Thursday, April 29, 2010

Deportees, part 2

Good afternoon, folks! Thanks to everybody who's stopped by to comment on this morning's post & thanks to Raquelle, Lizzy & Scotty for re-posting or otherwise responding to the post on Facebook & Twitter. For instance, Lizzy posted a link to an interesting article about how GOP fears that Hispanic voters will turn certain swing states to the Democrats have been a factor in this law - not to mention 11 others currently under contemplation in 10 other states: Utah, Georgia, Colorado, Maryland, Ohio, North Carolina, Texas (two separate initiatives), Missouri, Oklahoma & Nebraska. I know there are some Robert Frost's Banjo regulars from at least a few of those states, so hope this can be a heads up.

Some points came up in the discussion on the morning's post that I felt merited an airing beyond the comments section. A couple of people brought up the activities of Mexican drug cartels along the Arizona border. A good friend, who's a sincere & thoughtful man, suggested that Arizona was forced to take this action because of drug violence, & because of the federal government's unwillingness to confront this (I believe he meant with military force, but this wasn't specifcally stated). I can understand the feeling behind the argument - the violence associated with the big drug business is horrific & appalling. But I do question whether this law is going to have much affect on that in the long term (assuming it's not repealed). I suspect that the drug cartels will find ways around this, just as organized crime found ways around police & FBI activities during Prohibition, & just as various crime organizations have continued to find ways around all the other "crackdowns" of the prolonged "drug war." Do I think the ultimate answer is legalization - yes, but that's a topic for another time. I can tell you that I favor legalization as a non-user; I'm a recovering alcoholic & drug addict who has not had a drink or drug since the spring of 1980, so I don't believe I'd be lining up waiting for the state marijuana store to open.

I do think the federal government should take a role in the problem of undocumented workers. However, I believe the most effective role the government could take would be to address the impact of big agribusiness on small farmers both in the U.S. & globally - Russell Means, one of the founders of the American Indian Movement, & a man with complicated politics, but a man who is definitely not a leftist by any stretch of the imagination (he was recruited to run for nomination as Libertarian presidential candidate in the 1980s) states: "With people no longer needed on the land, food production has been taken over by corporate agribusiness, the beneficiary of enormous government subsidies that place them among America's biggest welfare recipients" (I'll be writing more on Means' autobiography in a future post). I also believe it's past time for the government to seriously consider the impact of NAFTA on economies in Central & South America.

But I'm a liberal sort - of course I'd oppose the law. Let's look at what some noted conservatives are saying:

Virginia Governor Republican Bob McDonnell: "I'm concerned about the whole idea of carrying papers and always having to be able to prove your citizenship. That brings up some shades of some other regimes that weren't necessarily helpful to democracy."

Karl Rove (!?!): “I think there is going to be some constitutional problems with the bill. I wished they hadn’t passed it, in a way.”

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge (Bush appointee) says he's "uncomfortable" with Arizona's new immigration law, because it allows police to question people without probable cause.

Florida Republican candidate Marco Rubio has major “concerns.”

Lindsey Graham & Tom Tancredo (Republicans both) question whether the law is constitutional.

The legislation also was opposed by the The Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police, tho they have pledged to uphold it now that it's passed.

It's also worth pondering that a man with very conservative credentials - Barry Goldwater himself - believed the problem needed to be attacked at its source. As quoted in the article linked to above:

But significantly, Goldwater realized that at the root, the U.S. needed "increased cooperation with the countries that are sending illegal aliens." He believed that U.S. businesses should work with those abroad to "[h]elp providing economic incentives to encourage residents to remain in their native lands."

This all moves away from my main point in the morning post - & what I want to remain my main point - that we need to humanize this debate. But I believe it's necessary to look for truly effective, rather than expedient means to address such large problems.


  1. Your second post is as thought provoking as the first. I find it so easy for these hot topics to leak over into other issues that just spead into an abyss of frustration and overwhelm.

  2. Hi Heather: Thanks--much appreciated!

  3. John,

    Thanks for the continued discussion. I basically agree about drug legalization, although I too am completely uninterested in participating. I'm coming from a basically free-market libertarian perspective, and the agribusinesses in question need to be called on the carpet for many other things as well. (The free market, IMO, must be protected from monopolies as well as government interference.)

    I was speaking, however, about human trafficking at least as much as drug trafficking. Last night after we got home I ran across
    this story on AP about how migrants from further south face abuse all the way up through Mexico as well as the problems around the border.

    The issues surrounding undocumented people are human rights issues, and I believe those are best addressed by the rule of just laws. Billionaires, police and congressmen ought to be subject to court and prosecution as much as day laborers. Rule of law has been breaking down on both sides of the border; it's more obvious in Mexico than the U.S. unless one lives in Arizona. The migrants are treated horribly by the "coyotes" who get them over the border, and by the businesses that hire them. If the government secures the border and aggressively prosecute companies who hire undocumented workers, we won't have to deal with the heartbreak of deportation.

    All that said, the new Arizona law seems less onerous when one actually looks at it; it's basically codifying at the state level what is already federal law. You'll have to forgive the slight snark, but here is an op-ed in the New York Times by one of the lawyers who wrote it.

    Again from personal experience: When I lived overseas, I didn't leave my workplace or residence without my internal and external passports. It didn't seem unreasonable to me because I had a reason to be there. Any scary moments with police? Yes -- but I had papers, and all it was, was a small addition to my wallet.

  4. great commentary on a very thought-provoking issue - one which impacts each of us whether or not we happen to live in arizona!

  5. Hi Soul: Thanks for your perspective. Yes, the human trafficking issue is also a major human rights problem--agreed. Again, I believe the ultimate ways of addressing this would be thru addressing economic injustice, but I do agree that it needs to be addressed. Your experience overseas is worth mentioning for sure. However, if you or I were traveling in Arizona, do you think we'd need to have a passport or birth certificate handy in case we got pulled over for speeding (e.g.)? In the European countries you're referring to, as I understand it, everyone carries papers--in Arizona, only Hispanics or people of ethicities that might be taken as Hispanic would need to do so (in practical terms).

  6. Hi Jenean: Thanks! Glad you got something out of this.

  7. These are beautiful, thoughtful posts, John. I find myself shaking my head at all the news coming out of Arizona. It seems that panic is the order of the day.

  8. Hi Sandra: It's my impression that there's a lot of panic & craziness going on here in the States in general these days. Thanks for your kind words.


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