Ξ May 5th, 2010 | → 1 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, Wine & Politics |
Arizona’s new immigration law casts a somber shadow over this year’s Cinco de Mayo celebrations across the country. While widely believed unconstitutional in reputable legal circles, the social consequences of the new law are as well proving corrosive of America’s historical tradition as a nation of immigrants. Polarization of political opinion, much of it crassly opportunistic, is well underway. Less interested in solutions than in energizing ‘the base’, the extreme positions on either end of the political spectrum flirt not only with violence but exploit the popular, nativist ignorance of American history itself.
We like to think of ourselves as a nation of laws, and we regularly trot out hallucinated visions of an America that never was. From Gone With The Wind to “It’s morning in America”, our complex cultural echo chamber feeds us myths and fictions at odds with reality. We are equally a nation of lawbreakers. And a powerful river of violence has carried our nation forward. From the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, the Civil War, to the Civil Rights struggle and the rise of labor unions, American social progress has often depended upon resistance to established law. But so has the nation seen regression and the erosion of rights. Violence is, after all, a contagion. It sweeps away distinction and difference; it is the enemy of civility.
I believe Arizona’s new immigration law perfectly captures these two seemingly contradictory forces of American history; for they are not contradictory at all. Myth is violence, a violence done to history itself. In Arizona’s case, the law reads like a Grimm’s fairy tale. It is a fable of us versus them, a fable of good and evil. And like any good tale, it clothes its violent core with a satisfying narrative. The wolf or step-mother always dies in the end. How will Arizona’s law end? The awful truth is that we know already know the answer to that question. Whether in the desert, or at the hands of ‘coyotes’ and vigilantes, Arizona’s new law, if upheld, promises that each reported death of an undocumented worker will be unremarkable, the mere consequence of ‘breaking the law’. The coarsening of our culture will only deepen.
I contacted the leading contenders for California’s Governorship and Governor Schwarzenegger himself for comment on Arizona’s 1070. All responded in some way. Their remarks are as follows.
“Immigration policy is, and always has been, a federal responsibility. The Governor does not support the Arizona law. He believes that comprehensive immigration reform needs federal leadership and must include secure national borders that allow for the legal movement of people, goods, and services, and creates a forward-looking labor policy that meets the needs of our economy. Arizona’s actions should be a wake-up call to the federal government. The decades of federal inaction can no longer continue.”
“I understand Arizona’s frustration with the federal government’s failure to solve the country’s illegal immigration problem. However, should such legislation be proposed in California, I would oppose it because I believe there are far more effective and suitable ways to fight illegal immigration. First, we must secure our borders. If need be, I will deploy California’s National Guard to assist federal authorities in making sure our state’s borders are secured. Second, I will build an economic fence to make it far harder for employers to hire illegal labor. Finally we must eliminate sanctuary cities. I call on Congress and the Obama Administration to take immediate action on a serious federal effort to secure our borders. It is time to see real action, not just more talk from Washington, D.C. on this vital national issue.”
“I support the amended version of Arizona’s new law, which takes a bold approach to dealing with illegal immigration while making it crystal clear that racial profiling is both illegal and wrong. Arizona has acted because the federal government has failed to secure our borders. It is time for California to do the same and, as governor, I pledge to make stopping illegal immigration one of my highest priorities. I have detailed a bold plan to address the crisis, which includes cutting off taxpayer-funded benefits to illegal aliens, employing state resources to help secure our borders, ending Sanctuary Cities, and cracking down on employers who hire illegal aliens. And to Meg Whitman and her liberal allies in Congress who want to reward illegal aliens with a ‘pathway to citizenship,’ I have just two words: No Amnesty.”
“The Arizona law is legally problematic… This is an issue of federal responsibility, and the federal government needs to step up, secure the border and enact sensible immigration reform.”
This Cinco de Mayo, as I drink wine in my finely maintained backyard, enjoying a bountiful feast of diverse agricultural products, my hopes and prayers shall be with all those nameless individuals who contribute to our quality of life.