The new Arizona Immigration Law is a hot talking point on the Internet right now with everyone (even me!) having an opinion. Unfortunate as it is, we are facing an ugly confluence of events that are coming to an uglier head:
* Unemployment for the under-educated and only high school educated is at 31% while the fully educated (graduate school) are below the rate for full employment making for a very have/have-not recession*. The manufacturing jobs that used to bolster that percentage of the unemployed or underemployed have disappeared, many over the Mexican border.
* The US’s insane drug laws are having some very nasty and long-reaching effects, especially on the drug wars in Mexico.
* Demographics are changing rapidly. What used to be a majority white nation is rapidly becoming a sort of tan nation and with that comes a loss of racial identity. Soon Caucasian populations will be another minority.
* TV news media is tapping into this undercurrent and resentment and feeding it back on itself.
The natural outgrowth of anger and resentment is scapegoating. For Arizona, it’s scapegoating brown (or ‘driving while tan’). True, a real immigration issue along the border exists and the complaints have validity. There is a real organized crime and drugs issue bleeding over the border. No one has put any solutions on the table. Pressure has built. Frustration leads to resentment leads to anger leads to repressing a legitimate minority** with the tool the majority controls: the government and social services apparatus.
The short term effects will be:
* A bigger drop in the Arizona economy as businesses pull out;
* More frustration as the recession deepens;
* Law suits against municipalities and the state for arrests and attempted deportation of legal citizens who have no ‘papers’;
* Paranoia and fear and more anger.
Even if this law is struck down in Court:
* The local police force will still feel empowered by the State to “deal” with the problem, because their local boys gave them the power even if “that Muslim Alien Obama” took the power to “deal” with the problem away.
* In the short term, the new immigration law will turn into electoral successes for the hard-right politicians in Arizona because they are “doing something” about the problem while “standing up” to the Federal Government who is “repressing them.” The Hispanic population of Arizona is 30%. Even if they all out en masse to vote, they still wouldn’t vote anyone out of office. They would need other minorities and some sympathetic majority. Right now, the majority is sympathetic to the law.
* The hard right will become more shrill. Activist Judges “take away the power to legislate from the people”. Rep. Duncan Hunter wants to repeal the 14th Amendment. The far left will become just as shrill in return and the shouting will become louder.
I wonder where this road ends and, historically, it never ends anywhere good. In 20th century extremes it ends in brutality. In this case, does it end with enormous Detention Centers? People being forcibly chipped?*** Finding bodies in the woods? Does it end with mandating everyone carry some sort of “citizenship card” that can be queried by authorities at will, not unlike living in China or other repressive regimes?**** Does it end with the circle widening from “brown people” to “brown people who are Hispanic and Islamic” to “people who do not uphold our community standards?” What are those community standards?
I am stumbling on an end here because I have nothing except to adopt a wait-and-see attitude. I believe this is bad for the State of Arizona in the short term and very bad for the US in the long term until we start turning off the TV. Empowering cops to randomly pull people over and demand to “see their papers” on suspicion of “driving brown” is not good for anyone.
Wow. Meandering post.
* According all of the statistics I’ve seen, the recession for engineering ended in 2001. There was an ugly blip in 2008 but it’s been over for some time for the technologically inclined.
** The legal Hispanic population of Arizona has most certainly lived in that area far, far, far, longer than the white population. By several centuries.
*** This was seriously suggested.
**** The security implications of a ‘citizenship card’ for identity theft is enormous, dangerous, and terrifying. It is one thing to have one’s bank account pillaged. It is another to be accused of being illegal, arrested and shipped off because someone hacked a database online. Don’t think it won’t happen — because these things will become incredibly valuable on the street if such a thing existed. Passports certainly are.