Saturday, April 24, 2010

First US the gated community, now USA the concentration camp? What do White American’s fear so much?

My parents are in Arizona. Being Canadians, they have no passport stamp, indeed, they have no visa, no evidence whatsoever that they are not in the country illegally. But they are white. So they don't have to worry.

Today Arizona passed a law (SB 1070) making it legal and the duty of the police to stop and require proof of citizenship or legal status: that the person is NOT an illegal immigrant. Or… presumes they are detained. So if a person goes to buy milk and does not have their green card on them, and the police FEEL they might be illegal, they can and will be detained. And because the law has been made to stop Hispanic illegal immigration, now the abuse recorded is not only DWB crime (Driving while black) which causes you to be pulled over and abused but AWH (Alive while Hispanic).

Because the United States grew apart from the British Empire and did not WANT to be under a government which required papers be shown to officers, or for example the ability to make you house soldiers (that’s in the constitution). So it is not a crime, nor is it a requirement for any US citizen (including myself) to carry proof of citizenship. I am a US citizen, period. I am also a Canadian Citizen (and no requirement to carry proof when I go out wheeling), nor was there a requirement when I lived in the UK.

See old INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) gave out green cards and visas, and my father worked on immigration and discrimination law and many, many clients. And the best advise was, stand still and shut up. Because unless there is CAUSE to believe the person is an illegal immigrant, there is no law which requires proof. However, the states along the border of Mexico bent this, having local sheriffs and others target places where Hispanics could be detained and provoked into ‘probable cause’. I was in one of those raids on a bus, out of New Orleans, where some ‘good ole boys’ came in and started yelling, “Prove you are an American!” to every person on the bus. It was for show, I was on the bus, I had no proof I was American (I wasn't at that time) BUT I was white. Like every OTHER white person and person who did not move, the sheriff just yelled the question and moved on past me. It was a show. Across from me were three Hispanic men. The Sheriff was near and I wanted desperately to tell them, as I could see the panic rise, for them to ‘Sit still and say nothing.’ However, I KNEW if I did that, I would be detained in a cell that night, because I 'ruined the fun'. Because the same way it might be illegal to arrest a bus driver on the Canadian Border who hadn’t actually entered the US, but was handcuffed and put in a cell for...delaying from entering to put out a cigarette (another joy of an officer out of control - I have seen Canadian ones too, and written about them), seen as a slight to him. This Sherriff was the same type: high on testosterone and a belief in themselves over the law.

One of the hispanic men jumped up and ran for the toilets, one jumped up and was caught. “Yaaaaaahoooooo!” Called out the sherriff who was next to me to his deputies, “Boys we caught us a RUNNER!” and they went outside to bang on the toilet side of the bus and then open it and drag the man out. The terror on the face of the man was FUN for them. This was the GOOD part of the job. Was the stopping of the bus legal. No. There was no ‘probable cause’ that this bus was a smuggle vehicle. Or paperwork to show the driver was paid for illegal smuggling, or anything except the knowledge that illegal immigrants have little money, and take the bus and who is going to have an immigration lawyer on mile 76 of Mississippi highway out of New Orleans? So “Yaaaaaaahooooo!” And a shame I carry for being too much a coward to stand up to a bully. Yeah, I was the face in the crowd THAT time.

Problem is INS, after 9/11 got folded into Homeland Security and renamed BCIS (Bureau of Immigration Services), but under Homeland Security all sorts of odd things could get passed. For example the requirement to carry the green card, which before had not been enforced was enforced IF ASKED BY A BCIS agent. What Arizona has done by signing Senate Bill 1070 which, by fiat decision takes the enforcement of the requirement for green card presentation away from Federal Agents (Homeland security agents) and has made it a STATE crime which requires local police to check of ANYONE. Well not ANYONE, but anyone they believe is residing illegally….by sight. Arizona Governor stated, “Racial Profiling is ILLEGAL, it will not be tolerated in AMERICA, and will not be tolerated in Arizona.”

Um, yeah, except that racial profiling isn’t ‘illegal’ but only prohibited in ‘guidelines’ in certain circumstances by federal agents EXCEPT for a blanket exception for “national security” and “border integrity” cases. Yes, that is illegal immigration, the same agents that Governor Brewer just slapped in the face with SB 1070 can and DO use racial profiling. Though President Bush promised to stop racial profiling, after using it for several years as an ‘effective weapon against terrorism’ for airports, borders and other locations, no federal legislation has passed making it illegal. Indeed 46 states do NOT ban racial profiling based on religious appearance (Muslims), and 35 states do not ban racial profiling of pedestrians. So, walk to the store in Arizona for milk and get in jail…..if you aren’t white. A 2007 report found that already 32 million people in the US had been impacted by racial profiling.

Now I live on the border and cross frequently. There is always profiling. If you are male with facial hair and in your 20’s – expect to wait, and if you have a guitar or a surfboard expect to be searched and wait a LONG time. Because Victoria has been used so often as a dumping ground for people who can live ‘free’ or without a home that it doesn’t want more coming up from the US to live on the streets. However, Cheryl can enter freely, as can any American or green card or Visa holder with simply a driver’s license. It is EASY to get into Canada from the US. Cheryl, a federal employee, however cannot get BACK into the US without a Passport. That’s right, US citizens need a Passport, not to go into a foreign country, but to get back into their own. And I suspect that Mexico has the same policy. What it means is that the US is now the largest ‘gated community’ – an ‘us only’ policy which means if you can’t afford a passport, you are not the type of person that the Government wants visiting Canada. If you can’t PROVE you are ‘one of us’, then you can’t get back IN to your own country. Doesn’t that seem a bit odd?

Canadians entering the USA, as I do regularly, have absolutely no visa, nothing but, “Where are you headed” and “Thank you.” – and away we go. So we have no proof whatsover that we are not coming into the USA to stay and steal your jobs, induce a crime wave and overburden your health care. Indeed, tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of Brits, Irish, Aussies, Kiwis and Europeans come to work restaurant jobs, to bar tend to work illegally. When I was in the UK, several of the people I worked with had gone to the US, stayed past their visa, worked, since, ‘why not?’ And of course Canadians are one of the top 10 countries of immigrants to the US. Also, with the 'snowbirds' (older Canadians moving from north to south during the winter) one of the largest group which CANNOT show they are in the country legally are senior citizen Canadians (and we know how much THEY jaywalk, and do odd jobs!). Will the Arizona police start targeting those with Canadian accents and a knowledge of the number of Gold Medals Canada won in the Olympics? Or will the police in Arizona use on the streets of Arizona the EXACT same racial profiling that the federal agents maintaining the border of Arizona are using?

Two days before the bill was signed, Governor Brewer asked for Federal Troops to come to the state for security (odd since she is authorizing local troops). Of SB 1070, it is item five which is well, inane, “Allows a law enforcement officer, without a warrant, to arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the U.S.” – the classic official ones are ‘loitering’ or ‘jaywalking’ or ‘related to gang activity’ (since federal law means that no proof is required at all). That's what was used in the South in the 1920's-1960's for a police haul-away.

What that means is now it is down to the police, and the leaders of the police, to visually isolate and determine people who they believe they can remove from the USA (I am guessing they are not looking for Treason but Illegal Immigration). Since the Governor wants the National Guard to stand with rifles at the border of Mexico to ‘defend’ Arizona against ‘trespassing’, it is clear that Hispanics are the primary target. Unless, they REALLY hate the Canadians who visit Mexico while in Arizona and bring back onyx chess sets? So maybe my parents will be shot by the National Guard?

The thing is, for a country which fought for INDIVIDUAL freedom, the individual right, which still pertain, where a person can be free to move about the country, a citizen does not need to produce ‘papers’ in order to simply walk down the street. That is the LAW. But perhaps, soon, not the reality.

Because how does an officer know the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’? Simple. It doesn’t matter. That’s the beauty. The definition in the law of ‘Tresspass’ is “a person is guilty of trespassing if the person is:
a) present on any public or private land in the state and
b) is not carrying his or her alien registration card or has willfully failed to register.”

That means if a person is ALIVE and does not float in the air (the feet touch the ground which will be either public or private land), they can be suspected of ‘tresspass’ and required to present alien registration card. That includes if the person is a US citizen and is not federally required to CARRY proof of citizenship. Yupper, get the wrong officer and you, my US citizen, are going to the pokey….because you can’t prove you aren’t tresspassing as an illegal. Literally guilty until proven innocent. The entire State of Arizona declared itself either a war zone or a detention/concentration camp, where police look over an entire State where the population is guilty until they prove that they are innocent, if they can (and for example, my parents CAN’T!). But I am guessing that since my parents are white, they won’t be stopped. What do you think? I am guessing that US citizen who are white won't be stopped? What do you think. Why not watch the protests and see the racial make-up of the thousands opposing the signing and the dozens (hundreds) approving the signing.

Those very people holding USA flag and cheering for SB 1070, though white, could LEGALLY be stopped on a midnight beer run and yes, detained until they provide proof that they are American Citizens (how many in that crowd do you think don't have Passports? Or might not carry Birth Certificates with them?). Ahh, but I think going into the house of the Head of Police, the Governor and others and throwing them in jail, all LEGALLY, might not be what was intended for SB 1070. And indeed, might lose you your job....for doing the law (hey, you felt in your gut that they were committing and act which might get them deported, and they were on public or private property). If you think this is extreme, already police go into houses of various ethnicities in the early morning, no, not for terrorism, but for immigration. And no, not whites.

But since the ‘enemy is everywhere’, what is the next State going to do? Perhaps a state law requiring tattoos, or chips inserted in all residents? All to know the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’. You think I jest? Section 12 of bill SB 1070 already allows to cover costs for lawsuits or actions against officers due to their actions in this manner. It means they can SCREW UP and they don't have to pay the cost.

Why oh why Arizona do you want to be in a concentration camp so much? What do you fear SO much? The argument is, “It will make everything better.” Better health care, safer communities, better schools, crushing this one minority (you know, the old 'stab in the back' idea about a group) will make it a better place for everyone. – ahhhhhhhh, will the trains run on time?


Diane J Standiford said...

What a great post and are we not a pathetic bunch over here in the richest, strongest (all arguably), most self-righteous country ever conceived? Abe Lincoln wondered is we could, "long endure" what with our high goals of equality for all people. White and in a wheelchair---I can't believe a terrosits group hasn't approached me yet. A coward? It is called survival. I hope Canadians stay away from sunny Arizona and the state loses a bunch of money. Nothing motivates the U.S. like money.

FridaWrites said...

I think it's just a matter of time until American citizens are arrested *and* deported to a country that's not their place of birth.

Yes, that's the irony--someone who's born in the U.S. won't have papers, someone's who's immigrated illegally won't have papers. Only those with a liminal status will have papers. So yes, American citizens will be arrested and not have proof to extricate themselves in an expedient way. Wow.

This may have to get straightened out in the courts, but it may take some time.

It's maddening how contradictory the U.S. policies are. The Bush administration had proposed amnesty for people who already live in the U.S.; at the same time, deportation efforts seemed to increase. I really don't understand the inconsistencies.

In Texas a year ago, meat factory workers were arrested while their children were all at school. So the kids came home to no parents--children taking care of children or some women taking care of many, many children of coworkers. That wasn't well thought out. That was really awful to do to children. They need their parents.

Aviatrix said...

Two political cartoons on the subject. It's astonishing that the citizenry of a country that has so much to say about civil liberties doesn't see what they are setting themselves up for.

Vanessa said...

It's absolutely appaling! This law is going to start riots if they don't repeal it soon! I'm a native of Arizona and my older brother, who is half Mexican, still lives there. He was stopped in a road block this morning and was detained for almost 6 hours despite the fact that he had his driver's license, Social Security card, car insurance, medical cards, and mail in his name on his person at the time.

He was born right here in Oklahoma and doesn't understand a word of Spanish but they refused to listen to him when he said he didn't understand, instead screaming at him in Spanish and threatening him with firearms.

Oh, and what does my brother do? He owns a large construction company in the area and is frequently seen on commercials all over the Valley (Phoenix area). His freaking truck has a pic of him on the side giving a huge thumbs up. WOW.

Yeah I'm dying to see the t.v. coverage on this tomorrow. LOL He's not the only big name person that got pulled over for looking Mexican. Hell they've been pulling over Native Americans too. People are throwing a complete BIOTCH FIT about this one and rightfully!

This country makes me sick.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Vanessa: Amazing! Horrific! the Governor promised there would be 90 days of 'training to avoid profiling' BEFORE this was implimented. I guess knowing that any complaint or suit against them is already protected has some law enforcement jumping right out of the gun. A roadblock? I am very sorry this happened to your brother. The police demand what? Travel papers before they issue them? Do they forget that such tactics have only been used by Regimes whose names are still cursed to this day?

I wish they did a roadblock on Millionaires Row (all towns have them) or better yet, a fundraising $1,000 a plate political dinner - that a few police officers would realize that the law allows for ANY public or private land, and so to enter and start screaming at and detaining State Senators, Lobbyist, and elected officials for not taking a passport to a dinner is fair game.

An open discrimination police state? Who polices the police, I wonder? Can the police stop other police on duty and require them to show citizenship? What they have enacted is, if taken to the full effect, Anarchy (with guns). Which is why States shouldn't try to take over bits of Federal mandates just because it looks easy - it is easy to start, like a boulder going down a mountain, but when the tops of fir trees are being ripped off by the thing bouncing downhill.....not quite so easy to stop then. I hope the Governor Brewer stops this TODAY. Why? Because technically, this is no different than what was called 'The whiskey rebellion' when states decided they could or could not follow federal law as they wished - George Washington, the president, got on a horse and reviewed the Army to supress the state in question to make it clear once and for all that NO, this is the UNITED STATES of AMERICA. It would be a shame for an national army to have to take over control of Arizona, and the police and other state law enforcements for the same reason.

wendryn said...

Thank you for writing this! The whole situation has me deeply irritated at the stupidity of people. Argh!

deadrose said...

This sort of behaviour freaks me out. It's not just in Arizona, either:

It's now America: "I got mine and I'm going to make sure nobody else gets any."

I wonder how this is going to be used against the First Nations/Native American tribes whose land traditionally straddled the current border, the ones that are supposed to have complete freedom to cross back and forth at will. Fom what I've seen, the type of Arizonan that approves of this law hates the indiginous people as much as they hate the Mexicans.

Kate J said...

It's much the same in the UK, with non-white people (UK citizens and foreigners alike) being far more likely to be stopped, questioned, searched... and to have their DNA taken and kept.

The police used to be toughest on Afro Caribbeans but are now, post 9/11, more likely to target Asians. I was recently in a main railway station and saw several Asian people (students, as it turned out) stopped and questioned by visibly armed officers (remember that our Police are not routinely armed). Then at Eurostar St Pancras station, the only passenger I saw who was asked to open her luggage for search was, yes, an Asian woman.

And as for the way the UK authorities treat 'failed' asylum seekers, imprisoning them and their kids, armed police turning up at their homes at dawn, dragging scared kids out of bed... this is people who committed no crime at all. One woman was taken from hospital, where she was having cancer treatment, and put on a plane to Ghana, just because she had overstayed her student visa.

And yet suggestions that people who have lived here for some years should have an 'amnesty' which would allow them to work legally, pay taxes etc, are greeted with horror by the press.

Love & peace

ps. How come you are both a Canadian and US citizen, by the way? Must be quite handy!

yanub said...

It really did begin with the passport crap. I don't even know how that became law. I don't remember that there was a vote taken, just that, suddenly, we were all suspects who could no longer travel freely.

The birth certificate thing is ridiculous, too. My daughter, who gets a disability check from the federal government, is wrangling with the state over her birth certificate, the very same one that had been perfectly good for giving her a driver's license and ID cards ever since she was 16.

I think it is a marvel how the very Tea Baggers who are in a panic that Obama (!) will create a dictatorship are the same people who are so eager to have such draconian and invasive laws passed on the supposed theory that "if you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about." That same line of reasoning is used by tyrants and their supporters everywhere.

Vanessa, may I say that I am glad your brother got harassed by these goons? It sounds like he is just the right person to launch a challenge to the law. I wondered how long it would be until a well-known and fairly prosperous person was unconstitutionally detained. Sounds like the answer was "minutes".

Jordan said...

I'm an Arizonan, and this whole situation vexes me, from the hypocrites who bray about all the neoliberal rights to which (white) people are entitled to the self-righteous assholes who actually voted for the damn thing. When are we going to wake up and start focusing on the issues that matter? Things like education, egalitarianism, sustainable living, environmental preservation (we're A PART of the system, not ABOVE it), advocacy?

If I had an army of Tyranids, there would be some changes made.

Matthew Smith said...

I'm in the UK as well, and in fact foreigners (that is, non-EU citizens) have to carry identity cards with them at all times now. The government had it in mind to make them compulsory for everyone, but backed down in the end, partly over civil liberties issues but partly because the IT needed for their supposedly foolproof biometric database would end up costing billions of pounds as have several other big government IT projects.

Gary Younge wrote this piece for today's Guardian, in which he mentions an incident in which an immigration minister named Meg Hillier, campaigning for election in an area with a big BNP (Nazi party) presence, boasted that "we deport someone every eight minutes" and "We fingerprint anyone who comes in for over six months. Foreigners now have to carry special national identity cards". Grandstanding on immigration is a common political tactic here as well.

Laura said...

Mark my words people this is only half of it. Does anyone know the conceled carry laws of Arizona? There really aren't any! Just about anyone can carry a conceled weapon in the State of Arizona. It doesn't take much of an imagination to finish that scenario does it. The law enforcemnt officials won't be culpable for anything. Sounds like the good ole days of Tombstone to me.

Excellent blog Beth.

Raccoon said...

I've seen more articles and blogs etc. about this than I have about the volcanoes erupting in Iceland. Since news media is supposedly liberal, most of it is against this law -- San Francisco wants to start a boycott against Arizona, for instance.

On the other hand, I had a great Life Day, and not one but TWO postcards!

Elizabeth McClung said...

Raccoon: happy life day - hey, I just want them to imprison my parents, and all the other senior citizens of Canada as their good law compells them to do. Super white, no-tan senior citizens in Arizona should be pretty easy to profile. haha.