Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Arizona, "Anchor Babies," and Arguing Immigration Reform

It's depressing to realize how much play anti-immigration politics gets in Arizona. State Senator Russell Pearce announced this week that he will draft a bill to deny birth certificates to the children of illegal immigrants. These children, of course, are granted citizenship under the 14th Amendment. This bill will pile on top of the "Show me your papers" law Pearce also wrote. Pearce told Politico that his law would be written to avoid violating the 14th Amendment. Sure, pal. Then again, Russell is no small potatoes in the Arizona Senate -- he's it finance committee chairman.

Pearce uses the charming term "anchor babies" to describe these American citizens. They are, in his mind, part of a calculated family planning effort by illegal immigrants to access the largess of the bottom rung of American society. Or as he put it to Politico, This is an orchestrated effort by them to come here and have children to gain access to the great welfare state we’ve created.” So are the babies born to native-born white families in Arizona are a conspiracy to earn dependent tax breaks? Is there anything more personal, and perhaps less calculating in this world than people deciding to have children, especially for people who cannot file any kind of governmental document to claim said welfare benefits because of their immigration status?

So I'd like to do a more professional job on researching "anchor baby" in the near future, but my quick googling of the term yielded a disturbing number of white supremacist websites. The second website listed in the return belonged to the anti-immigration group FAIR, which had been named a white supremacist organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center. A more careful googling of Pearce himself reveals his personal affection for -- and physical embrace of -- neo-nazis. Pearce has also been kicking around this idea of ignoring parts of the Constitution he doesn't like for at least two years now. "Anchor Baby" has an older vintage -- dating back it appears to Vietnamese refugee children in the 1970s and 80s, whose economic success in the United States would enable other relatives to emigrate from Southeast Asia. Instead of being the anchor to bring others here, the term has been transformed to mean the reason that undocumented immigrants can stay.

The Associated Press, by the way, felt that FAIR was an appropriate body to call for commend on this law and quoted its spokesman with only the paltriest of context ("based in Washington." Like yours truly, I suppose). "Essentially we are talking about people who have absolutely no connection whatever with this country," spokesman Ira Mehlman told the AP. "The whole idea of citizenship means that you have some connection other than mere happenstance that you were born on U.S. soil." What that other connection is, and how one's prenatal self would acquire it remains unclear.

It's not going out on a limb to call Pearce racist and the term anchor baby racist. Calling Pearce a racist in the context of a policy debate, however, is practically useless since it invites a defensive reaction that moves the conversation toward what is and isn't racism, or who can and cannot say what. Calling Rush Limbaugh a racist never got him off the air -- ok, it did off ESPN. Anyway, perhaps it's time to shift away from the 60s-vintage protest politics and 70s-styled ethnic empowerment reaction to clowns like Pearce and just argue the practicalities of his profoundly disruptive laws.

For starters, if children of immigrants have no birth certificates, and yet remain in the United States, how do they enroll in school? Do they simply never go? Daring to imagine a scenario in which their parents make a purely economic decision to stay in the US (perhaps Pearce's own welfare-grabbing one), is it preferable to have countless children remain completely uneducated and roaming around the finer dusty sidewalks of Arizona cities and towns? Pearce's solution illegal immigration is essentially to make his state unlivable, not only for Latinos but for everyone -- his own legislative version of we had to destroy the village to save it. Arizona is already facing the complete implosion of its judiciary because of Pearce's first anti-immigration law. This fact alone -- setting aside the loss of tourism dollars, business interest, and general good will -- should outweigh any social good to come of Pearce's illegal alien hunt. So, perhaps it's time to frame the immigration conversation as a series of consequences, as one can the abortion debate. In the abstract, abortion is not particularly popular. But ask if it should be outlawed despite any and every potential complicating scenario and tough call, and most people are pro-choice. Arizona's new immigration regime, as legally tenuous as it may prove to be, is generically popular, as we've discussed here before. But will it remain so when people have to consider the human cost of the separation of families, the criminalization of public education for some residents? Will those denied birth certificates have any kind of Constitutional rights at all? Could they be deported to a country at any moment in their lives in which they have never lived, or perhaps have never set foot? What about their children? What about those with birth certificates? Would they continue to live a life of silent terror, like the free African Americans of the 1850s who feared abduction and enslavement into a life of plantation labor they never knew at the hands of unscrupulous bounty hunters and a system of due process stacked against them? Would they have to prove they were born before some arbitrary date set by their government for the rest of their lives to avoid deportation on account of nothing more than their family heritage?

The racist doesn't have to think of such contingencies. He doesn't have to ponder the long-term social and personal cost of his racism since the preservation of the racial status quo trumps all. But the rest of us are capable of thinking about such things. And we should be asked to do so over and over again by responsible people who actually want to govern appropriately.

1 comment:

  1. The Tea Bag Party are just “haters not debaters” or as others have dubbed them “screamers not dreamers”, with their failed attempts at stopping Healthcare reform, they say they respect the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence but they do not mind passing laws, through weak Governors (no one voted for this crazy) who only cares about getting elected Governor, on the backs of undocumented workers, that will not pass Constitution muster.

    Brewer signed into law;

    1. S.B. 1070,
    2. No permit conceal weapons law,
    3. The famous Birthers law,
    4. Banning Ethic studies law,

    5. Could she be behind the Mural in Prescott, Arizona, ordered to be whiten,
    6. On deck to pass, no citizenship to babies born to undocumented workers,

    7. If she can read she should look up Arizona’s House Bill 2779 from two years ago (which was un-constitution and failed when legally challenged),
    8. The boycotted Martin Luther King Day, what idiots don’t want another holiday? Yes, you guessed it Arizona.

    Well Arizona, you can boycott new holidays and keep passing crazy laws and the rest of us will continue to challenged them in a court of law and continue to add cities to our Boycott of your state.

    I real cannot believe anything that comes out of Brewer’s mouth, in an interview she first said her father had died in Germany fighting the Nazi in World War II (war ended 1945) but of course we find out the truth that father was never in Germany and died in California in 1955. But we are suppose to believe everything else she says, right!

    As for the Tea Bag Party, their phony patriotism is sickening; they are just racists going by another name. We all know you are just itching to put a sheet on their head? Let’s face it the Republicans had eight years to deal with health care, immigration, energy (remember Cheney’s secret meetings with oil companies where loosening regulation and oversight were sealed), climate change and financial oversight and governance and they failed. It appears that the Republican Party is only good at starting wars (two in eight years, with fat contracts to friends of Cheney/Bush) but not at winning wars as seen by the continuing line of body bags that keep coming home. The Republicans party will continue turned inward to their old fashion obstructionist party (and their Confederacy appreciation roots) because they continue to allow a small portions (but very loud portion) of their party of “birthers, baggers and blowhards” to rule their party. I will admit that this fringe is very good at playing “Follow the Leader” by listening to their dullard leaders, Beck, Hedgecock, Hannity, O’Reilly, Rush, Savage, Sarah Bailin, Orly Taitz, Victoria Jackson, Michele Bachmann and the rest of the Blowhards and acting as ill programmed robots (they have already acted against doctors that perform abortions).