Thursday, 12 August 2010

Fear and Loathing in Arizona.

The Home of the Brave?

 The Arizona Senate Bill 1070 may have a soft and cuddly sounding name, the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods act, but on closer inspection the bill could have been a proposal by the American Nazi Party. As the act obliges police officers to demand proof of citizenship from people who "look" like illegal immigrants, if such a person cannot produce registration documents on the spot they can face time in prison. The bill was actually a Republican proposal signed by Jan Brewer nee Drinkwine the Republican Governor of Arizona. At the same time, there has been a wave of fear-mongering using immigration and multiculturalism to rile up the masses with the aim of securing a Republican victory in November. The claim that illegal immigrants are the source of the increase in crime in Arizona is a favourite method of doing so.

Even though crime is at it's lowest since 1971, falling 23% in the last decade alone as illegal immigration has increased by 100%. But on goes the fear-mongering, politicians like Jan Brewer and even John McCain have claimed that illegal immigration is a source of gang activity, drug dealing and murder. Out of 170,000 people picked up by the Tucson Border Patrol this year only 1% have been charged with crimes related to drugs. The claims that over 60% of murders in Phoenix involve illegal immigrants are not recognised by any police department or by the FBI. Equally false is the estimation that 9,000 Americans who are killed by illegal immigrants every year. Republican politician Steve King is responsible for propagating such a falsity, King's reference is to the 2005 GAO Report - which lacks any such statistic. Another fallacious claim is that the majority of Latinos support the bill, when 70% of Latino-Americans oppose the bill.

This fear-mongering has enabled hard-right Republicans to gain prominence in the media as anti-immigration candidates, appealing to the prejudices of many Americans and have been competing with one another to see who can be the most brutal on the issue. Barry Wong, a Republican candidate for the Arizona Corp. Commission, has pledged he'll shut off the utilities of people who can't produce papers proving their citizenship. While others, like John McCain, are content with merely pushing to deprive illegal immigrants of birth certificates, for children born in the US, and the minimal level of health-care. Even though the 14th Amendment guarantees citizenship to people born in the United States. But the Tea Parties have gotten involved and have been arguing that the 14th Amendment does not extend to the children of illegal immigrants, as such people are outside of the jurisdiction of the US.

The Land of the Free?
However, in 1898 the US Supreme Court ruled that Wong Kim Ark was an American citizen because he was born in the United States. In doing so the US Supreme Court set a precedent that people born in the US are American citizens, with the exclusion of the children of diplomats and foreign soldiers. Wong had travelled to China to see his family and was then blocked from re-entering the US. The reason being that in 1892 a racial exclusion act had been enacted, banning the Chinese from migrating to the US. At the time the "Gold Rush" was coming to an end and many Americans found themselves out of work and living in poverty. Chinese immigrants became a scapegoat for the high unemployment which resulted from the end of that era. The US government passed the exclusion act to pander to the anger against the early Chinese settlers.

Furthermore, the United States is a nation of immigrants, the only indigenous people in North America have been marginalised since Columbus landed and dubbed them "Indians" because he thought he was in India. The rest are the descendents of immigrants who crossed the Atlantic from the old world, mostly of European origin but chattel slavery dragged many Africans to the country. Later came Irish, Jewish and Chinese settlers, who were subject to discrimination upon arrival. Today it is mostly Latinos and Arabs who are settling in the US, both of which have become targets of scapegoating and discrimination. Typically people settling in the US are fleeing oppression and poverty, this was true about the Jews fleeing pogroms and it's true about the Mexicans fleeing the economic destruction wrought in Mexico by NAFTA - which is the reason that Clinton started militarising the border in 1994.

So many the illegal immigrants are fleeing poverty, mostly into states which used to be part of Mexico until the 1840s. Even though 25% of the Mexican economy is heroin, it's fair to say that most illegal immigrants are not drug mules specifically because there are easier ways to enter the country than across the border. Take one of the tunnels used by the cartels to smuggle in narcotics, some even have air-conditioning and lighting. Even though the amount of illegal immigrants that have been captured and deported has increased under Obama. People considered "foreign" are being used as a scapegoat for the wage stagnation of the last 30 years, as well as double-figure unemployment and the declining quality of health-care. When really such problems are a product of an unstable economic system centred around "Corporate America".

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