Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Boycott Arizona!

Arizona's new "Profile and Deport the Wetbacks" law provides an occasion for understanding more than that Republicans have decided to commit political suicide to maintain white supremacy.

The passions it lays bare ought to make people take a step back and think about what immigration politics really show about this nation and its democracy. When the white majority feels threatened by darker people, we repeatedly enact policies that are both cruel and stupid. And we fail to see our noses in front of our faces. Saskia Sassen of Columbia University and the London School of Economics makes some insightful observations on migration policy:

...the decision to make it a crime under state law to be in the United States illegally and to oblige state police to question individuals over their immigration status on grounds of "reasonable suspicion" is part of a larger landscape that enables governments and police forces to engage in actions that used to be thought of as extreme and unacceptable.

In many ways, border control has not worked. No matter how big these states' guns and border-control budgets, they have lost credibility -- both with their citizens and with traffickers (who have, if anything, vastly increased their operations). .. .In this process, powerful states have made visible the limits of their power, no matter how weaponised their borders. ...

All these resources are being spent in order to control extremely powerless and vulnerable people who mostly only want a chance to work.... Even with this enormous mismatch, the economic and ethical costs of this approach for "liberal democracies" are in the long run very high. In the United States, for instance, 320,000 immigrants were in the 2007-08 fiscal year incarcerated without trial only because officialdom considered it likely that they were illegal residents. In other words, it is more than probable that some among these 320,000 were in reality citizens.

When a state extends arbitrary powers to governors and police forces, sooner or later the latter will reach - and target - citizens. It might take that to happen in order for those in charge to shift from the drive to control to the art of governing these [migrant] flows.

For nearly thirty years, political economic orthodoxy has touted so-called "free trade" as the route to national wealth. "Free" trade lets capital, money, move around the globe finding the most profitable places to invest. Meanwhile labor remains unfree, unable to chase the best wages and conditions, fettered by national borders. So unauthorized migrant flows become more and more unstoppable. A sort of "free" movement of people, naturally follows "free" trade. The measures invented to try to halt the migrant flows undermine democracy for everyone -- as the Arizona law shows by calling into question the citizenship of ever Latino.

In the New York Times Opinionator blog, veteran Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse has pointed out that we can't necessarily trust the current Supreme Court to protect the nation from the reactionary thrust of Arizona's pre-emption of federal authority over immigration enforcement policy.

Indeed, federal pre-emption would appear to be the most promising route for attacking the Arizona law. Supreme Court precedents make clear that immigration is a federal matter and that the Constitution does not authorize the states to conduct their own foreign policies.

My confidence about the law's fate in the court's hands is not boundless, however. In 1982, hours after the court decided the Texas case, a young assistant to Attorney General William French Smith analyzed the decision and complained in a memo: "This is a case in which our supposed litigation program to encourage judicial restraint did not get off the ground, and should have." That memo's author was John G. Roberts Jr.

The current Chief Justice has demonstrated that he is quite willing to tear up past precedent, in the Citizen's United case by allowing corporations to spend without limit on elections. The guy is apparently results oriented. There's no reason to think he'd be less willing to affirm a new state right to engage in racial profiling in the name of immigration controls. Arizona's miserable prejudices could have consequences throughout the country.

This is a time for citizen pressure. I'll try to report every practical suggestion here.


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