The Danger of SB1070

Against the Current, No. 148, September/October 2010

Pancho Valdez

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall do him no wrong.” –The Book of Leviticus 19:33

THE RECENT PASSAGE of SB 1070 in Arizona must be a wakeup call not only for those of us of Latino heritage, but for all progressives who cherish freedom and justice. A draconian law [partially blocked by a court injunction] that basically legalizes racial profiling, it compels the law enforcement officers in the state of Arizona to stop and question any person that they suspect of being in the U.S. illegally. [See Malik Miah on “Arizona’s Racial Profiling Push,” ATC 147, for more background — ed.]

Never before has law enforcement, other than officers of the Immigration & Customs Enforcement agency, had the responsibility to enforce immigration laws. Many police chiefs across the nation have expressed opposition and concern with SB 1070 for various reasons, including the obvious misuse of local law enforcement’s time which should be spent addressing serious crimes.

Aside from the above, just how exactly does a police officer decide who looks illegal as opposed to those who are not? What are the scientific criteria for appearing illegal? Is it one’s complexion? Accent? Style of clothing? Body build??

It is clear that the basis of SB 1070 lies solely on two factors: racism and the need for a scapegoat during the worst economic crisis in our country since the Great Depression of the late 1920s and 1930s. To scapegoat immigrants is nothing new. It was used against the Irish, the Chinese and now against people from Mexico, Central and South America.

The reasons for the “need” of this law varies from the perception that undocumented immigrants commit crimes to their alleged abuse of social services and their “taking” U.S. jobs in a time where work is scarce for so many workers. None of these claims have any validity as there is no evidence of such and there never will be. For the rightwing horde, facts and truth have never meant much in the past and even less today.

So why do the rightwing extremists use these lies for their propaganda against undocumented immigrants? For those of Latino heritage, legislation like SB 1070 adds fuel to the racist and divisive hysteria we have endured for years. While the Wall Street banksters have caused our nation’s economic crisis and while U.S. workers have lost their jobs and homes, no one on the right is calling for their prosecution!

This economic crisis caused by corporate greed has forced state, municipal, public hospitals and public schools across the nation to reduce their budgets, laying off public workers and reducing badly needed services — yet while the reactionaries rant and rave for the prosecution of the undocumented, corporate CEOs continue to enjoy the freedom to do as they please and roll in the billions of dollars of ill-gotten loot.

Other corporate bosses like Don Blanchard, CEO of Massey Energy, have a long track record of ignoring federal mine safety regulations. Massey’s criminal behavior caused the recent deaths of 29 miners. The bosses at BP (formerly British Petroleum) ignored federal regulations and the end result is 11 dead oil workers and the pollution of the Gulf of Mexico, along with the wetlands of Louisiana, as never seen before!

Why are the rightwing bigots not clamoring for prosecution of these corporate criminals?

We must understand the dangerous potential SB 1070 has for all of us. History shows us what occurs when good people remain silent and passive. Adolf Hitler used scapegoating in 1930s Germany as that nation endured a severe economic crisis. He and his Nazi thugs targeted the Jews, the communists, the socialists, the trade unionists and anyone else he feared would organize resistance to his fascist tyranny. Can we allow for the same tactics to be used here?

In response to passage of SB 1070 a national boycott has been organized against the state of Arizona. Support for this boycott ranges from millions of American progressives to political leaders, entertainers, college and high school organizations, and professional athletes.

We must put the pressure on the Arizona legislature as well as the federal government to rescind this unjust law! We must send President Obama a message that sending in the National Guard is NOT a solution! Along with rescinding SB 1070 we must demand viable and just immigration law reform now!

The gross injustice of SB 1070 and other far rightwing laws can be stopped, but it will take a fight. We owe it to our sisters and brothers from Latin America, the people of Arizona and to ourselves to stand up and put an end to immigrant bashing. We cannot forget the fighting and inspirational words of Chicana labor organizer and communist Emma Tenayuca:

We are not a conquered people!

ATC 148, September-October 2010