A Crack Law By Any Other Name

By now, most of the world has learned that the Republican-dominated legislature in Arizona and its unelected governor are capable of creating laws more associated with repressive regimes – or bygone eras – than with modern states. And it also knows it has become a magnet for supremacists of every stripe and color.

That’s not a good thing, but for those thousands who are bankrolling Gov. Jan Brewer’s defense of the state’s racial profiling law SB 1070 – scheduled to go into effect July 29 – many actually believe she is putting up a valiant defense against invading and violent [brown] hordes. Seemingly unbeknownst to her supporters, contrary to her recent claims, the vast majority of migrants are not involved in the drug trade. Despite Border Patrol officials telling her otherwise, she continues with her uninformed falsehoods and fear-mongering, with the effect of continuing to associate migrants with [drug] criminality.

Also unbeknownst to these legislators, is that ironically, one of their wacko laws can actually provide the solution to ending the drug cartel violence raging across Mexico: the state’s anti-human smuggling law. In this state, migrants can be charged and convicted of conspiring [with their coyote] to smuggle themselves into Arizona. The law was not designed that way, but leave it to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to interpret the law in such a manner.

After having been stripped of his 287g federal immigration powers – stemming from his penchant for media choreographed mass dragnet raids aimed at red-brown communities – he now relies on the state’s anti-human smuggling law to stage his dehumanizing productions.

As bizarre and abused as this law is – if emulated to fight the drug war in the United States – the drug cartel wars in Mexico would come to a virtual halt overnight. If the same Arpaio logic were applied to the nation’s drug trafficking laws, then every American who uses imported illegal drugs would be complicit and guilty of conspiring to smuggle those drugs into this country. And we would need a lot more prisons.

Either that or perhaps the drug demand by Americans would drop quite precipitously… pronto. No one can seriously doubt that it is the American demand for drugs that is fueling the drug cartel wars in Mexico. The American market is extremely lucrative. Cocaine, for example, is not grown or produced in Mexico. Yet, it is funneled through Mexico to quench the voracious American appetite. As part of this demand, American noses and arms are satisfied while many thousands of Mexicans die in the crossfire.

The state legislature or Congress could charge drug users with conspiracy to smuggle the drugs they use. There is but one reason this will never happen: WE ARE AMERICANS!

Americans have rules for everyone else and rules for themselves (Invading nations without a just cause is one example). Actually, “Americans” in this case is more specific; when it comes to drugs, there are rules for White, middle and upper middle class Americans, and then there are rules for people of color.

Cocaine is the perfect example. Since 1986, there has been a 100 to 1 possession disparity between its consumption as crack (wrongly associated with poor blacks) or in its powder form (middle class whites). Historically, under federal law, 5 grams of crack is the same as 500 grams of powdered cocaine. Each trigger a 5-year prison sentence. Over the past generation, this sentencing and incarceration disparity, not coincidentally, has long been indisputably racial in nature, resulting in the filling up of this nation’s prisons with black and brown drug offenders.

But back to how Arizona’s bizarre anti-smuggling law could be used to stem the drug cartel violence. American drug users – most of whom are white – could be charged, not with simple possession, but with felony conspiracy to bring in their own drugs. If applied judiciously and uniformly, the fear of long-term prison incarceration – 10 years, for example – would invariably dry up the fuel for the drug cartel violence.

It would also deflate the conflation between drug smuggling and migrants.
As most of the world already knows, that conflation has always been false.

Yet that’s par for Arizona where bizarre is normal and truth is difficult to find. Perhaps the Justice Department – which has now sued Arizona over SB 1070 on the grounds that immigration policy is the purview of the federal government, not the states – will bring a little bit of truth to the desert. Meanwhile, 153 bodies have thus far been recovered this year in that same merciless desert.

ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at XColumn@gmail.com






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