by Andrew Piotrowski
“In the world of ‘Kid-dom’, the mind switches gears rapidly” was one of my favorite quotes from the classic Christmas movie, “A Christmas Story”. Although in different fashion than Ralphie’s troubles with bullies to impatiently expecting to arrive in the mail, I think that the quote also applies to how our political agenda works, as well. The landmark healthcare reform that was so avidly discussed in the media by politicians and pundits alike has enjoyed its time in the spotlight, but since its passage it has been quickly left behind. Next on the agenda is, of course, comprehensive immigration reform. The Obama administration should consider itself fortunate to have a catalyst for thrusting this new issue into the public discourse. The catalyst came in the form of a new immigration law in Arizona, which officially made undocumented migration a state crime, in addition to the federal offenses already in place. It also expanded upon a previously implemented strategy, called the 287 (g) program by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The program, which originally called for the federal training of certain state and local law enforcement officials to carry out federal immigration law, has been expanded to encompass law enforcement agencies State-wide as enforcers of immigration law, as well.
However, the part of this legislation that has drawn the most attention has been the provision that anyone suspected of being in the country without the proper documentation can be stopped, searched, and taken into custody if found without proper documentation. Not only does this provision entail that all immigrants carry their papers with them solely for protection from those who have taken an oath to protect us, but also allows for racial profiling to play a huge part in law enforcement, and for that profiling to be given a thumbs up by the state legislation. My prediction is this: 0% of people stopped on the street will be Caucasian, because they will not be suspected. Only members of the Latino community will cause suspicion amongst police officers as to their status residing in the country. Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has long been a thorn in the side of those fighting for equality and fair treatment of Latinos in Arizona, and has repeatedly stood by his fight to deport as many immigrants as possible. This new measure only adds fuel to his already out-of-control fire, and promotes a strong sense of nativism, which is the belief that “our” land should not be used by “outsiders”, or those who don’t belong here. As misguided of a belief as this is, it still profoundly affects what should be the least biased area of our justice system, but so very often becomes the most biased. We will be teaching future generations that Latino immigrants as a whole do not belong here, because there is no way to distinguish between a documented and an undocumented worker except on paper.
Thankfully, we can hope that the Latino community has a friend who currently resides in the highest office in the country right now. The Obama administration has since condemned the new law in Arizona, and has promised to put in place federal legislation which would nullify those laws of the state. If bills such as the DREAM act and other immigration reform pass later this year, it will affect the lives of so many immigrants in Champaign-Urbana, Arizona, and throughout all parts of the country. It will serve to further unite the nation by bringing together all people who call this country home, and stop the discriminatory practices that only serve to further alienate us from our fellow human beings.