Arizona recently passed the Support our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, which Human Rights Watch points out is against the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) treaty to which the United States is a signatory. The treaty (ratified by the US in 1994), requires the government to take affirmative steps to eliminate discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national / ethnic origin.
Arizona’s lawmakers and the bill’s various proponents attempt to defend this bill (which requires law enforcement officers to stop and obtain verification of legal residency from anyone who appears to be an illegal alien … the actual language is, “determine the immigration status of a person during any legitimate contact made by an official or agency of the state if reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the U.S.”) by saying it won’t employ racial discrimination. In every interview I have heard the lawmakers continually fail to state how they will manage to find illegal aliens if not by racial profiling. Governor Brewer stated, “I want you all to know that racial profiling is illegal. It’s the law … We are going to be very diligent, and we’re going to make absolutely sure that that law … will be implemented properly and respectfully.”
So the question remains how will agents of the government obtain reasonable suspicion as to a person’s unlawful presence in the United States if not by profiling them on the basis of race or national origin? Unless we are talking about stopping people who are observed climbing over border fences it stymies my imagination to think of a way to legally implement this policy.
Illegal immigrants are not a drain on healthcare. There exists something called the Latino Health Paradox, a situation in which immigrants (legal and not) of low socioeconomic status are healthier than non-latino citizens. Sadly, after immigration their health seems to decline (statistically speaking), suggesting the American way of life is perhaps less healthy than the traditional Latino way of life. There is a pretty good documentary series that covers the Latino Paradox (and a whole lot more); here’s a video excerpt.
We have such a convoluted view of race in this society, I find myself often frustrated with the strawman arguments and subtle racism of fear tactics employed by various organizations throughout the US. Not long after the story I mentioned above, a story about a mural in Prescott, AZ, came to light. An artist was asked to “lighten the face” of children in a mural outside an elementary school. The mural is controversial because it has a latino child as the dominant figure.
Contrasted against that is a story sent to me by a friend of mine, about a grocery store mural in Seattle (my hometown) where that artist depicted “hispanic migrant workers,” and the grocery that commissioned the mural asked him to make the workers “look more American.”
So in one state we have murals being white-washed due to complaints from racists who dislike what they perceive as the glorification of non-whites. In another state we have a mural being white-washed out of concern that it will appear racist by depicting latinos as migrant workers. It amazes me how two such disparate groups (racists and the politically correct) can both manage to marginalize persons of color so effectively.