by Walter Brasch
My father, a federal employee with a top secret clearance, carried a copy of his birth certificate when he went into Baja California from our home in San Diego. Many times, when he tried to reenter the U.S., he was stopped by the Border Patrol. He had thick black hair and naturally dark skin, and the Patrol thought he was a Mexican brazenly trying to sneak back into the country by claiming to be married to the black-haired, blue-eyed, light-skinned woman he claimed was his wife.
If my father were still alive, and chose to drive into Arizona or to walk on the streets of any of its cities or towns, he probably would be stopped and asked to provide identification. Naturally, he wouldn't be carrying a U.S-issued visa or Mexican-issued passport, since he was an American citizen. He probably wouldn't even be carrying his birth certificate, since he would have assumed he was traveling within the United States, and there was no need to carry it. He would probably have a Social Security card and his California-issued ID card--he didn't have a driver's license because he was blind in his left eye--but both of those could easily have been forged.
After a few minutes, he would probably be released by the local police officer, perhaps after providing his federal identification. But, maybe a few hours later, he'd be stopped again, perhaps by a sheriff's deputy, constable, or even a mall's part-time security guard.
Everyone under SB1070, signed into law by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, April 22, can be stopped and searched by any officer for any reason, and required to produce documentation that they are in the United States legally. A hastily-added amendment a week later modified the original law to require that police have to have a reason to stop persons. The reason could be as simple as the officer claiming the suspect was loitering, jaywalking, or playing a car radio too loud. The law also allows any citizen to file suit against any law enforcement agency if the citizen believes the state law isn't being followed. Pushed by a fearful citizenry and a politically opportunistic Republican party, the bill takes effect in August.
Legislators from several states, including Pennsylvania, have followed Arizona's lead. Pennsylvania State Sen. Daryl Metcalf (R-Butler) filed HB2479, which almost duplicates Arizona's law. With inflammatory rhetoric at the bill's introduction, Metcalf told about rapes and murders, about the "financial drain" upon the state's economy. The bill will probably die in committee. Even if it should get majority votes in both houses, Gov. Ed Rendell says he will veto it.
Forget the constitutional concepts of "due process" and "probable cause." Under Arizona's new law, persons are presumed guilty until they produce identification that they are innocent. And, disregard the Constitutional mandate that immigration is the responsibility of the federal, not the state, government. What Arizona saw was that about a half-million persons, mostly Hispanic, were in their state illegally. They saw that the federal government wasn't effective at sealing the southern border, even after 9/11. They saw that President Bush had tried to reform immigration policies, only to have to back down when he faced a divided Republican party. They saw that President Obama has tried to assure the safety of Americans, but that a squabbling Congress rendered any reform inert. And they also realized that for many years, adequate funds were not put into the budget of the Border Patrol.
They also saw a significant increase in crime, including drug trafficking, kidnapping, and murder by illegal immigrants. They saw thousands of immigrants living in squalor, dozens in the same room, forced to work at starvation wages to pay back the gangs that brought them north. Anglo and Hispanic residents had become afraid of living in their own houses because of the gangs.
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