In Maricopa County, masked deputies of Sheriff Joe Arpaio are conducting massive sweeps of the streets in search of illegal aliens. That’s right, the tactics of used by members of death squads in Latin America and in Iraq, are being employed to terrorize Hispanic-Americans who happen to live or pass through Sheriff Joe’s jurisdiction for the crime of not looking white enough:
Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is not waiting for the controversial law SB 1070 to take affect and so, he continues with police neighborhood sweeps under the guise of crime sweeps. This time, he will be carrying out his 15th sweep with over 150 deputies and Posse volunteers. No doubt, Arizona has become a police state where entire neighborhoods are corralled and its inhabitants are subject to police intrusion and arrest.
Here’s more from a recommended diary at Daily Kos which describes the actions of Sheriff Joe and his posse in further detail:
William Crum Green Congressional candidate in Arizona spotted men dressed in black with their faces covered. Driving black unmarked vehicles as some other vehicles were being towed away. They stopped a hispanic male driving a white pick up truck, after 22 min a second car pulled up (four officers), two min after that another car now 5 officers on the one male and they just put the cuffs on him. […]
Source tells me that Arpaio gave post-sweep interview in which he stated that one reasonable suspicion is “if they speak Spanish.”
This is the type of action one sees in police states, in right wing dictatorships, in the mythical nation of Oceania of George Orwell’s 1984. However, in those countries ordinary citizens had no guns, no weapons with which to oppose the tyrannical regimes oppressing them. That is not the case in Arizona.
According to statistics compiled in 2001 by Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) 31/1% of Arizona residents owned a firearm. I’m willing to bet that 9 years later that number has skyrocketed. And among those gun owners, no doubt a significant number of them are Latinos and Latinas.
To date the protests against the Arizona law that effectively makes it a crime for anyone not to carry proof of citizenship should police stop a person based on a “reasonable suspicion” that he or she are not in the US legally have been non-violent in nature. Calls for a nationwide boycott and preparation for legal challenges to the law are growing even as other states contemplate similar legislation.
However, when current members of law enforcement in Arizona are already behaving as a paramilitary force to harass those of Latin American descent, how long do you think it will take before some hothead decides to defend himself against these unconstitutional violations of the Fourth amendment by exercising his 2nd amendment rights against a “tyrannical government?”
Isn’t that what many Tea party supporters have been claiming they will do if Republicans don;t regain control of Congress this Fall? Yet their “oppression” is mostly a case of manufactured outrage stoked by racist attitudes among many of the participants and the false belief that they are having their “rights” taken away by a “Socialist Tyrant” in the White House. Yet no one is stopping these Tea Partiers in the streets demanding they prove their citizenship or else face arrest as will soon be the case in Arizona. And all based upon a “law” that goes against everything we supposedly hold dear in this country: the right to be free from the heavy hand of government intrusion in our lives.
A law, by the way that is based on a lie:
“Border violence and crime due to illegal immigration are critically important issues to the people of our state,” Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said at the signing of the controversial bill, SB 1070. “There is no higher priority than protecting the citizens of Arizona. We cannot sacrifice our safety to the murderous greed of the drug cartels. We cannot stand idly by as drop houses, kidnappings and violence compromise our quality of life.”
Yet … [a]ccording to FBI statistics, violent crimes reported in Arizona dropped by nearly 1,500 reported incidents between 2005 and 2008. Reported property crimes also fell, from about 287,000 reported incidents to 279,000 in the same period. These decreases are accentuated by the fact that Arizona’s population grew by 600,000 between 2005 and 2008.
According to the nonpartisan Immigration Policy Institute, proponents of the bill “overlook two salient points: Crime rates have already been falling in Arizona for years despite the presence of unauthorized immigrants, and a century’s worth of research has demonstrated that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than the native-born.”
So if rising crime rates caused by “illegal immigrants” are a lie, and cannot form a valid justification for this draconian measure, what did drive the passage of this legalized atrocity? What factor continues to drive legislatures in other states to contemplate similar action? The answer cannot be found among statistics.
It can only be found in the fear among certain white people, fear of those who are not like them. Fear of people who may speak a different language, have a different culture, and whose physical characteristics mark them as individuals who are not descended from Northern Europeans. Fear ramped up by opportunistic Republican politicians and by right wing and conservative media who would rather spread the lies and the hate and the fear than tell the truth.
In short, it is the fear of the Hispanic population’s ethnicity and heritage, and anger generated by that fear, which led to the passage of this “show me your papers, please” law in Arizona. Every Arizona resident who has a Spanish surname, or whose skin color is a shade darker than their white neighbors, has now been singled out as a potential criminal solely on the basis of their ethnic background. They have been singled out for one reason: fear and hatred (among many) of their “race.”
I have no illusions that all Hispanic Americans are angels and that all whites are the villains here. As in any group you can find individuals who are unlikeable, disreputable and who may have committed crimes. But that is true of any ethnic group or “race” (a term I dislike and do not accept as a valid categorization of human beings, but which will use here for the sake of brevity). Assholes come in all colors, as anyone who has witnessed the Tea Party demonstrations and protests can attest.
But that is the human condition. We all know saints and we all know sinners among every age group, every gender, every religious affiliation, every sexual orientation and every race. Yet, we are all equal under the law. That is why the 14th amendment and the Civil Rights Acts were passed: to ensure that a majority could so dominate the organs of government that it could deprive members of the minority of their fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
Arizona has now taken a large step back into our nation;s ugly racist past by placing the power of the state directly behind the oppression of one group by another, of lending its power and authority to the oppression of certain human beings because of the fears and bigotry and anger of another group of fellow humans. It is an old story, but it is not one that we should accept nor tolerate.
I hope that the courts act swiftly to overturn this racist and un-American law passed by Arizona’s legislature and signed into law by a cowardly Governor for purely partisan and political gain. For if they do not, I fear what may be the result.
In the sixties, in the midst of racial inequality and economic despair and police oppression, African American communities erupted into violence. They had been pushed to the limits of their endurance. And again, after the first Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles in favor of abusive, racist police officers, we witnessed in horror the violent riots that erupted again over a matter of racial injustice.
Could a repeat of such violence break out in Hispanic communities in Arizona once the full force of the state government is brought to bear on them? What will be the result of this law after police start enforcing it, whether or not they all adopt the disgusting methods of Sheriff Joe Arpaio? What will happen when the first Hispanic male or female is shot dead by police after a stop based on “reasonable suspicion” goes horribly wrong?
I cannot say, but actions have consequences and those who set prepared the groundwork for government oppression by the State against a significant minority of its population should not be surprised if they reap a bitter harvest from the poisoned fruit they have planted.