Boycott Arizona: Go ahead, make my day…

By Doug Sposito

Despite the accusations from uninformed pundits, Arizona is a centrist state. We have 1,024,758 registered Democrats, 1,121,753 registered Republicans and 939,542 registered Independents.

In the last 20 years we are more likely to elect a woman as governor. Four of our last five governors have been women serving from both the Democratic and Republican parties. Currently five of our 8 congressmen/women are Democrats. Only three are republican. District 8 serving southern Arizona was held by Congressman Jim Kolbe an openly gay Republican who served for 22 consecutive years until he retired four years ago.

We have a strong libertarian streak of rugged individualism. Even some Democrats tend to be rural small government folks. We produce statesmen the likes of and Barry Goldwater and Mo Udall.

As for the ruckus over the senate immigration bill, 70% of the state supports it, including 51% of all Democrats and a majority of all legal immigrants. We have the highest population of Hispanics as a percent of total population at 30 %.

Arizona’s current immigration problems can be traced to the effectiveness of a Clinton-era security operation, Operation Gatekeeper on the California–Mexico border and the building of the “triple fence” that effectively stopped 90% of all illegal border crossings in California. By 1997, Clinton doubled the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) budget to 800 million dollars, the number of Border Patrol agents had also nearly doubled, the amount of fencing or other barriers more than doubled, and the number of underground sensors nearly tripled in California.

Illegal border crossers who had routinely crossed in the relatively temperate conditions of Coastal California were now physically diverted to the extreme and difficult crossing of the Arizona desert.

By 2006 the Tucson sector accounted for more Border Patrol apprehensions than any other sector in the US. The Tucson sector alone accounted for 36 percent (392,104) of the 1.1 million total US Border Patrol apprehensions in that year. When you add in Yuma (118,537) the south west corner of Arizona accounted for 510,641 apprehensions or nearly 45,000 illegal border crossers per month. This is not the number who crossed. This is only the number who were caught trying to cross. And this is only half the state of Arizona.

I personally filmed the environmental degradation caused by the sheer number of people passing through our desert. You can see the you-tube video I posted here. The footage is of a “layup”. It is one of several dozen within 50 miles of Tucson. This footage is of approximately a quarter mile of sandy wash at the foot of Kit-Peak National Observatory. The property owners estimate that 1,500 people layup here every week. The music overlay is meant to be sarcastic and the statistics from the Pew Hispanic center reflect my outrage at being constantly told my profession in the construction industry was work “American citizens” would not do.

A tragic paradox for private Arizona citizens is the border patrol will not patrol private property to apprehend an illegal crosser and many police will not respond to calls of illegal crossers on private property because it is a federal issue.

This allows human smugglers and their human or drug cargo to make dashes across several miles of open government owned desert to “layups” on private property to prepare for the next leg of the journey.

Government agencies offer no financial assistance for clean up of the layups and in many cases disposal must be made to haz-mat collectors because the crossers carry epidemic levels of tuberculosis and hepatitis. Many of the items seen in the video footage are too contaminated for simple disposal. When I made this video I was accompanied by heavily armed guards

We divide the illegal crossers into two groups, walkers and runners. Walkers are the folks who want to cause no intentional harm to anyone. They are typically looking for a better life for themselves and their families. Runners are the smugglers. They run guns, money, drugs and these days many humans. Bajadores are the illegal crossers inside the US who prey upon the smugglers stealing the human or drug cargo by executing the smugglers and then holding the kidnapped cargo for ransom to either the producers or the families of the walkers.

Phoenix is now the kidnapping capitol of the US.

Because the runners would not know I was not a Bajadore I would have been shot dead had I stumbled upon an occupied layup, therefore the armed escort. The items left are the personal possessions of the walkers. They are forced to leave all of them as they are usually crammed 20+ into vans and trucks for the next leg and there is no room for back packs and extra clothing.

Even though the economy is down and estimates range from a 25-50% reduction in illegal crossers for Arizona this is still 25,000 tired, brutalized, terrified human beings entering our state every month. They need food, health care, places to live and clothing. Despite what you’re hearing in the news, us “racist” Arizonans provide this for these people.

And let me be clear Arizonans provide for these people not the US. The federal government refuses to assist or reimburse for any of the enormity of the financial costs.

Thirty miles on either side of the Mexican-American border is now considered by residents as lawless. On the Mexican side the corruption is too prevalent to allow for any meaningful attempt at immigration control and on the US side the border is too remote for responders. Both the residents and the smugglers are aware of this.

Where I live roughly fifteen miles north of the border the sheriff response time is 1-1/2 hours. The smugglers have complete control and they know it. We are at their mercy.

Under the current administration it has gotten worse. It is hard to believe President Obama would not understand his border policy implementation would not have dire consequences.

Bush was roundly criticized for not increasing the guest worker program enough to alleviate the pressure caused by illegal crossers and the real demand for the workers.

Under Obama instead of increasing the U.S. guest worker program it has been slashed from nearly of 130,000 workers to 66,000 in 2009 as President Obama and the Democratically controlled Congress, under tremendous pressure from Unions fearful of low wage, non voting workers declined to renew an expansion of the H2-b guest worker program passed by the Republicans and Bush in 2005.

Arizona’s problems have been exacerbated further when the President’s 2010 Homeland Security budget cut the Customs and Border Protection budget, reduced funding for E-Verify by $35 million, and cut $226 million from the budget for border security, fencing, personnel, infrastructure and technology.

Arizona was getting a loud and clear message from this Administration and its position on border security and a tragic lack of empathy for the financial woes the Federal governments border policies were generating.

Arizona, as with all Border States, deals daily with Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) officers whose sole responsibility is to patrol the borders and capture those who have violated Federal law and entered the country illegally. ICE agents do not look for drunk drivers; they do not issue speeding tickets. They are trained exclusively to identify and capture illegal aliens.

They also do not patrol just the border. Due to poor security at the border, preventing illegal entry at its source, ICE agents can be found on every high-way, freeway and public access road in the State; From Flagstaff to Yuma, Douglas to Bullhead City. Every few miles on every road a white Federal truck with green stripe can be seen stopping and questioning people of their immigration status. By Federal law they do not need to have “lawful contact” to stop someone as required of police and sheriffs deputies, just reasonable suspicion.

In 1996, then President Bill Clinton (D) signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) that among other things addressed the relationship between the Federal government and local governments concerning illegal immigration. Section 287(g) of IIRIRA is a program that deputizes state and local law enforcement personnel to act as Federal enforcement agents and to enforce immigration matters.

In essence this deputization removes the “Lawful Contact” provision from state and local law officials in circumstances of documentation and citizenship and allows the officer to question the residency status within the boundaries of Federal “reasonable suspicion” rules.

Lawful contact is a statutory requirement of police that a resident can be stopped only if in obvious violation of a current law. Speeding, drunk driving, fleeing a robbed convenience store for example. A police officer or sheriff cannot legally stop some one because they might be a human smuggler, or drug smuggler or illegal alien. ICE agents can.

Acknowledgeably Lawful Contact is a bit of a moving target for law enforcement. It is continuously being defined and redefined by judges and fallible police officers.

A list of participating 287(g) Arizona enforcement (and all other states) agencies can be found here. It includes Arizona’s most populous counties and city. In other words most of Arizona’s law enforcement officials already have a greater degree of “discriminatory” authority granted by the Obama administration and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano than Arizona’s new illegal immigration law will allow. Arizona’s new illegal immigration law mandates “lawful contact” before any stop or request of documents can be made.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon (D) in a letter to the Washington Post described his fellow Arizonans as “… bitter, small-minded and full of hate, and they in no way speak for Arizona” and yet in 2008, asked for and signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) under Section 287(g) with the Federal Government that authorized his Phoenix Police officers to behave as Federal Immigration enforcement officers. This authorization exactly allowed his officers to legally disregard the “Lawful Contact” provision of State law as well as the same provision in SB1070 and inquire as to the immigration status of an individual simply because they have reasonable suspicion as to individual’s residency just as ICE agents do. His and other accusations of hate and racism make no sense in this context.

They do make sense in a context of party pandering and ignorance.

Los Angles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) stated “The Arizona law is not only misguided, it is unpatriotic and unconstitutional,” Villaraigosa falsely stated at a City Hall news conference. “It requires all law enforcement officers to stop anyone suspected of being in our country illegally. It allows law enforcement to make arrests without a warrant.” Yet Los Angeles County also has a 287(g) MOA with the Obama administration and has maintained its MOA since 2005 that again demands exactly the “discriminatory” policies lamented by the mayor. LA could voluntarily drop from the program if they truly felt this was about race and discrimination yet they don’t.

In a true lesson in absurdity President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, said the law was discriminatory and warned that trade and political ties with Arizona will be seriously strained by the crackdown. The measure “opens the door to intolerance, hate, discrimination and abuse in law enforcement”. Mexico then issued a travel advisory to Mexican citizens traveling to Arizona.

In the same week Amnesty International called the abuse of illegal migrants in Mexico a major human rights crisis, and accused Mexican officials of turning a blind eye and even participating in the kidnapping, rape and murder of illegal migrants.

And what of our own President, his administration has kept intact IIRIRA and more specifically Section 287(g). His response …”Indeed, our failure to act responsibly at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others,” said the President. “And that includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threatened to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe”.

I welcome his acknowledgement of federal irresponsibility yet this blatant pander to ill-informed citizens while his own officers are apparently “undermine[ing] basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans” is infuriating.

And more important, President Obama’s political response to Arizona; in an Associated Press story, was to take Immigration reform off the table until after this years election, purely for political advantage, and fail once again to act as his own words suggest, responsibly at the Federal level.

Interestingly, it would be significantly less “racist”, less “discriminatory” and violate fewer “civil rights” if the Obama administration abandoned IIRIRA and Section 287(g) and adopted wholly Arizona’s SB 1070 which would require all officers to have “Lawful Contact” before making any stop of any persons within the jurisdiction of the United States.

So a reasonable question for Arizona would be: why do you need SB1070 if so many police officers and sheriffs already have the authority to stop, question and arrest a person based solely on residency status?

In October of 2009 after enduring tremendous pressure from current Administration supporters to repeal Arizona’s 287(g) MOA and fearful of political back lash at the poles if Arizona’s Maricopa County MOA was not revoked, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced a partial revocation of Arizona’s 287(g) agreement as a political pander to Party line ideologues.

It was quickly reinstated.

An October 6, 2009 press release from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office reported that “the decision to curtail the Sheriff’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent status emanates from as high as the White House.”

Maybe not, but the Arizona state legislature had had enough. Tired of illegal immigration being a political football for ideologues and demagogues with no intention of solving the problem, and the MOA 287(g) agreements being treated as weapons to coerce and influence behavior or to satisfy crony political agendas. Tired of paying an increasingly larger portion of our state budget (currently 1.1 billion annually) to provide for and take care of, the illegal border crossers passing through our deserts, Arizona wrote its own bill found here, Senate Bill 1070. The following are the first two paragraphs:

“Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act”

Senate Bill 1070



Despite what political ideologues say, this bill requires “lawful contact” and in no way can any officer in the state of Arizona simply demand residency documentation based on race, as the federal government currently does and bigoted pundits have suggested.


  1. Check out this video. Support for illegal immigration is as American as Che. (He seems to have popped up frequently in the protests yesterday.

  2. Here’s another video.

    It’s pro the rallies, but what I wanted to point out was that 53 seconds into the video there’s a guy with a Census 2010 t-shirt.

    And this isn’t the only video that shows this.

    18 seconds into this video the same thing.

  3. Walter W says

    Wow! Mighty cooperative of SA to shut down comments on Pamela Gorman article! No opinions allowed? What if somebody could think of something nice to say about Republican Establishment pawn, Pamela Gorman? Wouldn’t you want that to go up?

  4. Jim Kaucher says

    Great post, Doug!

  5. Moon Valley GOP says

    Fascinating to watch Mr. Sposito’s transformation from an open-borders guy to a secure borders guy. He ran for the Legislature in 2008 and lost, largely because of his positions on the border and in spite of the fact that he was able to outspend Frank Antenori by tens of thousands of dollars thanks to the open-borders crowd that funded his race. Remember all those Wake-Up Arizona folks who tried to guy employer sanctions? They happily wrote checks to Sposito.

    Now Doug is back, running again, against two solid secure-border incumbents, and he’s suddenly parroting the lines they use. I’m not convinced, and no election year conversion will get me to support this guy over two proven conservatives.

  6. Moon Valley GOP says

    Oh, and how awesome is it that to make his point, he even uses a picture of border patrol vehicles lifted directly from his opponent’s 2008 campaign flyer? Why steal the words when you can steal the pictures too, eh Doug?

  7. Why is Sposito even running in LD30? Does he even live in the district? He left his so-called “ranch” in Sonoita over a year ago. Who knows where he really lives now – in the district – or not??

    Last time around he was against e-verify and illegal-alien friendly — now he’s filp-flopping, in the John McCain waterboy mode of saying whatever’s necessary to get elected.

    It’s also amusing that he felt he had to be protected by “heavily armed guards” just to go visit and film an illegal alien layup site. Quite amusing, really. WEENIE!! WEENIE!! WEENIE!!

    On the other hand… here are videos vets have taken on their own – without “armed guards”:

    Maybe that’s the difference – they’re vets and he’s not… they’re not ‘fraidy cats SKEERED of the illegals, LOL!!

    BTW, I, too, go to layup sites (to track their usage) without “heavily armed guards”.

    Sposito is only trying to jump on the bandwagon to get elected. It left without him and he’s not to be trusted.

  8. Moon Valley GOP,
    I’m not surprised, no, not surprised at all that Sposito would lift a picture from someone else’s campaign flyer.

  9. The private property statement made by Sposito is a red herring.
    Probably 90% of the land along the border (where the Border Patrol is supposed to be) is owned by either the federal government or Indian tribes.

    Statements like that are typical of those who (supposedly) change their stance and then try and act like an expert on the subject.

    Sposito states: “We divide the illegal crossers into two groups, walkers and runners.” Walkers and runners??? Never heard that phrase before, not from BP, not from LEOs, not from border activists. Me thinks Sposito has just coined a phrase out of thin air to try and made himself look knowledgeable.

    …and I wonder who the “We” is in that statement. Make-believe friends?

  10. Montana says

    I saw Jay Leno at Correspondent Dinner his best line was; “That was my favorite story (this year) Republicans and a Lesbian bondage club. It’s ironic, Republicans don’t want lesbian getting married but they do like watching them “tie the knot”. So I thought that was interesting.”

    You can say the same about Tea Party, they say they respect the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence but they do not mind passing laws, through weak Governors who only care about getting reelected on the backs of undocumented workers, that will not pass Constitution muster, just like Arizona’s House Bill 2779 from two years ago, keep passing them Arizona and the rest of us will continue to challenged them and you will fail in a court of law (and yes we will boycott you). Their phony patriotism is sickening, they are just racists going by another name. We all know you are just itching to put a sheet on their head? Let’s face it the Republicans had eight years to deal with health care, immigration, climate change and financial oversight and governance and they failed. It appears that the Republican Party is only good at starting wars (two in eight years, with fat contracts to friends of Cheney/Bush) but not at winning wars as seen by the continuing line of body bags that keep coming home. The Republicans party will continue turned inward to their old fashion obstructionist party (and their Confederacy appreciation roots) because they continue to allow a small portions (but very loud portion) of their party of “birthers, baggers and blowhards” to rule their party. I will admit that this fringe is very good at playing “Follow the Leader” by listening to their dullard leaders, Beck, Hedgecock, Hannity, O’Reilly, Rush, Savage, Sarah Bailin, Orly Taitz, Victoria Jackson, Michele Bachmann and the rest of the Blowhards and acting as ill programmed robots (they have already acted against doctors that perform abortions). The Birthers and the Tea party crowd think they can scare, intimidate and force others to go along with them by comments like “This time we came unarmed”, let me tell you something not all ex-military join the fringe militia crazies who don’t pay taxes and run around with face paint in the parks playing commando, the majority are mature and understand that the world is more complicated and grey than the black and white that these simpleton make it out to be and that my friend is the point. The world is complicated and people like Hamilton, Lincoln, and Roosevelt believed that we should use government a little to increase social mobility, now it’s about dancing around the claim of government is the problem. The sainted Reagan passed the biggest tax increase in American history and as a result federal employment increased, but facts are lost when mired in mysticism and superstition. For a party that gave us Abraham Lincoln, it is tragic that the ranks are filled with too many empty suits and the crazy Birthers who have not learned that the way our courts work is that you get a competent lawyer, verifiable facts and present them to a judge, if the facts are real and not half baked internet lies, then, and only then, do you proceed to trial. The Birthers seem to be having a problem with their so called “facts”. Let’s face it no one will take the Birthers seriously until they win a case, but until then, you will continue to appear dumb, crazy or racist, or maybe all three. I heard that Orly Taitz now wants to investigate the “Republican 2009 Summer of Love” list: Assemblyman, Michael D. Duvall (CA), Senator John Ensign (NV), Senator Paul Stanley (TN), Governor Mark Stanford (SC), Board of Ed Chair, and Kristin Maguire AKA Bridget Keeney (SC), she wants to re-establish a family values party, that’s like saying that the Catholic Church cares about the welling being of children in their care, too late for that.

  11. I see the Moonbat has returned.

  12. Stephen Kohut says

    He does know how to do ctrl-C an ctrl-V well. I’m sure his impassioned plea will win over droves of supporters on SA. I can hear the thundering herd of clacking keyboards now.

  13. Hey you! says

    The real flaw in the logic here is that some folks believe that the violence and illegal activity is due to undocumented workers. In reality, violent crime is down in Arizona but the media and the hard-liners in AZ make sure that if an undocumented worker is involved, it’s big news, but the facts are that violent crime has slowed in the last few years in AZ. The law passed isn’t going to stop the real problem which are drug runners and smugglers, It isn’t even going to slow them down.

    There was a great article in the LA Times featuring an interview with an ex-Phoenix cop who had to deal with these issues. (

    And he said it very plainly after a white cop was killed: “I told people that it’s not whites or Hispanics who killed Marc,” he said back then. “It’s drug-dealing cop killers. The issue isn’t ethnicity — it’s crime and drugs.”

    And this is the real problem with this law is that it doesn’t address the real issue, at all.

  14. I learned something new from this article about the federal law, and I think it will appeal to the reason of the protesters, and generally uniformed people if it can be posted where they will read it. I would like to see it published at news sites (for TV and newspaper) as widely as possible, not just here where its singing to the choir and people are more interested in the political back story of the author – fine as all that is here where it is appropriate, but this article is good enough for people outside the political party loop to read, and I’ll stand up to support it. For example it needs to be picked up by news sites that will show up as local news links when people check their email on Yahoo.

  15. Karpenter says

    I’m glad to finally see an article that doesn’t distort both the reason for the Arizona law and the law itself…how is it that its easier to demonize and stereotype an entire state (something that the people doing it are said to deplore…at least when they describe themselves) than to look at the problem driving the law and to hold the ones accountable that are creating the problem…namely the federal government and the illegals themselves. The disingenuous politicians and the disinformation from the media is what we’ve come to expect. Why aren’t the provisions of the existing federal law well publicised every time someone falsely asserts that the arizona law leads to racial profiling and means that people will be stopped in the street and hauled off for questioning? If this article is correct, its the federal law that does that, and its not being vilified or charactorized as racist and profiling…

  16. Phil11514 says

    For anyone else who may have been tuning in or may be dropping in to the discussion now, let me educate you to the following: if you actually, seriously think this is “strictly a matter for the people of Arizona to decide”, and/or “not a matter for ‘outsiders’ to concern themselves with”, let me assure you beyond a shadow of a doubt… You are completely, totally mistaken. It is an AMERICAN issue.

    It is no more “purely a states’ rights issue” than it was “only” an issue for Mississippi or Alabama when segregationists in those states rammed through laws restricting the rights of African-Americans to vote or drink from a “WHITES ONLY” water fountain. To any person reading who is of Hispanic or African-American descent, I say this: If it had been left up to “the Good People of Alabama” and “majority rule” at the time, or since, you might still be a SLAVE.

    Nor does it make the slightest bit of difference whether “a majority of Arizonans agree with the law”. They’re STILL WRONG. A majority of Southerners polled in 1956 agreed that “blacks need to accept that segregation is The Law and Will Continue”. A majority of Germans agreed in 1933 that Hitler “should be elected” the new Chancellor.

    The majority is OFTEN wrong — and often, horrendously, horrifically, heartwrenchingly, tragically wrong. And shameful and immoral laws need to be IGNORED and DISOBEYED, just as Rosa Parks RIGHTLY disobeyed an UNJUST and WRONG law that said she had to sit in the back of the bus.

  17. Phil11514 says

    Immigration policy and enforcement is a federal matter and one that is reserved exclusively for the federal government.

    Individual states have no “right” at all to establish or enforce their own separate immigration “policies”, just as they have no power to declare war, conduct or set foreign policy or otherwise engage in actions and functions that are reserved solely for the federal government. That’s why the Arizona law is unconstitutional.

    If the people in Arizona don’t happen to like the job that the federal government is doing in enforcing immigration laws, that’s just tough **** for them. They can’t legally or constitutionally step in on their own or claim that they’re “just doing what the federal government ‘ought to’ be doing”. They have no right at all to usurp federal powers.

    And please… do me the courtesy of NOT insulting my intelligence…. the Arizona law D@MN WELL ‘IS TOO’ ALL ABOUT RACE, and YOU KNOW IT!!! So, spare me the “equal opportunity” B.S. — the Arizona police and Sheriff Joe “S**t for Brains” Arpaio ARE NOT looking for “illegal and undocumented CANADIANS”.. and, YOU KNOW IT.

  18. Phil11514 says

    Here is an interesting solution….

    Immigration and IDs: A Modest Proposal

    All Americans—whether brown, white, or black—should be required to carry a passport showing they are red, white, and blue.

    “As an American, I cannot go to Arizona today without a passport,” declared Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes, one of the sponsors of a resolution to boycott Arizona’s businesses because of its new immigration law. “If I come across an officer who’s having a bad day and feels that the picture on my ID is not me, I can be…deported, no questions asked,” the hyperbolic Reyes told the Los Angeles Times this week. “That is not American.”

    As it happens, when I was in Arizona for a conference last month I carried my passport everywhere I went. Not that I really expected to be asked for it: I was born in Tennessee and my Scots-Irish, English, German, and Danish forebears got me an exemption from such tribulations, even in Arizona, simply because they were all white. The fact is, I always carry my passport. After years living and working in Europe, the Middle East, and Central America, I’ve grown used to the idea that cops can ask me for my “papers” any time they choose.

    In police states, this is a pretty ugly process—most often an attempt at intimidation, or extortion, or both. In democracies, it can be pretty ugly, too, and sometimes for the same reasons. But you get used to it, and if we’re serious about drawing lines against illegal immigration—which is all about defining who is a card-carrying American and who is not—a national ID is the obvious first step. Without it, we’re left guessing who “looks like” or “sounds like” a bona fide gringo.

    So, to be fair, my modest proposal is that all Americans inside America, not just outside, should be required to have passports and to carry them at all times. Whenever any American is asked for an ID, he or she should have to produce one issued by the federal government. Those who fail to comply should be liable to detention until the cops who picked them up figure out if they’re really true red, white, and blue Americans, no matter whether they are black, brown, white or shades in between.

    Anything less—the “biometric Social Security card” advocated by some Democrats on Capitol Hill, say, or the Real ID program to modify state drivers’ licenses as national IDs or the E-Verify program for businesses to check employees’ true nationalities—is really just a workaround that doesn’t work. These schemes also create whole new layers of bureaucracy and vast new burdens for law enforcement.

    The Arizona legislation is a case in point. It fails to define “reasonable suspicion” for demanding proof of citizenship, then leaves the proof itself a little vague.

    In one recent case near Phoenix, a Hispanic truck driver, WHOSE LICENSE AND REGISTRATION WERE IN PERFECT ORDER, was taken to the offices of the immigration service in handcuffs while authorities called his wife at work and made her go home to find the birth certificate showing he was born in the U.S.A. And the new law won’t even take effect, officially, until July.

    As things stand, if ever there were a license for corrupt local government officials and crazed citizens to intimidate a community, Arizona’s new laws fit the bill, as it were. Anyone discussing this much-discussed immigration law should take the time to read the text. It is xenophobic populism gone plum loco, as folks used to say in bad Westerns. And if there were any doubt about the parochial, churlish qualities of the Arizona state government, Gov. Jan Brewer has just signed a new law clearly intended to stifle expressions of Hispanic pride in the schools but ostensibly aimed at banning “courses or classes that either promote the overthrow of the United States government or promote resentment toward a race or class of people.”

    In fact, it’s these Arizona lawmakers who are subversive.

    Article 8, Section G of the immigration law opens the way for local anti-immigration—and anti-Latino—zealots to sue the cops if they aren’t zealous enough pursuing supposedly suspicious people. This comes on top of existing Arizona legislation that encourages one of the most infamous police-state tactics of all: denunciation by anonymous letter, or, in modern practice, an anonymous phone call or e-mail. Do you have some Latinos in your neighborhood you don’t like? Call the cops and, without giving your name or real motives, whisper that there seem be a lot of people going in and out of a house or a shop at odd hours and you think most of them are speaking Spanish. If the police don’t follow up on that tip and, at a minimum, knock on your neighbors’ door, you can start building your case to sue the cops.

    You see what’s going on here. This isn’t really about trying to protect national borders or help national authorities do that job, it’s about building a hodgepodge system of local vigilantism based on fear and prejudice, then trying to force the federal government to be complicit. We’ve seen this kind of thing again and again in U.S. history. Back in the 1850s the Know-Nothings organized around their hatred of Irish and other Catholic immigrants and briefly became a force in national politics. As Frank Rich pointed out in a recent New York Times column, of the 35 members of the Arizona House who voted for the immigration bill, 31 voted for another law that would have barred any presidential candidate from appearing on the Arizona ballot in the next elections if he couldn’t provide a birth certificate that satisfied the Arizonans’ standards. So, ban Obama. But register guns with the federal government? Forget it. Too much paperwork. Too much invasion of privacy.

    It’s this kind of self-contradicting conservatism, bordering on lunatic libertarianism, that leads to the crazy situation where people suspected of terrorist connections can be put on a no-fly list but not on a no-buy list for guns, as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly noted in recent testimony on the Hill.

    Well, enough of that. If we want to protect the nation from illegal immigration, and for that matter from terrorists, then it is the nation, precisely, that should be in charge, and part of the job should be issuing a uniform document to all citizens. Right now about 23 percent of Americans have some form of passport. Let’s make that 100 percent. And if you want to buy a gun, your passport number should be recorded in the purchase agreement and your record of travels and associations checked before you carry it out of the shop, whether your name is Faisal, Fernando, or Fred.

    Are these revolutionary ideas? No. But raising these issues creates such political firestorms, such wildly distorted rhetoric and abuse in the United States these days that, well, I’m glad I’ve got my passport.


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