Get Out! Arizona and America Join Joe Arpaio in Rushing to Inquire: Are Your Papers in Order?

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Years before, she met a young woman in Guadalajara, Mexico, in the art studio Steele ran. When Carole returned to Arizona, the girl, Rosa, crossed the southwestern desert on foot and worked for Carole's family. Over time, Rosa grew into a responsible young woman who married a truck driver in Mexico. She crossed back and forth, making the trek across the wilderness to supplement her income in Carole's employ. As often happens, Rosa became one of the family, albeit one who came and went. Inevitably, an elderly member of Carole's circle became quite ill. When word reached Rosa in Mexico, she insisted upon walking back to America to nurse, to tend, which she did. In 2000, they found Rosa's body in the desert. She was on her way back to Carole.

No one at the table had a further comment about Barry Wong.

But I have a question.

Mr. Wong: Your ancestors — and here I'm taking a stab in the dark — they came over on the Mayflower or originated in a Navajo hogan? Is this why you do not recall with any sense of empathy the savagery directed at Chinese immigrants?

Never mind.

We await the call from the political trombone announcing the public stoning of Mexicans.

In lieu of immigration reform, President Barack Obama and his Justice Department sued Arizona seeking to block SB 1070. The American public howled with indignation that the president appeared to be taking the side of immigrants. Such is the national rage at listening to taped phone messages instructing them to push the "1" button for English that citizens sent more than a million dollars in tens and twenties to Governor Jan Brewer's litigation team.

The legal challenge by Obama is a bloodless matter that avoids most questions of race, as if race were a pathogen. (For a cold taste of legal banter that dices thought without any of the salt of the street, review the exchanges between U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton and various attorneys putting together the SB 1070 cocido.) If the public at large sees Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Mexican roundups and SB 1070 as a matter of state's rights, President Obama sees it as Fort Sumter. The Justice Department's major claim is that no state can usurp federal responsibilities.

The suit parses the Constitution with less verve than Sister Mary Margaret's proper diagram of a charmless sentence.

Arizona's alleged moderates, the white ones, from members of Congress like Harry Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords to state Attorney General Terry Goddard, all urged Obama not to sue. They worry about their election prospects and forget it is only the federal government that historically pries the bigot's fingers from the victim's windpipe.

Maybe lawyers can restore the integrity of the Constitution, a document that forbids states like Arizona and towns like Freemont from fueling diasporas with their own immigration policies.

But what can lawyers do about jackals always tracking the immigrant's dusty footprint?

What do we do about the pregnant 31-year-old woman who was the target of another U-turn stop because of a faulty license-plate light on the back of her car? She was slammed into the hood of her vehicle when she did not readily consent to a search for non-existent narcotics. A U.S. citizen of Latin descent, she clearly remembers being told: "I can be an asshole if you're going to be a bitch."

What would you tell the 17-year-old child, an American, who was followed into a gated community on her way home from school? When asked for identification, she produced a valid Arizona driver's license. The officer insisted upon further proof, claiming he was required by law to get more documentation.

Though she speaks perfect English and knew the law wasn't scheduled to go into effect until this week, she was frightened half to death. She allowed the officer to tail her another couple of blocks to her home, where she retrieved her passport for inspection.

Each of these crude assaults upon dignity happened without benefit of SB 1070. Each happened to an American.

While Jan Brewer, state Senator Russell Pearce (1070's author), Barry Wong, and Joe Arpaio sport conservative mufti, this is neither a right nor left issue. The feckless few, Goddard, Giffords, and Mitchell, are not without incriminating shadow.

Historically, America attacks immigrants, only embracing the foreigners long after the Yankee has pummeled them to within an inch of their ethnicity. Progressives and those who should know better have their place in this roll call of sulfurous shame.

What? You thought local fecks invented political convenience, not to mention ignorance? To provide perspective, here is the first president of Stanford, David Starr Jordan, on immigrants: "Most of them . . . are very different from the Anglo-Saxon — very much less capable of self government, and on the whole, morally and socially less desireable."

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Michael Lacey is the executive editor of Village Voice Media, a group of 15 metropolitan newsweeklies that stretch from Miami to San Francisco. He writes frequently for Phoenix New Times, which he co-founded in 1970. In 1997, he co-founded New Times Broward-Palm Beach, and since then, the paper has seen circulation increase nearly ten-fold. Lacey’s work has been recognized in the following journalism competitions: Unity Awards in Media, Mencken Awards, Heywood Broun Awards, Golden Quill Awards, Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism, Nixon Newspaper National Journalism Writing Awards, John Bartlow Martin Awards, Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Awards, Best of the West Awards, Maggie Awards, and the Arizona Press Club’s Don Schellie Award for Feature Column Writing.
Contact: Michael Lacey