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RAZAing Arizona or Adios Muchachos
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
There is no question the “Show me your papers” law in Arizona has polarized the American public. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. One side claims the law will lead to even more racial profiling, the other side claims racial profiling is just paranoia or a “myth”, as Sarah Palin described it.

I suppose it depends on who you are and where you live. For some, racial profiling is a fact of life and is dealt with on a daily basis; for others it is mostly swept under the rug, they know it’s there but they would rather not look at it. Latinos live with it as do blacks, East Indians, Arabs, American Indians, Asians and any other ethnic minority. It seems if it is an extremely small minority in any area, the problem is more rare, but not non-existent, just more transparent.

However, if the minority begins to grow to the point where there are entire communities involved, the racial profiling is far more vocal. It’s that way all over America, you can ignore it or you can deny its existence but it is there, maybe just barely sticking out from under the rug, but it is still there. I’ve seen it and so have you.

What would make anyone think an Arizona Police officer is somehow oblivious to race? It puts police officers in a difficult position and makes brown-skinned individuals more prone to be openly distrustful of police, not an environment we need anyone to be thrust into. It makes those with light skin look upon those with a darker skin tone as possible law breakers, not just immigration laws either. We have heard the comparisons made of dark-skinned individuals to all sorts of crime statistics, real or imagined. Not that this type of profiling hasn’t existed before, this law only serves to  magnify the phenomenon ten-fold.

You don’t have to look very far to see examples of this. In a recent letter on these pages (Arizona’s move will ease social woes) May 3, followed by yet another letter (The true definition of American citizenship) May 13.  The writer apparently attempts to not only discredit the validity of racial profiling, he also blames illegal immigrants for everything from the unemployed to gang crime to California’s credit rating, taxes, school funds, right to your standard of living. Yes, your standard of living!

Wonder how your standard of living will be affected when there is no cheap labor to pick your produce or to fill low paying restaurant jobs and a multitude of other low paying services we now take for granted? Can we expect ten dollar lettuce and dirty toilets? Who would take that job for minimum wage? The writer boasts that he would not mind being asked for proof of citizenship. He is a white guy; of course, he would say that. The chances of his being asked to show his papers are slim to none. It’s like a lifetime Millionaire who claims money isn’t everything.

In his second salvo, he tries to make us believe his own interpretations of fact as the real facts. He makes statements such as “The mere fact that a child is born on American soil does not automatically make the child an American citizen.” When he knows it does, according to the 14th Amendment, unless someone has changed it since I last read it. In case he fears someone will look that one up, he just makes something up to throw them off, like the statement he claims is in a Supreme Court case: “Not promoting another country over America. And not committing any crimes, especially those that show your favoritism toward that country and your hatred against America” - which wasn’t included in the Supreme Court case he refers to. At least I didn’t see anything like that. There are other inconsistencies but I am sure most have already spotted them.
Another example is slight but the hypocrisy isn’t hard to miss. I am speaking of the John McCain ad he released on immigration in Arizona. In the ad, McCain is having a conversation with a white county sheriff while walking along the fence on the Mexican/Arizona border. McCain makes the statement about Immigration reform to include “Finishing this Dang fence”. Two things are wrong about this ad:

1. He voted against the fence and made a rather passionate plea against the fence on the Senate floor on May 16, 2006.

2. The Sheriff he is walking with, although a real live Arizona County sheriff, is not the Sheriff of the county where the ad was filmed. He is Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County, a county not on the Mexican border but a ways north of it. The county in question is Santa Cruz county and the Sheriff is Antonio Estrada, a second-generation Mexican immigrant with a distinct Mexican      accent.  Another reason for not using Estrada, would probably be that he is against the Arizona “Show me your papers bill”. That  wouldn’t play well in a television ad to support his new view on the “fence,” would it?

The backlash on this law has just started. The Arizona Suns protested by wearing ‘Los Suns” jerseys on Cinco De Mayo. Cities like Tucson and Flagstaff have filed suit against the state of Arizona,. Demonstrations are being held all over the country; other states and cities are calling for boycotts. I personally do not agree with any boycott movement that hurts the normal Arizona citizen but I support any peaceful demonstrations.

On the other side of that line are states and cities that are threatening to take similar action and more. There is even a move to fire teachers who do not enunciate the English language properly. Apparently this will apply equally to say, someone from the deep south teaching in Boston, or vice versa, or a teacher with a heavy Irish accent, right? Not that Latino Spanish teacher, of course not. People with heavy accents, especially those who hail from darker skinned nationalities seem to irk some people, as well as those recent immigrants who haven’t learned the English language to their expectations.

One writer on these pages called them too arrogant to bother to learn the language. Apparently there is no learning curve when applied to learning to speak fluent English in this country. I wonder how long it would take an English-only speaking American to learn to speak Spanish or Chinese fluently.

What we need is immigration reform that will provide this cheap labor legally. That means cracking down on companies who hire illegals and a program like the Bracero program of 1942 where something like 4 million Mexican workers came to this country legally to work in the agricultural industry. The braceros converted the agricultural fields of America into the most productive in the planet. Any immigration reform is going to have to include some kind of path to citizenship for those already here. Can we really afford to deport 12 million illegal immigrants said to be in this country now? I don’t see any other solution, do you?

Arizona did do one thing, it brought immigration reform to the head of the list or close to it. President Obama, who, not too long ago, said Immigration Reform was not something Congress had the stomach to fight over just yet, now says he is calling for Reform by the end of this year. Republicans are lining up against such a move, surprise, surprise. I wonder how much of that is due to the fact that the majority of Latinos register as Democrats? If the majority of those immigrant Latinos do somehow manage to become legalized voting citizens, the Republicans might want to learn two Spanish words, Adios Muchachos!

Larry Baca
Manteca
May 14, 2010