BY MIKE JONES Associate Editor
Sunday, May 02, 2010
5/02/10 at 4:14 AM
One state Oklahoma can always count on when it comes to statistics involving issues such as education or poverty is Mississippi. The Magnolia State usually keeps Oklahoma from being either at the top in poverty or the bottom in any positive statistic. And we appreciate it.
Add Arizona to the list of states to which we would like to offer a big Oklahoma thank-you.
It has been a dead heat in the race to determine which state can pass the most embarrassing, unconstitutional and mean-spirited immigration laws. Arizona took the lead again recently when it passed a controversial law that would make it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally. It also requires state law enforcement officers to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are illegal.
Now, exactly how is that supposed to work? What would make a police officer suspicious that someone might be an illegal immigrant? Well, catching one scaling a border fence would be a slam dunk. But it can't be that easy. How about this? Check anyone whose skin is brown.
Color in the lines?
Now, in Arizona, as it would be in Oklahoma, that could be tricky. Not only is the Grand Canyon State a very sunny place with some very tanned citizens, it also has a Native American population, as does Oklahoma. Maybe the law enforcement officers in Arizona are highly trained enough to distinguish the local legal brown people from the illegal ones. Or maybe they can see the difference between Native Americans and Hispanics. And, get this, not all Hispanics are brown. So, check only the brown people?
And what about the perfectly legal 21-year-old Hispanic male, maybe even an American citizen, who forgets his wallet when he leaves for school or work? Any parent of a 21-year-old knows that this can happen easily and frequently.
Brown, 21, male. Does that sound like the profile of a possible illegal immigrant?
If that person happens to be pulled over or stopped on the sidewalk by police and is found without his driver's license or, I suppose, his birth certificate (although there is an element of society that would likely doubt even that) or Social Security card, or maybe a note from Mom, he is going to jail.
Yes, he's going to get out shortly following some phone calls and inconvenience for a friend or family member. But it's a humiliating and degrading experience. How many of us white Americans would tolerate such treatment?
Oklahoma has its own version of onerous immigration law. House Bill 1804 has had its court challenges, as will the new Arizona law. A federal appeals court refused to reconsider its earlier decision that parts of 1804 were already covered by federal law. Such rulings, however, aren't likely to deter the rabid anti-immigration coalition.
Point to Congress
I know, the argument is that they are opposed to illegal immigration. They insist they welcome all immigrants who enter the legal way. And, yes, I do know the meaning of illegal. And, no, I'm not an open borders proponent.
I do believe that the illegal immigration problem, and there is a problem, is a federal issue. If all the citizens who spend so much time and effort pushing unconstitutional state laws would redirect that energy to pressuring their congressmen and U.S. senators to pass strong, fair federal immigration laws and actually make an effort to plug the leaky border, then we might get some movement on reform.
Here's a statement that I can agree with: "We must honor the great American tradition of the melting pot, which has made us one nation out of many peoples. The success of our country depends upon helping newcomers assimilate into our society, and embrace our common identity as Americans." Well said by President George W. Bush in 2007. His attempt to pass immigration law failed, with little to no help from his Republican allies.
Here's another one I like: "We need to come up with a humane, moral way to deal with those people who are here, most of whom are not going anywhere. No matter how much we improve border security, no matter the penalties we impose on their employers, no matter how seriously they are threatened with punishment, we will not find most of them, and we will not find most of their employers."
Those words were uttered by Sen. John McCain in May 2007. That, of course, was before he was running for president in 2008. He once was a champion of bipartisan support for immigration reform. The vocal and voting anti-immigration front of the GOP forced him to not simply waffle but reverse his stand. He now faces a tough fight to retain his Senate seat in an Arizona Republican primary where he is challenged by a former radio talk show host. The once-tolerant and bipartisan McCain, the maverick of the Senate, is nowhere to be found. What a shame.
Although the new Arizona law likely will be challenged and found unconstitutional, its supporters claim that other states have shown interest in passing the same kind of law. It didn't take some Oklahoma legislators long to jump on board. Last week Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, author of the infamous HB 1804 announced that he and others will introduce legislation that would be even tougher than Arizona's. That will mean more state time and money spent defending a likely unconstitutional law.
Illegal immigration is a problem that this nation must face — as a nation. A patchwork of state laws is not the answer.
As for me, I have a problem with giving the police the power to stop anyone in the street and ask to see their papers. It has an ugly echo that maybe many Americans have forgotten. What's next, making all Hispanics, legal or illegal, wear a symbol on their clothes so they can be easily recognized?
It was much easier back in the Jim Crow days when all black people, and most of them were American citizens, were simply denied constitutional rights. Identification mistakes were rare. This new wave of legislation aimed at a particular race has that same stench.
Doesn't this make anyone else a little queasy?
Mike Jones, 581-8332
A woman holds a sign during a protest at the Arizona Capitol against a new law targeting illegal immigrants. ROSS D. FRANKLIN/Associated Press