Look, I don't like this new Arizona immigration law any more than you do, but it's really starting to bug me that so many people—who haven't even read it—are howling to holy Hell on Earth about it being racist. Sorry, folks. I've read SB 1070 and, as of today, May 7, 2010, there is nothing racist about it.
For one thing, there is an entire passage (lines 30 to 34 of Section 2) that explicitly prohibits law enforcement from using “race, color or national origin” as a determining factor. The only other part of the bill that identifies when law enforcement is required to investigate the status of a person's citizenship is this:
“WHERE REASONABLE SUSPICION EXISTS THAT THE PERSON IS AN ALIEN WHO IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES, A REASONABLE ATTEMPT SHALL BE MADE, WHEN PRACTICABLE, TO DETERMINE THE IMMIGRATION STATUS OF THE PERSON.”
Jesus Cristo, I hate legal-speak! It's almost as though all our laws have to get approved by Jenny Gibberish over at the Office of Redundancies and Gobbledygook to ensure the text and words confusing in the manner written it was to people and humans is. Allow me to rewrite:
“An attempt shall be made to determine a person's immigration status, where reasonable suspicion exists that he or she is unlawfully present in the U.S.”
The key phrase here is “Where reasonable suspicion exists.” It's the phrase that proves it's not a racist law.
Oh, I can hear your grumblings now. Oh, what a racist I must be for saying SB 1070 ain't racist, right? Hell, I've already been verbally accosted by my wife, who said the law is “a slippery slope to the Holocaust, jerk!” My friend and colleague, Aaryn Belfer, said, “You won't see Arizona cops stopping any tall blond Germans, fuckwad!” And CityBeat editor Dave Rolland blurted, “Hey, assface [his pet name for me], the law gives cops with chips on their shoulders about immigrants a reason to harass Latinos!”
But SB 1070 does not embolden racist cops. The bill clearly gives “reasonable suspicion” as the requirement. Well, think about it. In a state consisting of nearly 1.3 million Hispanic citizens (roughly 25 percent of the population), it is absolutely, undoubtedly, irrefutably not reasonable to assume a person is illegal because his or her skin is brown. And any judge who heard a police officer testify that race was the reason he stopped the suspect would be required—by the language of this bill—to throw the case out on its backside.
Of course, any cop can lie about why they felt the perp appeared “suspicious.” But that's the cop's bad, not the law itself, and saying so would be like saying that our laws against drug trafficking are racist because a police officer can stop a driver for being black, plant some drugs, then tell the judge he pulled him over because he was speeding.
Bottom line, you can't say the law is racist because future racists might circumnavigate it.
Some have argued that the law doesn't go far enough to protect minorities. I don't agree. SB 1070 specifically prohibits factoring race and color. However, even if it were true, it wouldn't make the law racist. Calling it a racist bill because it doesn't go far enough to protect minorities is like calling our trespass laws homophobic because they don't go far enough to stop people from walking into gay people's yards.
Look, there are plenty of valid reasons to oppose this bill. And labeling it racist does a huge disservice to legitimate opposition because the real problems with the bill are swept to the margins—problems like invasion of privacy, extension of governmental powers, erosion of civil liberties and the biggest, most glaring problem of all which, alone, should render 1070 null and void: the problem that it is already a law!
Have a look at how the whole thing begins. It's the premise, the thesis—the raison d'être—of SB 1070:
“NO OFFICIAL OR AGENCY OF THIS STATE… MAY ADOPT A POLICY THAT LIMITS OR RESTRICTS THE ENFORCEMENT OF FEDERAL IMMIGRATION LAWS TO LESS THAN THE FULL EXTENT PERMITTED BY FEDERAL LAW.”
Oh, for crying out loud, can we get a law that's written in English already!? It's almost like they don't want the general public to read or understand it. Again, a quick translation:
“The state of Arizona reserves the right to enforce federal immigration laws.”
There you go. Bam boom bang! It's now easy to see, SB 1070 gives Arizona the right to enforce federal law. But you don't need a local law to enforce federal law. It's already the law! It is already legal and mandatory for police to stop and interrogate people whom they reasonably suspect of having committed a crime. It's called “probable cause” and probable cause is, simultaneously, a tool that law enforcement uses to investigate potential criminals, and a constraint that prevents them from harassing folks for no reason. If SB 1070 is a racist law, then so are all probable-cause-related laws.
Look, I know some of you are outraged over the perceived racial component of this bill. But the fact that you're outraged proves my point. You're angry because it's unreasonable to judge people by the color of their skin. You are angry because it's unreasonable for a cop to harass a person on the basis of being brown. And if any Arizona law officer acted in such an appalling manner, it wouldn't be because of this law, it would be in spite of it.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. For gobbledygook more, www.edwindecker.com visit.