Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Message to Arizona

There is a blog post from the Arizona Republic site by Laurie Roberts that attempts the impossible: defending Arizona's new immigration law, previously discussed on this blog.  She bemoans the fact that it's made Arizona "look bad"  then goes on to say the reason it was passed was that the "current and previous administrations" (although she goes out of her way to point at President Obama and Secretary Napolitano) let Arizona down on border control.  But here is where she gets down to the real reason that the bill is worth supporting, according to her:

It is because of Washington's steadfast refusal to do its job that we find ourselves where we are today – when half of Arizona Democrats, 69 percent of independents and a whopping 84 percent of Republicans support SB 1070, according to the latest Rasmussen Poll of likely voters.

Dismiss this, if you like, as the work of the “radical fringe”, as Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund did on Friday. But 70 percent of likely voters supported this law.
That's all probably true, but she and others who are repeating this line are missing a huge point: 

Rights are rights and not subject to popularity contests, polls or votes.

The issue here isn't about the so-called "illegal immigrants" - if Arizona had stuck to strengthening border patrols to stem the tide crossing their southern border and offered to assist federal law enforcement in finding illegals there wouldn't be much of a fuss if any.  Other states have done so and the assistance of local law enforcement is not only appreciated, it is encouraged. 

Where Arizona crossed the line was when they decided that they had the power to arrest people who look like illegals (aka "reasonable suspicion") when they don't have the papers on them to prove otherwise.  This violates our principles of innocent until proven guilty and the right not to be forced to incriminate yourself.  I don't care if 100% of Arizonians support doing away with those rights protected by the Constitution because of a perceived threat, they don't get to decide who gets rights and who doesn't.  Period.

This isn't the first time putting rights up to polls and votes has been tried either. 

In the years following World War II, African Americans found themselves confronted with increasing patterns of housing segregation. They were excluded from the suburbs and the real-estate industry, which severely restricted educational and economic opportunities. In 1955, William Byron Rumford, the first black to serve in the California State Legislature, introduced a fair-housing bill outlawing housing discrimination on the basis of race.

In 1963, California Legislature passed the Rumford Fair Housing Act which outlawed restrictive covenants and the refusal to rent or sell on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, marital status, or physical disability.

In reaction to the law, a well-funded coalition of realtors and landlords was determined to protect white neighborhoods and property values. They immediately began to campaign for a referendum that would amend the state Constitution to protect property owners' ability to deny minorities equal access to housing. Known as Proposition 14, it was passed by 65 percent of the voters.

In 1966, the California State Supreme Court, in Mulkey v. Reitman, ruled that Proposition 14 violated the State Constitution's provisions for equal protection and due process.

In 1967, in Reitman v. Mulkey, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed the decision of the California Supreme Court and ruled that Proposition 14 had violated the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
It wasn't OK to put peoples' rights up for a vote in California in the '60s and it's not OK for Arizona to restrict rights by law now.  The US and state constitutions do not grant rights that may be taken away by a majority vote, state law, or the percentage of support a poll shows.  All of them work off a simple proposition:  we are born with rights and the Constitution only exists to protect them from being taken away.

Arizona, like California before it, is about to learn that lesson as their new 70%-approved law is challenged in court and likely overturned. 

Let those who are considering following Arizona's lead learn the same lesson.


Todd Curl said...

Couldn't agree with you more. As a former resident of Arizona, it sickens me the extent of the racism and xenophobia that exists to enable this neo-Jim Crow BS Bill to pass and to actually be defended by anyone with half a brain cell. I wrote a little post on the issue as well the other day; some similarities to yours. Keep up the good fight, Todd

Robert said...

It breaks ones heart to realize that at it's core, the United States of America can be goaded by fear and manipulation to turn on itself and it's constitution. What's equally, if not more, frightening is that corporations who most benefit from exploitation of undocumented workers, and the destruction of the middle class that so fears them, will be able to spend all the money they wish to support candidates and push referendums taking us even further down this path.