Updates on Arizona

The information coming in now clearly indicates that conservative Arizona legislators were not high when they went to the post with their new and unconstitutional Immigration law. They’re doing a cleansing strategy instead.

In addition to the Immigration law, new legislation going to the governor creates a ban on all ethnic studies programs in Arizona schools. Schools will lose state funding if they offer any courses that “promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, promote resentment of a particular race or class of people, are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” So programs that teach about Mexican-American culture, like the one in Tuscon schools, are facing the axe and have also been equated with courses on treason. Raise your hand if you think schools are itching to have programs encouraging the overthrow of the U.S. government, and if such programs existed, would it likely be whites speaking of the tyranny of liberty and how they have to have cop killing bullets so they can overthrow the federal government or Latino-Americans? If students studied the Immigration law in school, it would of course be promoting resentment of a particular race or class of people — Latinos. Somehow, I doubt that’s a problem for these folks.

In the 1990’s, Arizona recruited bilingual teachers to teach English and Spanish in their schools. In 2000, all instruction was demanded to be in English by voter referendum and teachers complied. Now, Arizona’s Department of Education is demanding that no teacher with an “accent” (i.e. for whom English is not their first language,) be allowed to teach English. The Department will decide whether your accent is too thick (giving enormous potential for abuse,) and if so, teachers will have to improve or be fired or reassigned (giving enormous potential for abuse.)

What is clear here is that there is a concerted effort to attack Latino and Latino-American culture, citizens and immigrants that has nothing to do with crime and everything to do with ethnic stereotyping, prejudice and fear that Latinos will harm whites if they make up a substantial amount of the inhabitants, voters and workers. And indeed, the figures conservatives are claiming are quite clearly false, such as State Senator Russell Pearce’s bogus claim that half the murders in Phoenix are committed by undocumented immigrants. In actuality, research has proven again and again that  illegal immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born inhabitants. Violent crime in Arizona has actually declined, as has the number of illegal crossings into the country through Arizona, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the FBI. The Mexican drug war has not spilled over into American soil as much as it might have. The number of illegal crossers apprehended has dropped since 2000 from some 600,000 to around 240,000. And increasingly, the people who are crossing illegally from Mexico aren’t Latinos, but Chinese and Russians eager to get in the country. Chinese of course are subject to the same ethnic profiling as Latinos, but those Arizona state police may find it a lot harder to chase down Russian illegals, if they even bother.

Additionally, the Congressional Budget Office issued a report that proved that illegal immigrants use only a fraction of the services budget apportioned to deal with them, and that portion is only 5% of total state and local spending for services. The Rand Corporation’s study in 2006 showed that illegal immigrants receive almost no healthcare services and the tax money spent on their care is exceedingly small. Conservative lawmakers have ignored these and other inconvenient statistics in their claim that illegal immigrants are ravaging the countryside, rather than what they’re actually doing — coming for jobs.

There is one part of the Immigration bill that might have done some good — going after employers who knowingly hire illegals. But the problem is large scale on a federal level because large corporations like WalMart and Tyson Foods have hired illegals for janitorial services and meat packing plants, even recruiting them in Mexico. For those companies, the cost benefit of illegals may outweigh any threat of fines from a state government. But the federal government is actually having some success with the problem through a Social Security number matching program that catches employers who can’t produce legitimate SS#’s for employees. You know, the federal government that is supposedly not doing anything about the problem.

Arizona is not alone in attacking Latinos and Latino-Americans. Oklahoma has an equally unconstitutional immigration law sitting around in the midst of expensive lawsuits. Conservative politicians in Colorado and Texas are rumbling for similar laws under the same claims — the illegal problem and the drug trade are the same, illegals commit crimes and use up government services, illegal children will take over our schools and refuse to speak English, the problem is getting worse and the federal government refuses to act — all of these claims are statistically false. But they are very effective with white voters who fear other ethnicities and blame them for the economic problems handed to them by Wall Street. And in Arizona, it’s become a systemic attack of its Latino population, citizens as well as immigrants, school children as well as adults. In Arizona, Latinos are the new gays.

In another forty years, these battles will be part of the history books (not the doctored ones in Texas,) and seen as a continuation of the Civil Rights movement of the sixties. In the meantime, it saddens me that, having missed the first round, I have to sit through round two. I believe it will be a less violent round, I hope it is, and I wish the people who are protesting, organizing and taking to court this law the best of luck.

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