FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Papers!

by RON JACOBS

The new anti-immigrant law in Arizona (SB 1070) is more than a racist law.  It is a device designed to divide and conquer.  It’s not designed to just divide white-hued folks from brown hued ones; nor is it designed to merely divide citizens from non-citizens.  It is also designed to divide Latinos.  If one looks to previous such laws, say in Nazi Germany or apartheid South Africa, they will find stories of Jews who turned in their fellow Jews and South African blacks who turned in their fellow Africans.  A common motivation for this behavior was the belief that by turning in a supposedly illegal person, the forces of the law would not turn their wrath on those who were doing the turning in.

This scenario rests on the very supposition that a person can or can not be illegal.  Illegality is a human construct.  It can be given and taken away at the whim of those in power.  Laws such as Arizona’s SB 1070 utilize  the suppositions inherent in this construct by labeling a certain type of person as illegal.    It then takes this supposition and applies it to everyone, no matter whether they are legal or not in the eyes of the state.  In Arizona, it works like this.  There are many Latinos in the state of Arizona that do not have the necessary documents that would make it legal for them to live in Arizona.  Most of these Latinos are brown-skinned.  There are also many Latinos who live in Arizona that are either native-born US citizens or have documents that state they are in Arizona legally.

SB 1070 mandates that the police in Arizona check the documents of everyone whom they suspect of being in their state illegally.  This means that either  the police are to develop a special sense to determine who is living there illegally before they ask for identification or they are to ask for the required documents at their whim.  Furthermore, if a citizen thinks someone is without documents stating their legal status and the police fail to investigate this citizen’s belief, those police will be in violation of the law.  Secondary violations of any part of the law by any party are considered to be felonies and will result in prison time for the offending party.

The response to this law from politicians, the media and other self-appointed societal guardians has been mixed at best.  Some have come out against it while others have come out strongly in favor.  Most, however, seem to be waiting to see which way the political winds blow.  We are told by many of the  politicians that are against SB 1070 that this law is  “un-American.”   This is categorically untrue.  The historical record of the United States is filled with laws whose only intention was to maintain a second class status for certain immigrants.  From the laws enforcing the slave status of Africans to the Chinese Exclusion Acts; from laws institutionalizing racial segregation in the US South to the various  employment schemes designed to control the flow of Latinos into the fields and other workplaces of corporate America, there is very little that is so profoundly “American” as legalized discrimination against immigrants, especially those labeled non-white.

Of course, most politicians speaking out against SB 1070 are unlikely to share this understanding of history.  This doesn’t render their opposition irrelevant.  Instead, it provides the more radical wing of the movement for a humane immigration policy with an opportunity to gain the ears of these politicians and their supporters.  The opportunity to challenge the idea that some people can be illegal merely by their presence has never been greater.  Indeed, Arizona’s attempt to codify that idea has the potential to expose anti-immigrant sentiment for the ultimately racist sentiment that it is.

Getting back to the point made earlier in this piece, this law is about creating division.  National borders are reinforced to control wages of workers of all nationalities and to create and maintain divisions. Laws like SB 1070 are merely internal extensions of those borders. Just like imperial war, immigration control is a tool of the imperial elites in their pursuit of domination and profit. If the immigrant rights movement wants to be truly successful, it must keep this perception as its basis. While opposing laws like SB 1070 is crucial, the movement’s essential demand must be the eradication of borders–especially those borders that restrict humans from crossing them.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net

 

WORDS THAT STICK

 

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

More articles by:
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail