Our VoiceImmigrationNews & Politics

Legislative Creep(iness)

James E. Johnson Jr. • May 20, 2010

Arizona’s SB 1070 is not the first anti-immigrant legislation to be passed.  It does however continue the legislative creep that we’ve seen over the last few years.  This is also not the first time that legislative creep has restricted or eliminated the rights of people in the United States.

The Indiana constitution of 1851 restricted the immigration of blacks to the state. It read, “No Negro or Mulatto shall come into, or settle in, the state, after the adoption of this constitution.”

Illinois upped the ante by extending a complete prohibition against Black immigration into the state in 1853.  After the Civil War every southern state had Black Codes which relegated blacks to second-class resident status. Many of these codes required Negroes to present licenses citing their places of residence and authorizing them to work. The remnants of these laws were not completely abolished until the 1960s.

There have been surveys that state that many people agree with the Arizona law because it does not affect them.  People are not concerned because they are not Latino or they don’t look Latino.  But the affects of this type of law reach well beyond Latino communities.  Since the signing into law of SB 1070 at least ten states have indicated that they would consider laws similar to Arizona’s, including Minnesota. What is unique about Minnesota is that it has the largest Somali population in the country.  This means that the people who could be profiled because of this law will include U.S. born Blacks.

It’s not just the people who would be targeted by these laws that are affected.  They affect the soul of our entire nation. The danger in these laws is that they first dehumanize, then normalize debasing people because of how they look. After that there is space for extremists who believe some individuals are less than human, and when people are perceived as less than human they can be destroyed.

The people who are most affected by these laws are easy targets, and politicians are able to score quick political points. The real question is, how are these laws being passed and who’s behind this effort? In most cases you need not look any further than the John Tanton Network.  In Arizona the law was authored by Kris Kobach, a lawyer at the Federation for American Immigration Reform’s (FAIR) legal arm, Immigration Reform Law Institute.  Kobach has kept busy running around the country pushing the Tanton Network’s extreme positions on any number of communities.

While much of what is happening around the country can be laid at the feet of the John Tanton Network, there’s enough blame to go around.  The Federal government must quit taking a pass on immigration reform because it’s “too hard.”  Politicians at the state and local levels must stop scapegoating immigrants and their families.  And we citizens must demand that our immigration system be fixed, and that the fix is based on the values America aspires to - truth, justice, and equality for all.

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