"They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."Today, the U.S. Constitution has been trampled upon. Civil rights have been violated.
Today, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law a bill, S.B. 1070, which requires police officers to check the papers of anyone who they "reasonably suspect" could be undocumented. This bill also allows individuals to sue law enforcement agencies in Arizona for not taking sufficient steps to enforce federal immigration laws.
No details of what constitutes "reasonable suspicion" are given in the bill. In today's press conference, Governor Brewer acknowledged that racial profiling is illegal but insisted that this bill "represents what's best for Arizona" as the state works to solve a "crisis" that the federal government "refuses to fix."
Under this law, well-intentioned police will find themselves in a bind, since they will be required to engage in racial profiling and threatened with lawsuits if they do not. (The Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police opposed the bill.) Rogue police officers will have free rein to terrorize communities.
In response to a reporter's question, Governor Brewer said, "I do not know. I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like."
Across Arizona, individuals are asking themselves: Do I look like an illegal immigrant to you? We should all be asking ourselves the same question. This bill doesn't just violate the basic civil rights of all the residents of Arizona -- it threatens our rights. Each of us.
When this bill goes into effect in 90 days (unless a lawsuit impedes its implementation), parents will be terrified to drop their children off at school in case an officer sees their skin tone and decides they could be "illegal." Victims of domestic violence will refuse to call the police for fear of being wrongly arrested and deported. Residents, acting out of fear or malicious intent, could turn each other in to the police. Anyone with an accent or who "appears" to be foreign-born could be forced to stay in their homes rather than risking a trip to the grocery store.
This isn't who we are. This isn't what we stand for. But the more we tolerate this sort of disregard for the rights of others, the sooner we will see our own rights crumbling as well.
President Obama called this bill "misguided" and instructed his staff to "monitor the situation," but he did not take any direct action to urge Governor Brewer to veto the bill. In this video, he says the bill "threatens to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between the police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe."
As Congress and the Obama administration still have not yet made good on their promise to reform the immigration system, states are taking matters into their own hands.
We find ourselves in a dangerous situation, because those who speak out against reactive and dangerous anti-immigration legislation may put themselves in harm's way. In Arizona, Rep. Raul Grijalva, who opposes S. B. 1070, had to close his Yuma and Tuscon offices because of death threats and threats of violence.
This is out of control.
We desperately need immigration reform. If Congress cannot deliver a humane bipartisan bill this year, Arizona may only be the start.
For the full text of S.B. 1070, click here.