Ph.D. Octopus

Politics, media, music, capitalism, scholarship, and ephemera since 2010

Arizona find yourself another Country to be Part of

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An Angry Post by Wiz

This is a bit off subject, but I’m going to pivot off our discussion of the slow death of our profession and rant for a second about the anti-immigrant bill Arizona seems poised to pass. This bill mandates that law enforcement officials inquire into the status of anyone who they “suspect” of being illegal immigrants, and then deport anyone caught. John McCain, mocking anyone who ever thought he had integrity, is rushing to support it.

This is a profoundly evil measure that would normalize harassment, humiliation, and discrimination for huge swaths of already marginalized people. The more I think about it, the more outraged I am. And after 8 years of George Bush, I normally find it very difficult to outraged.

It is racist. Needless to say, cops aren’t exactly going to be suspecting that people with my skin color are illegal immigrants. And you can be damn sure they aren’t going to harass even actual immigrants if they have a Canadian or British accent. Its anti-Mexican, 100%. Just to give a flavor, here is the lead sponsor hanging out with Arizona’s leading Neo-Nazi. If they had any honesty to go with their raging bigotry and hatred, they would just call this the Mexican Criminalization Act rather then hide behind the knowing ambiguity of “reasonable suspicion.” Any one with brown skin will be presumed to be illegal, and treated as such, until they can prove otherwise.

It institutionalizes the police state. Every time you are pulled over by a cop, stopped on the street, get in an accident, or ask directions, the cop has the right—no the obligation—to demand you show him your immigration papers, if he so much as suspects you are illegal. What this means, de facto, is that anyone with brown skin, people whose family could have been in Arizona for 5,000 years, must carry with them at all times documentation. It will literally be a crime not to have proper paperwork, resulting in arrest, $2,500 fine, and up to 6 months in jail. Going to pick up milk? Drive your kid to school? Carry your papers. Constant proof that Arizona considers you a second-class person.

Needless to say, it will result in relentless terrorization of actual undocumented immigrants. It will push people already on the very margins of society further into the shadows, where they will be unable to report a crime, step into public, etc.. without fear of being deported. Anyone with half a conscience might say to themselves, “you know what, its already hard enough for undocumented immigrants to live in poverty, work 12 hour days for pittances, constantly fearing for the safety of themselves and their family, being a target for harassment by neo-Nazi thugs, and with no legal protections. Let’s not make it even worse.” But not the good Christian Republicans of Arizona, who clearly take to heart all that stuff about caring for the poor, weak, and homeless. One particularly insane provision literally makes it illegal to transport someone you know is illegal. Take that good Samaritans!

The historical analogies are too obvious. During American slavery, slaves and even free blacks were required to carry passes with them at all times if they traveled outside of their plantation. Free blacks found without their papers could be seized and resold into slavery. As Soloman Northrup, a former slave wrote, “A slave caught off his master’s plantation without a pass, may be seized and whipped by any white man whom he meets…. ‘A mean white,’ therefore,– a name applied to the species loafer—considers it a god-send to meet an unknown negro without a pass.“

In Apartheid South Africa, Africans were, of course, forced to live in Bantustans- segregated and quarantined areas with little employment, public services, or dignity. To travel outside of it, they had to produce a dom-pas (dumb pass), showing their photograph, employment, and qualification to travel outside of the Bantustans. It was exactly this pass system that protesters were decrying before the Sharpsville Masscre, when police killed 69 unarmed protesters.

While this new law obviously isn’t as bad as slavery or Apartheid, it clearly replicates the institutionalized humiliation and discrimination of systems like them. It creates one system for white people, who can travel and go about their business without care, and another for non-whites, who must constantly fear an activist cop. It gives the same unchecked power to petty law enforcement officials to terrorize and dominate others just for fun. Anyone who believes, just a little, in the 14th Amendment should be horrified by this. You know its bad when congressmen from Arizona are calling for a boycott of Arizona, as Raul Grijalva is doing because of this bill.

“Illegal immigration,” by the way, is the completely predictable consequence of American trade laws, which decimated the Mexican agricultural sector, forcing millions off the land. And so, the comparison with South Africa is a bit apt. First America “liberalizes” trade laws with Mexico, forcing them to accept subsidized corn and wheat from the US, and destroying the Ejidos (Mexican communal farms), in a great act of accumulation by dispossession. Then, when Mexican farmers, now without means to survive on the land (predictably) come to America they are cruelly and vigorously profiled, harassed, and intimidated, insuring that they will remain low-wage labor, afraid to join unions, report wage theft, or move jobs. Racism and the low-wage economy buttress each other, in an all too familiar act of symbiosis.

Obama, btw, has yet to speak out against this.
This is also probably a good place to consider Linda Gordon’s argument in the Great Arizona Orphan Abduction. Gordon resurrects the old Left idea of Internal Colonialism. The idea is that there are situations that in almost every way resemble colonial regimes, yet are technically within the borders of a country. So you get characteristics of colonialism (brutal police repression, second class citizenry, a racialized low wage labor force, etc…) even though formally it is one nation. The Jim Crow South is, along with Apartheid South Africa, probably the best example. Gordon argued that these types of relationships marked the turn of the century Southwest, where Mexicans were paid less for the same work, had little legal protection, and few citizenship rights. This bill seems to be doing its best to replicate those conditions.

For those of you who didn’t get the reference in the title:


Written by Peter Wirzbicki

April 21, 2010 at 00:03

Posted in civil liberties, race

2 Responses

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  1. Why don’t we as the free people of other states sign up a Boycott Arizona Forever treaty? We were told this is how we should treat France when they failed to support us, right? Well, isn’t Arizona’s government failing to support what America ultimately stands for and our pledge of allegiance – “with liberty and justice for all”?


    April 24, 2010 at 10:25

  2. […] everyone with good sense has already trashed this bill, including Wiz on this site. Heck, even John McCain’s own daughter Meghan is defying her daddy in opposing it. I […]

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