Thursday, May 6, 2010

Jersey Justice

We all pretty much know by now that Arizona has passed a lot with a lot of problems. Putting politics aside, it has a lot, a lot of problems. A standard of "reasonable suspicion" for asking Americans for documents? Even with our shrinking Fourth Amendment, that screams a misunderstanding of the law. That isn't the only problem (there's also the state/federal province issue, the citizens' right to sue police, etc.), but it was the first that jumped out at me. (Though the citizens' right to sue - wow - so, someone calls in to the police to report some "suspicious looking people" at the local fast food restaurant, and then can sue the police if they don't arrive - or arrive soon enough - to investigate?)

On a practical level, if my last name was Rodriguez, and I lived in Arizona, I'd be moving. I don't care how legal I am, or how many generations my family had lived in the United States, or if a red carpet had spilled out for us way back when, welcoming us to this country. By August, when the new law goes into effect, I would either move or expect my life - and the lives of my children - to become scary and unpredictable, any time I left the house to go to the grocery store, or to visit a friend, or to go watch a sports event.

Seriously, could you imagine being a Hispanic American with that kind of law passing? To be afraid to speak that beautiful Spanish language because it would give police "reasonable suspicion" that you are illegal? I love Spanish - I studied it in high school and college, I read parts of Don Quijote in the original Spanish - but if I had darker coloring, I would be afraid to use Spanish in Arizona for fear of people suspecting me of a crime, stopping me, arresting me... And how awful is that? That my blonde hair and blue eyes would allow me to speak Spanish when my dark-haired neighbor can't.

And while I have sympathy for people here illegally - well, they are here illegally. If we have laws, we should enforce them. If the laws are not working, we should change them. But the laws should not be traps for Americans. That's the point that people seem to be missing, and where we should have consensus. Which is perhaps the most depressing part of this law passed in Arizona. What is it - 75% of Arizonans support this law??

The local newspaper "gets" it. The Arizona Republic printed a front-page editorial listing all the local politicians who failed Arizona on the way to passing this law. It starts out: "We need leaders. The federal government is abdicating its duty on the border. Arizona politicians are pandering to public fear. The result is a state law that intimidates Latinos while doing nothing to curb illegal immigration." Here's the full text.

The law's follies are yet to develop. Joe Scarborough (on "Morning Joe") the other day pointed out the likely scenario of someone dealing with an emergency - like a man going to get medicine for his wife in the middle of the night and forgetting his identification, and getting arrested, and being unable to help his wife, who ends up in the hospital or worse - and how that will be the legacy of this law, in the end.

So it was very cool what the Phoenix Suns - or, should I say, "Los Suns" - did yesterday.

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, and in quiet response to the impending law, and in recognition of their Hispanic players (which apparently make up about 15 percent of the NBA), Phoenix wore their "Los Suns" jerseys at their playoff game last night, against the San Antonio Spurs. And then they won the game. (That seems like jersey justice, doesn't it? Hence my heading.)

Apparently they've played in these jerseys twice before, and won both times. Jerseys, 3 - people who hate Spanish, 0. Not that winning was necessary. But it's nice.

Here are two articles on it - before: "Immigration Takes Center Court at Suns-Spurs Playoffs," and after: "'Los Suns' Join Protest, Then Stop the Spurs."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The circumstances of Hispanics of Arizona is similar to the fear that all African-Americans felt in the U.S. after the Dred Scott decision. Even though we had over 400,000 free blacks they were in danger of being questioned and being snatched up to be taken to the slave states to be sold, being treated as fugitive slaves, even if they had the proper papers.