sights & sounds

April 25, 2010

of police states and imaginary borderlines

From the NY Times; emphasis mine.:

Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed the nation’s toughest bill on illegal immigration into law on Friday. Its aim is to identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants.

The law, which proponents and critics alike said was the broadest and strictest immigration measure in generations, would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Opponents have called it an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status.

[Governor Jan Brewer] acknowledged critics’ concerns, saying she would work to ensure that the police have proper training to carry out the law. But she sided with arguments by the law’s sponsors that it provides an indispensable tool for the police in a border state that is a leading magnet of illegal immigration. She said racial profiling would not be tolerated, adding, “We have to trust our law enforcement.”


“We have to trust our law enforcement”?

I don’t think so.

The ongoing quibble over legal vs. ‘illegal’ immigration is of no consequence to me, as state borders are meaningless in the first place – the state (i.e. the collection of individuals we call ‘the state’)1 has no claim over every square inch of land in the U.S., so ‘illegal’2 immigration is a victimless  ‘crime’3.

Even assuming the legitimacy of state borders, though,  enforcing this policy would be an egregious violation of human rights, granting cops the privilege of hassling anyone for daring to be brown in public. (You know, even moreso than they already do.)

From Feministe; emphasis mine:

Tell me, who exactly do you think the people police might “reasonably suspect” of being undocumented might be? Because as a white woman, I don’t think that in the event of this bill passing, I’d exactly have to fear being stopped. What this bill would essentially do is not only legalize but require racial profiling and harassment against Latin@s.

Of course, proponents of the bill vehemently deny this. They’ll insist that they’re just ‘keeping America safe’ ; or they’ll demonize undocumented workers as savage, foaming-at-the-mouth ‘freeloaders’, with some even claiming that ‘illegal’ immigrants have no rights at all.

And although the ‘NO RIGHTS’ drones are making a prescriptive claim about how to treat undocumented people, in some sense, they’re describing what’s already true: If some border patrol thug rapes you, he won’t be brought to justice. You can’t contact the police if someone is trying to break into your home4. If your employer is sexually-harassing or threatening you, you have no one to report it to. You have nothing.

You have no rights. You’re a non-entity; an ‘it’.

When I see people enthusiastically endorsing this state of affairs, I regard them with disgust and horror; and I fearfully anticipate what is to come.

1. Calling ‘the state’ what it is (i.e. a collection of individuals proclaiming rights that supersede everyone else’s; declaring for themselves the exclusive right to enact violence on everyone else) totally delegitimizes the institution; it renders absurd the rhetorical sleights of hand people engage in when they refer to ‘the state’ as some singular actor with a will of its own.

2. Purposeful use of quotes. I refuse to refer to crossing some imaginary border as a ‘crime’.

3. I’m not claiming that undocumented workers never commit crimes, but that the act of crossing the border isn’t a ‘crime’ in any meaningful sense of the word.

4. ..not that they’d be of much use, anyway.


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