Profiling in Arizona? Hell Yes

immigration-checkpointPhoenix SB 1070 is on the two month countdown to implementation barring action by the Justice Department or others to block its enforcement. The biggest rub has been the preemptive racial profiling of anyone by color or accent might seem to be an immigrant. Governor Brewer of Arizona has claimed that this is not the case largely “because she says so,” by maintaining that if you say the sky is green that does the job no matter how many times your eyes scream the lie.

My Rathke great grand parents and grandparents were German immigrants who had been farming in the Ukraine on a special program but refused conscription and ended up first in the Midwest and then in my grandfather’s case working as a foreman on the orange groves and ranches of Orange County, California, when there were still oranges, with the Mexican laborers. They were born there but came to live and work here. In this country we all have a story. As a second generation American, my chance of being profiled is nil.

On Thursday we were driving from Glendale back into Phoenix. Suddenly, a bubble light was signaling us over. The prototypical, large white cop was dressed in a flak jacket, which seemed odd for traffic duty in Glendale. A window next to me on the passenger side had been broken by vandals who failed to rob the car, but still left the spider web of dented and broken glass as the footprint of their effort. The cop wanted the license and registration of the Mexican-American driver of the vehicle. She gave over the registration and recited her license number from memory since she didn’t have it on her. Despite the fact that he didn’t ask, I offered and turned mine over, since the policeman was claiming that the only reason for stopping us was the window and the need to prove that the car was not stolen. The cop was uniformly friendly. He checked on his computer, and sent us on our way.

So, was this racial profiling? Hell, yes! Would I have been stopped if I were driving, as a red headed white guy? No. And, as my friend pointed out, what would have happened had I not been in the car? Would he have asked to search the car? The trunk? If he had noticed her purse on the back floor, would he have asked to verify if she really did not have her license and ID with her? Where could this have gone? Where might the story have ended?

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With the Movement in Arizona

Phoenix Talking briefly with Pablo Alvarado, head of NDLON, and Salvador Reza, perhaps the principal spark plug behind the march and rally to block implementation of SB 1070, the racial  profiling, anti-immigrant law that is scheduled to be implemented in two months, I asked how it was looking and what they were hoping for.  Salvador laughed as he tried to be restrained and said, “20,000,” and then with a delay, added, “plus 100,000,” and we all laughed.  How long would the march be today in temperatures expected to snuggle up to towards 100 degrees?  Salvador again quickly said, “Five and a half miles.” Good, I said, I had heard it might be over six.  Salvador quickly laughed and said, “don’t repeat that and get a rumor started.” I rejoined, “hey,the door’s shut.” Salvador has a reputation for the long march, and this was going to be a great one.

If the numbers nudged past 20000 towards 50000 with an opening rally at Indian Steel Park from 8 until 10 AM, it could take between 30 minutes and an hour to empty the park, and on the slow pace maybe three hours to march to the capital and four to get everyone there.  Best case scenarios would have tens of thousands marching through the midday heat on the blistering Phoenix streets.  This was serious business!

On the day of the rally and march the competition of the Memorial Day weekend may have pushed the numbers a little.  I think we hit Salvador’s 20,000, but not sure how many more were there, if any. It was an exciting crowd with whole families piling out of pick-up trucks to come down.  Sun was hot in this “sweat for justice,” people were prepared, Mexican vendors were everywhere as if we were in a town plaza in old Mexico.  Once you looked past all of the Legalize Arizona t-shirts everywhere, it was all DYI, American and Mexican flags, costumes, union and other shirts, and, my favorite, white t-shirts with magic markers with 1070 messages.  The DC communications folks would have gone crazy at this event!

But, from Pablo’s opening remarks, the message was clear:  (1) Obama stop 1070 with lawsuits  (2) Stop profiling, (3)  Obama end cooperation with local and state authorities on immigration, (4) create real reform on immigration with a path to legalization.  A big sign the shape of a huge sheet called on Obama to walk his talk.

This was a good crowd and a great event, led by the Arizona local organizations and driven by the National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON) more than anyone else.  They have kept the pressure on.

It can’t stop.  Arizona can’t be allowed to become Alabama decades ago.  The America of  today cannot be allowed to become the America of the 50’s, Dwight Eisenhower, and Richard Nixon.

We all took a stand for the future in Phoenix.