SB-1070: License to Ill

Arizona State legislation SB-1070, the spectacular attempt to institutionalize anti-Latino racism is hardly surprising in view of the sustained ill will emanating from the white “victims” of Barack Obama’s presidency. It’s also not surprising from the state that wouldn’t recognize Martin Luther King’s birthday as a holiday until six years after it was first celebrated, and only because of an organized tourist boycott.

The bill is now under attack by everyone from Karl Rove (who says it may be unconstitutional) to Florida Tea Party gubernatorial candidate Marco Rubio, who says it “concerns” him. There’s even mounting pressure on Major League Baseball to pull next year’s all-star game out of Phoenix, and Shakira and Ricky Martin have weighed in.

While it’s not surprising that the mainstream is rejecting SB-1070 it’s a little shocking how the law (which still may be invalidated by legal challenges before it goes into effect this August) was gestated. It is the product of a tag team including State Senator Russell Pearce, who has documented ties with white supremacist groups, and lawyer Kris Kobach, counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform), which has been designated as a hate group by the Souther Poverty Law Center. For an intimate look at FAIR, check out Rachel Maddow’s chilling interview with its director, Dan Stein.

All of this begs the question, why has there been so little movement on immigration reform thus far? In Arizona governor Jan Brewer’s speech announcing the passage of the law, she characterized SB 1070 as a response to inaction by the Federal Government. For months now, many Latino leaders have been complaining that the Obama administration has done almost nothing to prioritize immigration reform, and some have even led a movement to boycott the census to try to force that.

Quietly over several weeks, our own Senator Charles Schumer has been pushing biometric social security cards, which involve fingerprinting and scanning machines, as the solution to immigration reform. No matter what happens at the border, no one will be able to get work in the formal U.S. economy without presenting this card. This, of course, has a kind of Puerto Rico birth certificate effect, in that we will all have to get these cards, and those tattered ones sitting in our bottom drawers (or laminated ones in our wallets) will all be invalidated.

It’s a big tradeoff in privacy, of course, something valued, as Ezra Klein notes in the Washington Post, by a large bloc of those who are anti-immigrant. But then there’s the rest of us, who get antsy about Facebook, which doesn’t believe in privacy. Let’s face it, if you consider the way the Obama administration handled health care reform, you can bet there are going to be serious problems with whatever version of immigration reform comes out of Congress. Obama’s wavering on “change” is surely due to reluctance to engage in a potential disastrous political gamble six months from the midterm elections. Sure is handy that no one even seems to know or care that the U.S. has still not pulled out of Iraq and its military efforts are having a dubious effect on Afghanistan.

Which brings us to last week’s amazing Latino legislative moment, the House of Representatives passing the “Puerto Rico Democracy Act,” in which not one, but two plebiscite elections will be held to (quizas) finally determine the fate of Puerto Rico. Glenn Beck has even used it as a cause for concern, another step in the socialist Democratic plan to destroy America. He calls it a “nasty thing” and actually seems to imply that Puerto Rico’s New Progressive Party is, in fact “progressive.”

Well, it’s nice to finally be in the conversation. But what if it actually made political sense, as Puerto Rico’s “progressive” Republican governor said in late January, that supporting statehood for Puerto Rico “would present an opportunity, for example, for senators who may have a tougher position on immigration, to show that they may have that position on immigration but they are not anti-Hispanic”?

Maybe in the short term it makes sense for Republicans to risk “bailing out” 4 million Puerto Ricans on the island, in exchange for shafting the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants on U.S. soil. But has it really come to this?

Yep, Puerto Rico is back in the news again. It is now currently the best estimate for the size of the oil slick created by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Who knows how long that will last.


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