By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Cooling the heat wave in Arizona
Placeholder Image
A record heat wave baked Moscow on Thursday, fueling wildfires that blanketed Russia’s proudest city in thick smog.  But the temperature got hotter and the tension much thicker that same day in far-away Arizona.

What many thought originally to be a question of how Arizona S.B. 1070 treats human beings without proper immigration papers in that state has, on its day of implementation, turned out to be far more complicated. So many interrelated issues have come to the forefront. The Obama administration’s intervention appears no more compassionate to illegal aliens than was the Emancipation Declaration of Abraham Lincoln, to the slaves it was freeing.

Rather, while millions of immigrants, legal or not, stand to suffer severe consequences due to S.B. 1070 and related legislation being contemplated in many other states, for the Federal Government, this is primarily an issue of jurisdiction and prerogative in authority relating to immigration laws.

Atlantic writer Garrett Epps put it this way “[the Department of Justice’s] argument was not about the rights of immigrants, legal or illegal, or even of American citizens: it was about the federal government’s prerogative to set the nation’s immigration policy, and about administrative burdens on federal agencies like the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  The Judge agreed as to most of the law’s key provisions.”

He was referring to Federal District Court Judge Susan Bolton’s ninth-inning game-stopper the day before S.B. 1070 was to have taken effect.

Randall Archibold of the New York Times reports that she “issued a preliminary injunction against sections of the law, scheduled to take effect on Thursday, that called for police officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws and required immigrants to prove that they were authorized to be in the country or risk state charges. She issued the injunction in response to a legal challenge brought against the law by the Obama administration.”  By default, many other provisions of the bill did go into effect, and Arizona police took their marching orders.

Epps finds little to warm the heart in Judge Bolton’s intervention on behalf of S.B. 1070’s most vulnerable targets: “Her opinion is technical and dry.”

But the motives of that brave woman who stood up to Arizona’s governor (herself a brave lady, though perhaps more in the image of the Terminator) may not be so cold as Epps contends.  Her defense of the Feds has heart.

 “Although Judge Bolton’s ruling is not final,” writes the Times’ Julia Preston, “it seems likely to halt, at least temporarily an expanding movement by states to combat illegal immigration by making it a state crime to be an immigrant without legal documents and by imposing new requirements on state and local police officers to enforce immigration law.

“The Arizona law stood out from hundreds of statutes adopted by states in recent years to discourage illegal immigrants. The statute makes it a state crime for immigrants to fail to carry documents proving their legal status, and it requires state police officers to determine the immigration status of anyone they detain for another reason, if there is a ‘reasonable suspicion’ the person is an illegal immigrant.” Preston concludes by highlighting the difference in federal law: “The mere fact of being present without legal immigration status is a civil violation under federal law, but not a crime.”

Tobin Harshaw of the New York Times, in his article “Arizona’s Law, Activist Judges and Anchor Babies” (July 30, 2010) gives Garrett Epps an opportunity to explain his position in a more humanitarian tone: “…the central question in United States v. Arizona [is] whether a state can single out a group of people for harsh restrictions, criminalize those who help or employ them, and require law enforcement personnel to sniff them out and demand papers.  One doesn’t have to be a fan of illegal aliens to believe that no one should be treated that way. I am a fan of judicial opinions that vindicate equality and dignity.  But I understand why those concepts are missing from a case that is almost certain to continue through a full trial on the merits, another District Court opinion, at least one appeal to the federal Court of Appeals, and one or more brushes with the Supreme Court.  The real human issues will emerge over time, as witnesses come forward with their stories, experts produce statistics, and advocacy groups weigh in with amicus briefs laden with sophisticated discussion of history and political theory.  Transcendent values will be discussed in the final order, and what is written in that opinion will be of great moment for the progress of American democracy.”  In other words, Judge Bolton did us all a favor.

On Thursday evening, I attended a rally at Stockton’s City Hall on behalf of the countless potential victims of reactionary, self-defeating legislation such as Arizona’s draconian law.  That afternoon I’d been helping a woman from Central America whose husband was deported three years ago, leaving her and her children defenseless and causing a nightmare of homelessness in which even the family shelter called immigration when they discovered that, out of desperation, she’d obtained an illegal Social Security number in order to find some work.  I’ll share this kind of story in a future article.

For now, I’ll leave you with the image of a Giants’ fan snatching the catch from just above the glove of Marlins outfielder Emilio Bonifacio.  Though the Marlins ultimately won 4-3, this controversial move gave the Bay-Area team a desperately needed chance to turn the tide.  That’s what Bolton did.

And may we all recognize that what America needs is a win-win solution.

All of us, even the Native Americans, have come from somewhere else.  S.B. 1070 doesn’t solve the immigration problem.  It sets true reform back.

Fr. Dean McFalls, St. Mary’s Church, Stockton, CA  Written July 30, 2010