In a Snit and Claiming That as Policy

Times change, and sometimes it’s just not like the old days. Back in 1973 it was the Saturday Night Massacre – the Attorney General resigns, rather than do what President Nixon tells orders him to do, fire the special prosecutor appointed to investigate the president over the Watergate matter, that Archibald Cox fellow who had been getting too damned inquisitive. Then the second in command at the Justice Department does the same – he resigns rather than fire Cox. You can’t just fire the guy Congress has appointed to look into the matter, because they are actually looking into the matter, as ordered by Congress, and you don’t like it. Things don’t work that way. Yes it was a direct order from the president, but it was an order to violate the law, or at least render the law meaningless. Finally the third in command at Justice, the solicitor general, Robert Bork, did the deed – Bork fired Cox.

It was high drama – and it did no good. Things came out anyway. Nixon finally decided it was best to resign, and when Reagan later named Bork to the Supreme Court, the Senate would not confirm him. They were plenty worried about a lot of Bork’s views, and Bork’s notion that those accused have the right to stop all investigation of what they might have done, as least if they’re your boss, didn’t help much. The impression that he didn’t care that much for the law itself is not an impression you want to make. So Bork faded from view, and the Icelandic pop singer Björk became famous instead. At least she was kind of cute.

But the Saturday Night Massacre thing was a big deal. The nation was amazed. We will probably never see anything like that again. And these days, instead of high drama, we get the Saturday Night Snit:

Long-awaited climate change legislation was put on hold by its authors Saturday when a dispute over immigration politics and Senate priorities threatened to unravel a bipartisan effort that took months of work.

Voicing regrets, Sen. John Kerry said Saturday he is postponing the much anticipated unveiling of comprehensive energy and climate change legislation scheduled for Monday. The Massachusetts Democrat made his announcement after a key partner in drafting the bill, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, threatened to withhold support if Senate Democratic leaders push ahead first with an immigration bill.

Graham is angry that Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada is considering that. Legislation to overhaul immigration laws and grant legal status to millions of long term immigrants unlawfully in the country could create problems for Republicans in the midterm elections. It’s a top priority for Hispanic voters – and most Republicans are opposed. Reid’s idea amounts to a “cynical political ploy,” Graham asserted.

So here is one of the few Republicans who says that ninety-eight percent of all scientists saying the global warning is real, and getting much worse and seems to be caused by man and man’s burning of fossil fuels, is good enough for him. Graham seems to hold that other two percent saying that may not be so, and a few more decades of study might settle the matter, does not constitute a big disagreement as to the facts. And with the likelihood of wild shifts in weather patterns and rising sea levels and wars of disappearing basic resources like water and arable land and food, it might be wise to act – but not if the Democrats want to also tackle immigration reform. It’s one or the other. And the implication is that Graham had a deal – he’d be on board with this, if the Democrats just did not try to embarrass the Republicans by making them own up to opposing what was important to Hispanic voters. And Reid screwed the pooch.

Kerry said he deeply regretted that Graham “feels immigration politics have gotten in the way and for now prevent him from being engaged in the way he intended” – and the third cosponsor of the climate change bill, Joe Lieberman, said Graham was a fine fellow but he was disappointed that “allegations of partisan politics will prevent us from introducing the bill on Monday as planned.” But that’s that. It can be taken up later – next year, or in a few years.

But there are wheels within wheels, in this case other factors:

Hispanics voted heavily Democratic in 2008, and they’ve been disappointed with President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats for not following up on campaign promises to reform immigration laws. Reid is up for re-election this year and trailing in polls in Nevada, where Latinos are an important constituency. With Democrats facing a tough political climate in the midterm elections, energized Hispanic voters could make a difference in several states.

Later, Reid said he is committed to passing both immigration and energy this year, as they are “equally vital to our economic and national security and have been ignored for far too long.” And he also thinks Graham is a fine fellow, who cares about both issues, but then called him out – “I will not allow him to play one issue off of another, and neither will the American people. They expect us to do both, and they will not accept the notion that trying to act on one is an excuse for not acting on the other.”

It’s not high drama and a constitutional crisis – this in not 1973 after all – but it’s nasty enough. And the real drama wasn’t in Washington anyway, it was in Arizona. There, the Republican governor, Janice Brewer, one day before Graham had his snit, signed that controversial immigration bill passed by the state legislature. That legislation requires all law enforcement officers in the state to stop anyone they suspect might be an illegal immigrant, or they should have suspected might be, and arrest them. You can read the legislation here – if they have no papers, or the papers seem funky, they’re off to jail until everything is verified. And woe be to any police officer who doesn’t do his or her job and start stopping people and demanding their papers – this is a mandate. And then she signed an executive order ordering a state police board to outline the necessary training for police officers under the new law.

Rachel Slajda of Talking Point Memo gathers a lot of the other details in this item, including Brewer’s reasoning:

“For weeks this legislation has been subject of vigorous debate and intense criticism, and my decision to sign was by no means made lightly,” she said after signing.

“Though many people disagree, I firmly believe it represents what’s best for Arizona,” she added. “There’s no higher priority than protecting the citizens of Arizona. We cannot sacrifice our safety to the murderous greed of drug cartels.”

Yep, no one likes drug cartels and murder in the streets, but how this will help with that is a bit unclear – but at least she said she will not tolerate racial discrimination or profiling, and said she really had worked with legislators to make sure the bill protects civil rights:

“We must enforce the law evenly and without regard to skin color, accent or social status,” she said, adding that the bill’s opponents are “over-reacting.”

Yes, but how are you going to decide who you’re supposed to stop and make show you their papers, if they have them? The advice from California congressman Brian Bilbray is that you can tell illegal immigrants by their shoes. At present he is serving out the remaining seven months of the term of Republican former Representative Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who resigned after pleading guilty to accepting two and a half million in bribes. As his district includes some of the best surfing beaches just north of San Diego he should know. It’s the shoes, you see.

Of course Brewer urged the law’s supporters and enforcers to be careful not to make “even the slightest misstep.” But she didn’t mention shoes – “We must prove the alarmists and the cynics wrong.” That didn’t stop the protests outside her Capitol to demonstrate against the bill.

Just before she signed the bill into law, President Obama condemned the legislation saying the “recent efforts in Arizona … threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans.” That didn’t stop her. And one of the Arizona state legislators, Raul Grijalva, earlier in the week called for a boycott of his home state if she didn’t disavow the legislation, which he called “fundamentally racist.” That didn’t stop her, and Grijalva closed his Tucson office after receiving death threats. But he wasn’t backing down:

He released a statement after the bill was signed calling on Obama to instruct federal agents not to cooperate with the Arizona law. Appearing later on MSNBC, he said, if this doesn’t provide an “impetus” for Congress to act on immigration reform, “We’re missing the whole point.”

But even John Kerry had lobbied Brewer to veto the legislation and it seems she told him to mind his own business.

And then there’s the political reality here:

Brewer, who was Arizona’s secretary of state, took over the governor’s office when Janet Napolitano was named Homeland Security Secretary. She is running for a full term this year.

She needs the angry white votes, and only fifteen or twenty of the state’s voters are Hispanic. It’s a political calculation.

But then Napolitano released this statement condemning the new law:

The Arizona immigration law will likely hinder federal law enforcement from carrying out its priorities of detaining and removing dangerous criminal aliens. With the strong support of state and local law enforcement, I vetoed several similar pieces of legislation as Governor of Arizona because they would have diverted critical law enforcement resources from the most serious threats to public safety and undermined the vital trust between local jurisdictions and the communities they serve. I support and am actively working with bipartisan members of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level because this issue cannot be solved by a patchwork of inconsistent state laws.

Yep, this is a mess, and earlier there was this:

Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles has offered strong criticism of a measure passed by the Arizona legislature that would require police to arrest suspected illegal immigrants who are unable to provide documentation. The bill, if signed into law, would also make it illegal to hire day laborers off the street and to transport an illegal immigrant.

“The Arizona legislature just passed the country’s most retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless anti-immigrant law [SB 1070, awaiting the expected signature of Gov. Jan Brewer],” Cardinal Mahony wrote on April 18. “The tragedy of the law is its totally flawed reasoning: that immigrants come to our country to rob, plunder, and consume public resources.”

“The law is wrongly assuming that Arizona residents, including local law enforcement personnel, will now shift their total attention to guessing which Latino-looking or foreign-looking person may or may not have proper documents,” he added. “I can’t imagine Arizonans now reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities on any suspicion of documentation.”

Okay – Glenn Beck has said anytime you hear a church talking about social justice, know that they’re talking about socialism, which is really communism, which is really fascism, and you should run the other way as fast as you can. Write off the Catholic vote too.

But why are people worried about this. If you’re white, what’s the problem? If you’re not, show your papers – and if you don’t have them with you, you pay a fine for being forgetful, a few hundred dollars. What’s the big deal? And if they think your papers look squirrelly and keep you in jail until they verify those papers, you get some time off and three square meals a day. Think of it as a vacation.

Others just don’t see it that way. See this video from CNN:

These days, Jessica Mejia doesn’t leave the house without three pieces of identification to prove her citizenship.

Mejia, a University of Arizona student who was born and raised in Tucson, says the habit formed last week, after a series of raids in Arizona targeting illegal immigrants. And now, a new state law that cracks down on illegal immigration has given her more cause for concern.

“Even if you’re legal, you’re in fear that maybe your driver’s license isn’t going to be enough or if you’re walking down the street and the police stop you,” said Mejia, 21. “It’s a constant fear we’re living in and even legal citizens are afraid to go out.”

The solution to that is simple of course – those citizens who are unfortunately Hispanic or who have Hispanic surnames or look Hispanic, whose parents and grandparents and all the generations before them were born here and lived here from before there even was an America, can be issued special cards, for a hefty fee to cover the research, to prove that – to prove that they are what they say they are, citizens, and then sign an affidavit to that effect, and have it notarized. Arizona Senate Bill 1070 is set to take effect in August or September, if it withstands legal challenges that a number of groups who oppose the legislation are expected to rise. This would solve that problem. All they need to do is obtain their Get out of Jail Free card.

Yes, this student is unhappy:

Mejia, who helped organize a protest in front of the state capitol Friday, is one of many student activists in Arizona organizing against SB 1070.

The law also requires legal immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times. But U.S. citizens like Mejia, who identifies herself as Chicana, says she carries her driver’s license, voter registration card and school fingerprint card at all times out of fear of being racially profiled.

“How can you tell what will give an officer reasonable suspicion to stop you?” she said. “We understand there’s a need for protection on the border, but we think it should come more with immigration reform, not by pulling over people and stopping them on the street.”

She should apply for the card, if they decide to issue those.

The AP covers the matter this way:

Arodi Berrelleza isn’t one of the targets of Arizona’s new anti-illegal immigration law – he’s a U.S. citizen.

But the 18-year-old high school student from Phoenix said he’s afraid he’ll be arrested anyway if police see him driving around with friends and relatives, some of them illegal immigrants.

“If a cop sees them and they look Mexican, he’s going to stop me,” Berrelleza said. “What if people are U.S. citizens? They’re going to be asking them if they have papers because of the color of their skin.”

Berrelleza’s concerns were echoed at rallies in the state Saturday, a day after Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill that requires police to question people about their immigration status – including asking for identification – if they suspect someone is in the country illegally.

Yeah, but some are happy:

The new law, which will take effect in late July or early August, was cheered by many, including Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose tough crackdowns have made him a hero in the anti-illegal immigration community. He said it gives him new authority to detain undocumented migrants who aren’t accused of committing any other crimes.

Others aren’t:

State Sen. Rebecca Rios, a Phoenix Democrat and fourth-generation Arizonan, said she’s concerned about her 14-year-old son being harassed by police because of his brown skin, black hair and dark-brown eyes.

“I don’t want my son or anyone else’s son targeted simply because of their physical characteristics,” Rios said. “There’s no reason I should have to carry around any proof of citizenship, nor my son.”

Well, she may be a state senator and a fourth-generation Arizonan, but she and her son do look the way they look. She and her son obviously need that hypothetical Get out of Jail Free card – it’s going to come in handy every day, several times a day. And everyone has to deal with inconveniences in life.

Of course this is madness. This will probably not stand. It’s police state stuff.

But really, it’s just a snit. See Ian Swanson at The Hill with McCain To Obama: Send Troops To Border If You Don’t Like New Immigration Law. McCain is fighting off a major reelection challenge for the right, and has to come down hard on this one. McCain pretty much says yes, the law is stupid and just nasty, but that’s Obama’s fault because Obama isn’t sending the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force in to seal the border.

But McCain is who he is. See Suzanne Malveaux and Dana Bash of CNN on McCain:

MALVEAUX: Where does he stand now? How is he playing into this debate?

BASH: He used to be, but not anymore. In fact, if you look over the years, he has had various positions dealing with this. And it really depended on what election battle he was in at the time. I want to start back in 2007. He was actually the lead Republican sponsor on bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform…

Yep, in 2007, John McCain went from co-sponsoring comprehensive reform legislation with Ted Kennedy to telling Republican primary voters in January 2008 he would not vote for his own proposal. Then he won the Republican nomination and McCain told Hispanic voters in July 2008 to trust him – because “I remain committed to fair, practical and comprehensive immigration reform.” And facing a primary battle from that Hayworth fellow and the xenophobic Tea Baggers who love him, CNN catches McCain telling Bill O’Reilly this now – “The state of Arizona is acting and doing what it feels it needs to do in light of the fact that the federal government is not fulfilling its fundamental responsibility – to secure our borders.”

If you were Hispanic would you vote for McCain? Which one?

And as for Fox News, see this video clip – Judge Andrew Napolitano, who subs for Glenn Beck now and then, goes off the reservation and gives Neil Cavuto a response that stuns Cavuto when Cavuto asks him to verify that the new Arizona law is wholly legal and obviously just and quite sensible and no big deal:

Napolitano: She’s gonna bankrupt the Republican Party and the state of Arizona. Look at what happened to the Republicans in California with the proposition –

Cavuto: What happens?

Napolitano: Ah, Hispanics – who have a natural home in the Republican Party because they are socially conservative – will flee in droves. She’s also gonna bankrupt her state, because no insurance company will provide coverage for this. And for all the lawsuits that will happen – for all the people that are wrongfully stopped – her budget will be paying for it. Her budget will be paying the legal bills of the lawyers who sue on behalf of those that were stopped. This will be a disaster for Arizona – to say nothing of the fact that it’s so unconstitutional that I predict a federal judge will prevent Arizona from enforcing it as soon as they attempt to do so. That will probably be tomorrow.

Cavuto looks crushed, and David Neiwert comments:

Judge Napolitano is an interesting mixed bag of an analyst. Sometimes he’s just a flat-out nutcase. At other times, he’s a sharp and insightful guy. This was definitely one of the latter occasions.

I think what Arturo Venegas, Jr., former chief of the Sacramento Police Department and project director of the Law Enforcement Engagement Initiative, had to say bears repeating:

“The passage of SB 1070 in Arizona is a catastrophe for community policing, with repercussions that will be felt by law enforcement officials across the country. The actions of the state legislature and Gov. Brewer are an unfunded mandate to Arizona police and are clearly rooted in concerns over politics, not public safety. No police officer should have to put arresting an undocumented immigrant over catching a violent criminal to avoid a lawsuit, and no victim or witness of a crime should be afraid to report it because he or she will be deported if he or she speaks to police.

“This law will drive a wedge between police and the immigrant and Latino communities not only in Arizona, but around the country. Trust between law enforcement professionals and the communities they serve is the cornerstone of community policing, and departments across the country have been working for decades to develop strong relationships with the community. Latinos and immigrants across America have been watching Arizona with fear, and will retreat deeper into the shadows now that this bill has become law.

“Today is a very sad day for the majority of us in law enforcement who believe that effective policing is based on community trust. I hope the federal government will heed this wake-up call and take long-overdue action for comprehensive immigration reform to protect our communities, and I am deeply disappointed in Governor Brewer and the Arizona legislature for passing this dangerous, costly, and ineffective law.”

But other than that it’s a cool idea.

Or it’s just a snit, or a temper tantrum, or political posturing. And when all the major league baseball teams with training facilities in Arizona cancel spring training there, as major league baseball is now so heavily Hispanic, and it’s hard to win those spring training games and get the team tuned up when your best guys are in jail, things may change.

But this has held up climate change legislation, of all things. The Democrats want to deal with this immigration stuff, which would embarrass the Republicans – so if they do, there will be no climate change legislation. But now it’s too late. After Arizona, the Hispanic vote is lost, and the Catholic vote. And the black vote was already lost. See Republican National Chairman Michael Steele on the GOP’s electoral strategy since the mid-sixties – “For the last 40-plus years we had a ‘Southern Strategy’ that alienated many minority voters by focusing on the white male vote in the South. Well, guess what happened in 1992, folks. ‘Bubba’ went back home to the Democratic Party and voted for Bill Clinton.”

Now what? Being in a snit only gets you so far. Sooner or later you end up with a party of fourteen people, screaming that they’re the Real Americans. Of course Fox news will cover that, and then they won’t. Something is disappearing here.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
This entry was posted in Arizona Senate Bill 1070, Illegal Immigration, Immigration Policy and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to In a Snit and Claiming That as Policy

  1. Craig A says:

    Excellent piece and thanks for your efforts.

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