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What’s Next Arizona Passports?

What Part of 'Unconstitutional' Don't they Understand?
by Published on

The Gulf of Mexico is filling up with BP oil, America is still bogged down by a troubling economic recession and Congress has nearly ground to a halt.

So what are the great political minds in America focused on these days, folks? “Illegal Immigrants” and “Anchor Babies.”

Politicos have gone down the racist rabbit hole in a desperate gambit to win political office or to hold on to the seats they already have (this means you Senator John “Complete that Danged Fence” McCain.) First the ugly racial profiling bill SB 1070 and now Republican Arizona Senator Russell Pearce wants to go after so called “anchor babies” in his state. This is an ugly and dehumanizing term for children born to parents who are undocumented.

As Marissa Treviño of Latina Lista pointed out recently, it’s not as if Pearce is at home in his study, pen in hand, crafting this poisonous piece of legislation in response to the homegrown needs of his Arizona constituents. There is a national factory that turns this stuff out: It’s called the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which has been labeled a hate group by the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks and monitors such organizations.

FAIR has been working with Pearce since at least 2004, when Pearce authored the state initiative Protect Arizona Now to bar undocumented people from accessing social services in the state. The law which passed, has been bogged down in legal challenges and no doubt has cost the state tens of thousands in legal costs.

Kansas resident Kris Kobach, counsel for the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of FAIR, was until recently being paid thousands of dollars by Arizona’s Maricopa County to advise Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies on how to detain more people.

He was also an architect of SB 1070. Kobach and others are no doubt hard at work on crafting another piece of xenophobic nonsense for Senator Pearce to introduce this fall to target children. It’s going to have to be a truly delusional piece of lawyering since it will have to allow the state of Arizona to completely circumvent the U.S. Constitution’s 14th amendment. Arizona will get to be the first state to decide who can or cannot be a U.S. citizen within its confines. What next, Arizona passports?

Two months ago, I was more hopeful that the xenophobic divisiveness might not ooze across Arizona’s borders. I’m feeling a lot more pessimistic these days. According to Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, anti-immigrant groups such as FAIR and  Numbers USA have made a big push into the Tea Party movement.

“The Tea Party movement is really latching onto immigration,” she says. “Many people who are anti-immigrant tend to be older, white and relatively well off. It’s the same constituency as the Tea Party, so it’s a natural affinity.”

FAIR and other anti-immigrant groups such as Numbers USA are stoking the racist rhetoric not only in Arizona but across the country as politicos position themselves for mid-term elections.

You may remember when the Tea Party started it was about bashing Big Government, killing healthcare reform and Obama being a Socialist among other things. Increasingly, Tea Partiers are talking about stopping “the illegal invasion” and advocating for xenophobic anti-immigrant policies.

Tea Party Patriots, the country’s largest tea party coalition, had originally pledged not to get involved in the divisive debate over immigration. They reversed their decision and on May 29th, they participated in an anti-immigrant rally in Arizona.

Bill Straus, regional director of the Anti Defamation League in Arizona, calls his state “ground zero” for the political opportunism riding on the backs of immigrants. He says even candidates in Arizona who have nothing remotely to do with law enforcement are crafting their campaigns around the singular issue of illegal immigration because they know the issue will turn out voters.

“The country’s economically strapped and we’ve got tons of problems, yet we have entire campaigns just on illegal immigration,” he says. “It’s an emotional hot button issue.”

These are opportunistic and  mean-spirited political ploys –playing the anti-immigrant card – to take advantage of the fears roiling the country’s voters for (short term) political gain. It’s about time the voters took their blinders off to see who’s really pulling the strings.

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. Melissa is a 2014-15 Lannan Fellow at The Investigative Fund.