• Arizona’s new law — self defense or modern-day lynching?

    Oh my, we’ve had some go-rounds about Arizona’s new illegal immigration law at our house. Is Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 a last-ditch attempt for a state overrun with illegal immigration problems to defend its borders and restore order, or is it a thinly veiled excuse to take out economic frustrations on minorities? Self-defense or modern-day lynching?

    It’s all a matter of perspective. My husbie (aka The Cutest Man In The World, or TCMITW for short) comes from one of the 13 Colony states, where houses are wallpapered with Minutemen and bald eagles, and red, white and blue décor is proudly displayed on porches and lawns 365 days a year. The mere mention of the Second Amendment in Pennsylvania causes spontaneous ejaculation.

    These people love their country. Maybe a little too much.

    Pennsylvania also has deep coal mining roots. Those mines were manned mainly by European immigrants, toiling away in despicable, dangerous working conditions for meager pay. The vast majority immigrated to the U.S. through traditional means like Ellis Island. Once here, they struggled to become full-fledged American citizens, and were proud of their citizenship. Bottom line – they followed the rules, no matter how much it hurt.

    Besides the law-abiding, Super Patriot mentality, aside from the industrial areas like Philadelphia and Pittsburg, Pennsylvania is really, really, really white. There’s not a lot of exposure to folks with skin darker than a manila folder. Take it from one who turns the color of a copper penny in the summer… you stand out. You get stares from the locals, and not because your sundress is really cute. It’s that “You’re not one of us” glare, and if you’ve been on the receiving end of one of those, you know how creepy it feels.

    In California, Mexican influence is everywhere, from food to the names of our cities, and mostly enthusiastically embraced. It’s just part of life here. We have a lot in common. Californians understand the joy of nachos. Pennsylvanians? Not so much. Ask where the tortillas are at the local supermarket in any random lily-white PA suburb, and you’ll discover how the “You’re not one of us” glare feels.

    Growing up in an agricultural California area gives you a whole different perspective on “illegals.” When you see a team of sweat-soaked men and women hoeing rows of tomatoes on a 110-degree August afternoon as you sail by in your air-conditioned car with a grocery bag full of cheap California produce in the back seat, hopefully, if your soul is still intact, you have a little compassion. And maybe more willingness to look the other way.

    On the other hand… when the very first thing someone does upon entering the country is break the law, simply by virtue of being here illegally, it encourages a mind-set that it’s perfectly fine to break the law as long as you don’t get caught. Well, it isn’t. Laws are the line between civilization and anarchy.

    My mixed emotions about illegal immigration notwithstanding, because of our backgrounds, the TCMITW and I have diametrically opposed perspectives on the benefits of looking the other way about illegal immigration. Although, as a fledgling Californian, TCMITW has discovered that the local Mexican community is a lovely thing indeed and has also enthusiastically embraced it, his opinion on obeying federal law is unmoved: It’s not racist to expect Mexicans to follow the same immigration laws as everyone else. In fact, the real racism is in allowing only Mexicans to break the law and making everyone else follow the rules. The U.S. has immigration laws on the books, and Arizona is simply attempting to enforce them because the federal government doesn’t, or can’t, or won’t. So, I guess I’d have to agree.

    BUT…

    Cracking down on illegal immigration would break the back of California agriculture. If the farmers pay more for labor, we’ll pay more at the grocery store. Do you really want to pay $4 for a head of lettuce? And besides that, do you think Americans are going to toil away under the brutal valley sun for crap wages like illegals do?

    Think again.

    And, he pounced.

    “So, you think slavery is OK? You don’t mind subsidizing it?”

    Um, no. Wait. Slavery? No. Not OK. Not OK at all.

    He was right. That cheap lettuce perpetuates a system where certain people are overworked, underpaid, and get no benefits, rights or protections offered by society. They’re hungry and desperate, just trying to survive. And some don’t. It’s not uncommon to hear of field laborers dying from heat stroke because they didn’t have enough water or rest from the sun.

    Suddenly, that cheap lettuce in my hand at the grocery store feels really slimy. I feel slimy. I’ve been advocating being soft on illegal immigration, purely out of my own financial self-interest. Man. I suck. And I didn’t even realize it until now.

    Therefore, I must agree with TCMITW: cracking down on employers who hire illegals should be a priority. Make sure all employees are legal, and have the same working conditions and wages Americans expect. And, yes, we consumers must pay more for the fruits of their labor.

    That said, TCMITW and I don’t quite agree on SB1070. TCMITW researched it and found nothing in the language that hints of racial profiling. It’s all about enforcing existing immigration laws. But I must add “per se” to that. SB1070 says a police officer can detain someone for “reasonable suspicion” that he or she may be here illegally.

    Now, reasonable suspicion should mean raiding a lettuce field where illegals are known to work. But what if it also means having copper-colored skin and asking where the tortillas are? Will reasonable suspicion be accompanied with a “You don’t belong here” glare? And maybe followed by handcuffs if I don’t have my wallet on me?

    TCMITW has more faith in police officers than that. Me, I know that under the uniform, police officers are people. And people, quite frequently, can be very disappointing.



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