains the stark institutional racism that characterizes the U.S. The fact is that those who are incarcerated are disproportionately black and brown folks, even though lawbreakers are fairly even distributed across racial groups. This is what Michelle Alexander has referred to as The New Jim Crow.
Who is running the private prison industry, you may ask? For the most part, it’s wealthy, white men like John Ferguson, head of CCA.
As the rest of the economy tanks, state economies shrivel, and prisons now look more clearly like the economic drain they always have been, the private prison industry has suffered some losses. The industry is in a position now where it has to scramble in order to keep offering a “stable employment base” and continue to profit off of this new form of institutional racism. The industry leaders point to immigration detention as the growth sector that will save them. This is from a February 2009 article about CCA:
“Corrections Corporation of America’s share prices sunk Tuesday after it announced lower earnings than expected in its annual report, but executives said they are “bullish” about the leading private prison provider’s long term future. Even as states cut their corrections budgets, immigrant detainees will provide CCA a steady source of income.
‘The detainee growth will come from lots of sources,” CCA CEO John Ferguson told analysts during a telephone conference call. “So there is no reason to believe that these populations won’t just creep up over time.’ “
And, clearly from the NPR report, people like Ferguson are willing to draft legislation and get it passed that ensures that the population continues to “creep up” and along with CCA’s profits.
If you’ve followed news about prisons in the U.S. for awhile, none of this is particularly surprising although it is still shocking somehow. What’s so very important about the NPR report is that it offers a rare glimpse into the way that policies and legislation that have a huge negative impact on black and brown people get created by a handful of powerful, white men as they, and others like them, stand to benefit. This is what institutional racism looks like.
The 2010 midterm elections have distinguished themselves for the torrent of racist ads produced by political candidates and their campaign staff. In order to counter this, the Cuéntame the ¡Latino Instigators! are highlighting this ad as the ‘most racist’ ad for 2010:
Cuéntame has done some expert work around combatting racism in the media. They were part of the effort to remove Lou Dobbs from CNN for his immigrant-bashing rhetoric. And, in April of this year, launched the “Do I look illegal campaign?” in protest against Arizona’s anti-immigration law. If you’d like to support the work of Cuéntame , you can connect with them on Facebook.
It appears the Obama Administration and Justice Department will be challenging Arizona’s immigration law, otherwise known as SB 1070, although no lawsuit has been filed yet.
If recent events are any indication, the forthcoming lawsuit will frame immigration as a national issue that requires a federal, not state, response. In a recent interview, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented, “[Obama] thinks that the federal government should be determining immigration policy.” These comments were further corroborated by President Barack Obama, himself, when he first openly criticized the law. He said, “If we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts [like Arizona] opening up around the country.” Further preview of the lawsuit to come was offered by Randal Archibold and Mark Landler of The New York Times. According to them, legal scholars say the Obama Administration and Justice Department have a stronger case if they argue that Arizona intruded upon what ought to be federally regulated.
As these accounts foreshadow, the merits of the pending challenge will likely be on grounds of federal versus states’ rights. At face value, this is certainly good news to those who oppose SB 1070. However, the grounds in which this case will likely be built has complicated implications for racial/ethnic issues. If such a challenge is solely built on the notion that immigration is a federal issue, then it will ignore the proverbial elephant in the room that made this law controversial in the first place: racial profiling.
Under SB 1070, Arizona lawmakers have enabled local police enforcement to approach anyone who they “reasonably suspect” to be of illegal status and verify their citizenship. Furthermore, this law enables local police enforcement to detain anyone they reasonably suspect to be in the U.S. illegally. Because reasonable suspicion remains undefined, this broadens what tactics can be employed to enforce the new law. As critics argue, this not only encourages police to rely upon racial and ethnic markers such as skin tone and language to enforce immigration law, but it gives them legal justification to racially profile.
If the Obama Administration and Justice Department file suit against SB 1070 on grounds of federal versus state authority, they virtually leave racial profiling unchallenged. 1
This is problematic because racial profiling is discriminatory as it targets individuals on the basis of group assumptions. And these group assumptions often times are faulty generalizations that depend upon stereotypes. All Latina/os or “Latina-looking” people are not illegal migrants, but SB 1070 enables law enforcement to presume such individuals as guilty until proven innocent. Instead of condemning racial profiling, the Obama Administration and Justice Department will likely change the subject and frame this law as an issue of how government authority should be delegated.
A failure to openly contest racial profiling reinforces a central feature of color-blind racism: the minimization of racial discrimination. When people buy into this post-racial fantasyland, as Eduardo Bonilla-Silva contends, they understand racial discrimination as more of a historical fact than a contemporary living nightmare for folks of color. Rather than address mountains of evidence (see Karen Glover and Katheryn Russell-Brown) that detail the persistence – and limits – of racial profiling, it remains unaddressed and thus the racial status quo is maintained. By remaining silent, the Obama Administration and Justice Department implicitly dismiss the enduring presence of such racial discrimination within the criminal justice system.
If the Justice Department wins its forthcoming lawsuit on grounds that immigration is a federal issue, then SB 1070 will have been defeated by technicality. Though this would successfully nullify this racist law, it’s premature to bring out the champagne glasses just yet. Turning your back on a problem does not make that problem go away. The merits of racial profiling must be openly contested for SB 1070 to be genuinely defeated in the name of racial progress. Such a task is cumbersome, but it is necessary if America is to become closer to the ideal that many have dreamed. In the hopeful words of Langston Hughes, let America be the land it could be:
“O, let America be America again
The land that never has been yet
And yet must be
the land where every man is free….
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—America will be!”
1 Though I have critical reservations about this legal strategy due to its racial implications, it may very well prove to be most effective. If the Obama Administration and the Justice Department squarely tackled the unconstitutionality of racial profiling, they run the risk of a conservative U.S. Supreme Court dismissing their claim on grounds of precedent: the 1975 ruling of the United States v. Brignoni-Ponce. For this case, the Court essentially legalized racial profiling by enabling police to use someone’s racial appearance as grounds for stopping and searching motorists. Michelle Alexander points this out in her new book: “In that case the Court concluded that the police could take a person’s Mexican appearance into account when developing reasonable suspicion that a vehicle may contain undocumented immigrants.”
Kasey Henricks, Master’s Student, Sociology Department, Loyola University Chicago
In the absence of a national comprehensive immigration reform, individual states are coming up with their own immigration laws and policies. Two of the most notable state actions include the signing of SB 1070 in Arizona by Governor Jan Brewer and a decision by Governor Paterson of New York to offer more pardons to legal permanent residents facing deportation.
The bill recently signed into law in Arizona criminalizes undocumented migrants by making undocumented migration a crime of trespassing – the punishment for which will involve a fine and jail time. In United States law, there is no punishment for being undocumented, as being undocumented is not a crime. Deportation is not considered punishment; it is a civil sanction. Deportation is outside the purview of most Constitutional protections. For this reason, immigration agents can detain people without establishing reasonable suspicion and non-citizens are not afforded counsel in deportation proceedings. In Arizona, police officers will be trained to enforce immigration laws and will turn suspected undocumented migrants over to federal immigration agents to be deported. Arizona officials cannot deport anyone.
As Jessie pointed out in a recent post, the Arizona law is tied to white supremacist organizations. In stark contrast to the Arizona law which makes undocumented immigration a crime, New York Governor Paterson announced on Monday that he will establish a special five-member state panel to review the cases of legal permanent residents convicted of crimes to determine whether or not they merit a governor’s pardon.
Governor Paterson’s panel, unlike the immigration court system, can take into account the severity of the crime, the ties to the US, and lack of ties to the home country of legal permanent residents convicted of aggravated felonies to decide whether or not a non-citizen should be deported. Under current law, non-citizens convicted of aggravated felonies face automatic deportation. Immigration judges cannot take into account any personal circumstances. Aggravated felonies include a wide array of crimes – some of which are actually misdemeanors. For example, a shoplifting conviction with a suspended sentence of one year counts as an aggravated felony. People who have been legal residents of the United States for nearly all of their lives have been deported for shoplifting Tylenol, for smoking marijuana and for forging checks.
Once the judge determines that a crime meets the definition of an aggravated felony, the non-citizen faces deportation. It does not matter if the person was adopted by a US citizen as an infant or came to the US as an adult – a conviction of an aggravated felony automatically leads to a deportation. There are only two ways for a person convicted of an aggravated felony can avoid deportation – a governor’s pardon or a presidential pardon. Until now, very few pardons have been granted.
Governor Paterson’s decision to implement a panel to review pardon cases is very different from what is going on in Arizona. Arizona is attempting to change the nature of immigration law by criminalizing civil offenses. Governor Paterson is not changing any laws. He is simply taking on more actively a power he already has – the power to grant pardons.
State senators across the United States are proposing to take immigration laws into their own hands. Unfortunately, most states are looking to follow the path of Arizona and criminalize immigrants. Few states are proposing to provide relief for legal permanent residents convicted of crimes. This is an aspect of immigration law that needs to be changed at the federal level. For now, however, state governors could show the need for this by implementing panels similar to that of Governor Paterson.
Since 1996, over 100,000 legal permanent residents have been deported from the United States due to criminal convictions – many of them for minor crimes. (See this site for more information about aggravated felonies.). Our immigration laws are desperately in need of reform. Most of the legislative proposals in Congress, however, do not propose to change the overly punitive laws regarding the deportation of legal permanent residents convicted of crimes. Few lawmakers wish to be perceived as not being tough on crime. Who wants to stand up for “criminal aliens”?
I commend Governor Paterson for standing up for what is right and encourage other Governors to take similar action. It is right and it is in line with our values as a nation to allow people facing deportation to have their cases heard. It is wrong to deport people without taking into consideration their ties to the United States and the effects of their deportation on their lives and on the lives of their families.
~Tanya Golash-Boza is an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Sociology at the University of Kansas. She blogs about immigration policy at: http://stopdeportationsnow.blogspot.com/
White supremacist, J.T. Ready, is one of the key players behind Arizona’s new anti-immigration law. J.T. Ready lead a recent neo-Nazi rally in Riverside, CA. Ready, a resident of Mesa, Arizona, is also one of the leaders of the anti-immigration movement in Arizona and a key figure behind the recent legislation. Rachel Maddow reported some of this in her segment on April 22 (clip is 9:08, bit about J.T. Ready is at about 3:20):
As John Carlos Frey noted earlier in April, hate crimes against Latinos in Arizona are up 40%, yet John McCain and his primary challenger, JD Hayworth, claim they are tough on undocumented immigrants and neither of them have the courage to denounce the racially motivated legislation.
The involvement of J.T. Ready is more than a case of “one bad apple” in an otherwise good system. J.T. Ready – an avowed white supremacist – has a political agenda that is completely consistent with the mainstream conservative movement in Arizona. This overlap between the extreme white supremacist movement and the more mainstream expressions of whiteness is a point that I noted this in my earlier book, (White Lies, Routledge, 1997). While most want to dismiss white supremacists as ‘fringe’ groups that have nothing to do with the mainstream, in fact, the ideology of these groups is much closer to core American values than most choose to recognize.