So, what the fuck is up with Arizona? Wasn’t the Martin Luther King Day fiasco enough for them? Do they enjoy being thought of as racist? Do they enjoy being boycotted and losing billions of dollars in tourist and tax revenues? They remind me of Jan Brady, the middle child on the Brady Bunch that always felt neglected and ignored. Maybe earning nicknames like Aryanzona makes them at least feel noticed. Worse yet, Arizona is more like that little girl whose daddy used to sneak into her bedroom at night, and now that daddy sneaks into her little sister’s room instead, takes to cutting herself. Whatever it is, Arizona needs a therapist, bad.
Now, I get Arizona’s frustration. Ever since California tightened its borders, Arizona has become the go to state for undocumented latinos to find a spot to cross into American-Dream-World. It’s like Cali finally decided to start wearing a chastity belt, and everybody decided to scoot up Arizona’s skirts, instead. Meanwhile, the Pimp-in-Chief turns a blind eye leaving the poor trick to protect herself. And she can’t expect any relief in the near future. After Healthcare, things are already sketchy for the democrats. They can’t afford to tackle something as divisive as immigration reform before the upcoming midterm elections. So yeah, poor Arizona will continue getting fucked. That is, however, no excuse.
SB1070 as the legislation is known, or the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, was signed into law by Arizona governor Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010. Once it goes into affect on July 28, 2010 the law will make it a state misdemeanor to be in Arizona without proper documentation, already a federal crime. If you are stopped for some other infraction, minor or otherwise, you must present proof of your immigration status if there is reasonable suspicion that you are in the country illegally. The term that makes this law unreasonably vague is reasonable suspicion.
What counts as reasonable suspicion? Legally, it’s defined as a standard lower than probable cause. All that’s required is that any person or officer of the law in the same circumstances could reasonably believe a person has been, is, or is about to be engaged in criminal activity. So what will constitute reasonable suspicion in this case? I imagine that the only people that will get asked for their papers will be brown people with heavy Latin American accents. I seriously doubt that some white German dude with a heavy accent getting cited for speeding through the desert in his brand new Audi TT will get asked for his documentation. As such, the law essentially legalizes racial profiling.
Governor Jan Brewer knows this. The changes made to the law in the past week—lowering the penalties, prohibiting discrimination, etc.—prove that. You can say you’re not going to profile all you want, but when a law is designed specifically to stem of the flood of brown folx pouring into your state, what else can you call it? Just because it’s legal does not make it right.
I doubt the law will hold up under judicial scrutiny. That’s beside the point. It doesn’t change the fact that Arizona is lost in its irrational fears. Like that hypothetical abused little girl who turns to cutting herself, Arizona is making decisions based purely on emotion, not reason. She gets plenty of attention, but it always seems to be the wrong kind of attention. Nothing gets better. It won’t. Until she gets her shit straight, Arizona will continue to get fucked and leave right-minded people just shaking their heads.
Fernando Quijano III is the former President of the Maryland Writers Association, Baltimore Chapter. His work has been featured in Welter, Smile Hon, You’re in Baltimore & the poetry anthology, Life in Me Like Grass on Fire. An excerpt from his unpublished novel, Forever, Lilith was included in the Apprentice House anthology Freshly Squeezed. He has been featured at the Baltimore Book Festival, Stoop Storytelling, & The Signal on WYPR, Baltimore's local NPR station. In his spare time, Fernando volunteers to lead workshops for Writing Outside the Fence, a program for the ex-offender community, as well as at the Brock Bridge Correctional Facility. Fernando was recently awarded a B grant for his writing by the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund.