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Arizona Boots Up Brown Immigrants’ Guantanamo

| April 25, 2010

One begets the other, but too late on both counts. (© Codepink)

For the past several years, Maricopa County in Arizona has been America’s best-local-effort approximation of a police state. That’s where Sheriff Joe Arpaio rules, where he made his fame imprisoning inmates in tents in the heat of the Arizona desert and issued them pink underwear to humiliate them, where he imprisoned children as young as 12, supposedly with their consent, to teach them lessons, and where he set loose vigilante posses without badges but with arrest powers.

Maricopa County is also where Arpaio began redrawing the rules of immigration by flouting federal law and becoming a one-man, one-county anti-immigration czar. He profiles brown-skinned immigrants without reserve, rounds them up by the truckload, forces his “aliens” to sing “God Bless America,” and keeps them in his jails for extra indoctrination instead of turning them over to federal authorities, as law requires. Arpaio is an enforcer, but not of law. I wrote three years ago that if the federal government didn’t reform immigration soon, Maricopa County would soon be the bleak future of immigration enforcement for the rest of Arizona and other states with big, brown-skinned populations.

That future is here.

On April 23, Arizona Governor Janice Brewer signed into law the most draconian anti-immigration measure in the country since 1924. That year the xenophobic Asian Exclusion Act barred Asians (including Indians) from migrating to the United States. The exclusion act was a precursor to the internment of 110,000 Japanese-American citizens in concentration camps during World War II, a slice of Stalinist subjugation not unique in American history. There’s no telling what Arizona’s so-called “Safe Neighborhoods” act will lead to. Whatever it is, the demonization of an entire race in law can’t have good consequences.

The law turns state and local police into immigration cops even though the Constitution explicitly spells out in Article 1 that Congress alone has the authority to set a “uniform Rule of Naturalization.” Right-wingers who pushed for this law talk a good game of wanting to “restore” respect for the Constitution when they have Barack Obama’s even darker skin in their sights. But they wouldn’t recognize hypocrisy if it bit them in the Arizona.

For the first time in the United States, cops in Arizona have the right to demand that anyone produce identification to prove legal residence. What has been a habit of several European nations and every authoritarian regime on the planet is now Arizona law. Again, conservatives who pretend to want government off their back have just surrendered to one of the most invasive forms of arbitrary state power. Profiling will replace the saguaro cactus blossom as the state flower. Legal residents and citizens will be caught in the same dragnet of overzealous cops scoring their anti-immigration jollies. And the Fourth Amendment protecting against unreasonable searches, the Fifth requiring due process and protecting against self-incrimination, the Sixth protecting the rights of the accused, the Eighth protecting against cruel and unusual punishment (if you’re in Joe Arpaio country) and the 14th providing equal protecting — they’re all history in Arizona’s Dirty Harry act over brown neighbors.

Arizona’s law won’t stem undocumented immigration. The country’s economic crisis did that already, worsening rather than helping the economy: immigrants, legal or not, are more boon than burden. It’s been so historically, in the roaring 1990s especially. The legal status of an immigrant doesn’t trump his contributions to the country, even less so his dignity. But this isn’t a law to reduce undocumented immigration. It’s a tool to exclude, segregate or punish brown-skinned immigrants, legal or non-legal. It’s a reaction against the diminishing whiteness of a country that will be minority-white within 40 years, in a region where whites will lose their dominant perch even sooner.

We’ve been here before. Listen to Walt Whitman, of all people, decrying in an 1846 editorial for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle the contamination with Mexicans of the white race on the North American continent: “What has miserable, inefficient Mexico—with her superstition, her burlesque upon freedom, her actual tyranny by the few over the many—what has she to do with the great mission of peopling the New World with a noble race? Be it ours to achieve that mission!”

In a speech from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives almost a century later, Texas Congressman John Box displayed American nativism at its shrillest when he declared that “Every reason which calls for the exclusion of the most wretched, ignorant, dirty, diseased, and degraded people of Europe or Asia demands that the illiterate, unclean, peonized masses moving this way from Mexico be stopped at the border.”

How different are the words of such eminent Americans of the 19th and 20th centuries from those of the Arizona governor in the 21st, when she declared a few days ago that “we cannot delay while the destruction happening south of our international border creeps its way north”?

The pretext in Whitman’s time was the cleanliness of the race. In John Box’s time it was the protection of America’s white “stock.” Later it would be about protecting jobs. Now it’s supposedly about protecting America from drugs and terrorists. But it’s the same old yellow-horde, yellow-peril racism of the Exclusion Act, smeared brown.

Sixteen years ago California voters approved Proposition 187 by the respectably mobbish margin of 59 percent. The new law was milder than Arizona’s. It didn’t give cops profiling powers. But it authorized them to check into an individual’s immigration status after any arrest for any violation, jaywalking or a broken tail-light included. It barred undocumented immigrants from receiving any social services whatever, including public education–specified in the prohibitions–and all but emergency medical services. It turned social workers into snitches who could finger for imprisonment any suspected undocumented person who filled out government applications.

Proposition 187 was mean-spirited and regressive, although not, in light of history, quite un-American. Courts struck it down.

Arizona’s parody of an immigration law is far broader in scope and enforcement. Courts will strike it down. That’s a given, if the Constitution is still English to Arizona. What courts can’t strike down is the viral bigotry that made Arizona’s law possible. That virus has long ago crossed Arizona’s borders into the rest of America. Its carrier is as white as a bed sheet and as legal as your next-door neighbor. It is also by far the greater threat to America’s character than anything that ever crossed the Rio Grande.

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21 Responses for “Arizona Boots Up Brown Immigrants’ Guantanamo”

  1. Atilla says:

    Like it or not Arpaio’s actions have won him re-election time and time again. He has become some sort of folk hero, to many who are feed up with __(insert lack of justice issue here)__. Although bottom line is Arizona’s lawmakers and Arpaio are only doing what 70+ percent of their votes want or approve of, so don’t give the blame, or credit to one man.

  2. Pierre Tristam says:

    You’re right Atilla, but Arpaio was something of a genesis to Arizona’s miserable subsequent testament to mob hysteria.

  3. joe says:

    Peirre calls democratic majority rulings “mob hysteria.” Is he willing to assign that label to those who passed the health care legislation using underhanded, secret, back room, special corrupt deals as “mob hysteria” or does he selectively assign such labels as those that support his bias?

  4. Pierre Tristam says:

    Not quite joe. Not all laws’s DNA are made up of hysterics. Just the bigoted ones that seek to exclude and oppress. Health care legislation is designed to help 30 million people get coverage, not keep them from it. You’re just sore you might have to share wealth and health you’ve been hoarding at others’ expense. Incidentally, name me one secret, under-handed backroom deal you didn’t know about before Fox invented it. Just one. And I’m not talking about WMDs.

  5. Montana says:

    Arizona can pass race base laws, pass Birthers laws and the state can continue to boycott Martin Luther King Day, well the rest of the Country can boycott the state of Arizona and spank them where it hurts them the most their pocket book. 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 War profiteering 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.

  6. Reinhold Schlieper says:

    One of the often committed and most fundamental misunderstandings of democracy is that it is a matter of unconditional majority-rule. Not so. A majority must always take great care in preserving minority rights where these do not infringe on the majority. This kind of tolerance is often misunderstood, misinterpreted and only sometimes duly reformed, but it should certainly never wane as a conceptual element of our thinking about rights. Untrammeled majority-rule is indeed mass hysteria and mob rule; Pierre is right.

  7. Jim R. says:

    The Fifth amendment should take care of this Gestapo situation. I wouldn’t want to be stopped and asked for my I.D. either.
    I know Pierre is for open borders, but what is the solution to the impact on jobs and the automatic depressing of wages that happens when supply is greater than demand.
    And if those already here are granted amnesty, how many more will head for the border and what will be the impact if millions and millions more come?
    Can we accept the entire population of the poor in Mexico?
    Please leave the accusations of racism out of this and address these serious questions

  8. Atilla says:

    Just because this is a place to say it. As for illegal aliens working in the US they are taking many jobs that U.S. citizens will not work, for many different reasons. As a labor force we would have a huge problem if we did not have them here, breaking their backs doing the tasks WE are to lazy, educated, or fat and happy on government assistance, to do. Sure some are here on the “dole” but more are at the western union wiring money home to family on payday. What disgusted me was when the idea of “resident workers” and legalizing and documenting these workers was shot down in flames with calls to round them all up and ship them home and build a billion or so dollar wall.

  9. Roy A. Ostapko says:


    We want our jobs – it is as simple as that.

    We want them for our blacks, our hispanics, and yup for our whites.

    When they (the illegal & green card carriers) work on the new roads being developed in Flagler Beach for $7 an hour, it keeps the fair wage of $15 hr reaching our blacks, our hispanics, and yes our whites.

    A businessman told me the other day – Americans would not do the work for $7 hr – my response is pay a FAIR wage of $15 hr. Can’t afford? Do less projects BUT pay a FAIR wage to America’s blacks, our hispanics, and yes our whites.

    Ya see, it is NOT about race BUT PROTECTING AMERICAN CITIZENS and their JOBS!

    Tell me, what is so evil about that.

  10. Jim R. says:

    Ah!, The “Jobs Americans wont do” myth , raises it’s ugly head again.
    Until there were illegal immigrants here, the grass didn’t get cut, the beds didn’t get made, the dishes didn’t get washed, and every dirty and hard job went undone.
    How ridiculous, it’s just as Roy points out, pay a fair wage and Americans will be lined up for any job.
    Back during the Eisenhower recession, ships used to come in where I lived loaded with 100 lb bags of cement. The union longshoremen had enough work and they did not want any part of those ships, so the company, with the unions permission hired non union help, but with the stipulation that they paid union wages. This provided many of us who were unemployed a weeks work at a good wage, it was hard, hot, and dirty work, but it paid good and there was no shortage of guys willing to do it.
    The point is that in those days the businesses were not allowed to take advantage of people desperate for work by paying slave wages, and setting one group against another.
    Open borders will benefit the rich and corporate interests and the American worker will pay the price.
    I don’t pretend to have a fair solution to the problem, but refusing to admit the harm that massive unregulated immigration has on workers here is just plain dishonest, and doesn’t help anyone

  11. Atilla says:

    A good point about the jobs. please re-read my post the part about being lazy and fat and happy on assistance. While it is correct that the illegals and even the green card carrying type work for cheap that is a major reason they have the job. Underemployed is the word that people hide behind during this recession I have talked to so many people that would not even consider an available job because the work or pay was below them. And then the issue of cost we United States citizens are spoiled with cheap everything and while we have passed laws concerning labor, working conditions, and pay (not to mention permitting and environmental) we have not been willing to pay the price attached to the goods produced under their influence. One only needs to go shopping and try to only buy made in the U.S.A.. Just think the shoes you wear were made, packed, put on a boat and unloaded went by train or truck to the store where you bought then and are still cheaper than they could have been made and delivered across town.

  12. Pierre Tristam says:

    Good news everyone! Yesterday I began my workday at 5:45 a.m., finished it at 11:50 p.m., and made a whopping $1.78 (that’s my day’s income from those Google ads you see around the site.) 10 cents an hour, which is actually an improvement over the previous day. I can almost buy a cup of coffee at that other plantation known as Starbucks. Of course, I have to declare the $1.78 to the unemployment office, which will dock my other parody of a relief check (of which I have yet to see a dime) by an equal amount. The blessings of being an American citizen never cease. (I’m kidding. Seriously. I wouldn’t trade this for my formerly plush wages at the News-Journal for anything.)

    Actually JimR, one of the paragraphs that got edited out of my column, which was getting too long, was a quote from Raymond Caroll, a journalist who went around the Southwest during the Depression, when a quarter of Americans were out of work, and found that even then, Mexicans did the heavy lifting in jobs Americans wouldn’t stoop to do: “When there are railroads to be built in this country of cactus and sand, they build them. Where the Mexicans excel is as vegetable laborers in the onion and lettuce fields, growers of cantaloupe and the citrus fruits, berry gatherers, cotton pickers and coal, copper and silver miners in Texas… Although termed the most unassimilable of aliens, Mexicans have leapfrogged from the Rio Grande into the sugar-beet fields of Colorado, and on beyond into Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, where they are active in the meat-packing plants of Chicago, the steel industry of Gary and the copper mines of the Calumet region.”

    The only things that have changed are that today Mexicans have been booted out of what mining and steel jobs remain. Otherwise, nothing has changed: they are the reasons we have half our food on the table. And let’s not forget that for 400 years the South made its miserable economic way through on the backs of slaves, our involuntary immigrants.

    Plenty more to address, especially to Roy, but I have my $1.78 to make for the day.

  13. Roy A. Ostapko says:


    There is a HUGE difference between a strawberry picking job that may last 2 months and has ALWAYS been not enough for the average American VS the jobs I refer to. Stay focused.

    Face the TRUTH Pierre, I am talking about our primary jobs – THAT USE TO PAY FAIR WAGES and can again – NOW. Like road construction & home construction.

    My thoughts reflect ways to SOLVE issues – your way seems to just stir things up – True Pierre?

    We DON”T need nor want trouble in Flagler. We do want good discussion to reach peaceful solutions.

  14. joe says:

    The Democratic mob hysteria passed health care through back door deals such as the Louisiana Purchase, the CornHusker kickback, the SEIU deal. You truly exposed yourself as a socilaist with your comment of redistibuting wealth and health that you allege I hoarded. You do not know me, my status regarding my health care to make such a statement. No wonder the News Journal let you go. Your bias is sickening.

  15. Jim R. says:

    Well that’s Raymond Carroll’s opinion. You must have seen the documentary of the building of Hoover dam. it showed long lines of men lined up for the jobs, which included hanging off the side of a cliff with a jack hammer, and other dangerous jobs, they appeared to me to be mostly Gringos. Nobody is denying the work ethic of Mexicans, Its just insulting to suggest that whites and Blacks wont do hard labor.
    I also worked for a time as third helper on an electric furnace in a steel mill, The lead guy was polish, the second helper Puerto Rican , and the guy doing the hardest work, Me, a Gringo.
    In the mountains out west when they were building the railroad it was Chinese labor, that was doing much of the hard work, all this proves that if a job pays enough people will work and race has nothing to do with it..

  16. Jim R. says:
    According to this there was discrimination in hiring , but my point continues to be, White folks are not too lazy to do hard work.

  17. Jim R. says:

    Joe You must have been sleeping the last 30 -40 years the wealth has already been redistributed
    it went from the middle class right up to the top 1%,
    If socialism means a more equal distribution of wealth across the population, call me a socialist.
    The rich elites have somehow brainwashed many people in this country into thinking that them having all the wealth is o.k., and silliest of all, if you work hard you too can be like them. What a crock.

  18. David Frank says:

    I see that Pierrie is now answering his own e mails, must have more time on his hands since the NJ canned him. How is hope and change working for you Pierrie?

  19. Jim R. says:

    Hey David, Its Pierre,and the worst thing to happen to the NJ is losing him.
    The NJ now reads like a high school paper, giving us all the local scandal and police blotter news.
    Nothing you read in the paper now, is something you didn’t already know.
    I am saving $218 a year , but unfortunately we are all worse off for the lack of controversy ,that the unvarnished truth of the prior NJ editorials brought us.
    Pierre presented his views, like it or not, agree with him or not, but he made you think.
    The news journals editorial page now is like feeding your brain oatmeal, no taste but easy to digest.

  20. Jim G. says:

    Mr. Frank,
    It’s always nice to take a break to delight in someone else’s hoped-for suffering, eh? Are you equally supportive of others who have lost jobs?

    I have never read the NJ, except for Pierre’ s pieces, but I would consider getting canned by a newpaper in search of conformity to be a badge of honor rather than shame. I wish him well in this new endeavor and will now be following along here. I’m sure he will do well. I hope the NJ’s declining readership is happy with the new and improved non-controversial editorial page. Maybe they can pick up a few subscriptions in Arizona, as well.

    By the way, are you suggesting with the snide reference to hope and change that changes at the NJ were in any way related to the new administration? The connection seems a little simplistic and tenuous to be taken seriously, considering the changes that have been taking place in the newpaper industry over the last 10 years or longer. It seems like every time someone so much as gets a hangnail, there’s some troll who wants to say it’s because of our descent into socialism/communism/fascism under Obama. Is there some more profound meaning to your post that I missed?

    Jim G.

  21. NortonSmitty says:

    You know what really confounds me? The issues of the biggest TP fans (that’s Tea Party, not Toilet Paper) are so angry about are valid and worthy of anyone’s anger.

    Middle Class losing ground? Unfair tax burden on working people? Getting ripped off by Banks, Insurance, Oil, Utilities? Check. Who wouldn’t be pissed?

    But they should be channeling their efforts on the people most responsible, ie, REPUBLICANS. Ronald Reagan, Bushies, Newt, Tom DeLay, and the rest who let their Big Corporate, Multi-billionaire owners loot the middle class like it was a piggy bank.

    Instead, they know who the real enemy is. Liberals! Progressives! DEMOCRATS! The very people who were (or should have been) yelling and screaming that This Was Not Good. You know, Socialists. Or is it Mexicans this week?

    They know this, because their TP leaders told them.

    No, not Ron Paul, the new ones. FreedomWorks, run by Dick Armey and funded by Phil Gramm, the very deregulators that have been breaking it off in their ass for some thirty years now.

    How is this possible? Simple We live in a Democracy. One vote each. And as any statistician will tell you, 50% of the American people are below average in intelligence. Hard to believe, but it’s true. You could look it up (maybe). I just read that Fox news claims that they get 50% of the viewers for their fair and balanced news reports. Probably a coincedence, but I’m just sayin’…

    So all of you Johnny-come-lateleys to this anger thing, the gloves are off. I’m tired of humoring you, debating you, tryng to make some sense of your anger. I ‘d buy you books, but you’d just lick the paste off the bindings.

    I was flying the Gadsen flag twenty years ago, and you corrupted it for me. I’ll design you your own flag if you give me my snake back. I’m thinking a big Teddy Bear, maybe with a ball gag in it’s mouth, saying “Thank you sir’ May I have another?” Ill even throw in a bumper sticker:

    “I work for a Living. I vote Republican. I’m Stupid” has a nice ring to it.

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