Yesterday there were about a hundred Tea Party protesters at the corner of Grand and Payton in Chino Hills, blowing whistles and waving flags to signify their disgust with the temporary injunction the judge in the Arizona SB 1070 case issued. They are angry because they believe that Arizona is being denied their right to defend themselves from the onslaught of illegal aliens and drug smugglers from Mexico. Most of them (I’ve spoken with quite a few), see this as a state’s rights issue and think Arizona should be able to use the means in SB 1070 to make a difference in the illegal immigration problem.
The opposite point of view has unfortunately focused on racism and the belief that racial profiling will be used. To be fair, most white people don’t understand what it’s like to be pulled over, and sometimes searched, because you look different. The average white person has never had that experience. The average black or hispanic person has. Repeatedly. But while that fear is justified, it’s not the real reason to oppose SB1070.
When the Soviet Union was in power, you needed transit papers to travel from one city to another. If you didn’t have what was essentially a visa, you couldn’t leave your town and go to another province or city. If you did and you were caught, you could do jail time. Nazi Germany employed this same system as a way to be able to detain people without cause.
The powers of SB1070, used for the purposes stated, are fine. It’s the infrastructure it creates that is the real problem. Think of all the abuses under the PATRIOT Act. Wiretaps and e-mail impounding that could have never taken place before it was signed into law. Extrajudicial rendition, the practice of scooping people off of streets in foriegn countries. Torture. These are all things our government is doing now. The problem with SB1070 is it could be used to gut Miranda and probable cause requirements. It is also a short step to requiring transit papers.
And before you say, ‘The law has safeguards to prevent abuses’, I will tell you that the PATRIOT Act actually has a lot of checks in it to. They’re just not used when they aren’t convenient.
People are pretty uninformed about how much their civil rights have already eroded in the last several decades. For example, on Interstate 10 in Arizona, you can be pulled over and searched at any time by law enforcement because the highway was named by the Reagan administration as a ‘drug smuggling corridor’. Effectively, you have no civil rights on Interstate 10.
We assume that since this law is written to deter illegal aliens, that it will never be used for anything else. We have seen, with the many abuses of the PATRIOT Act, that once you give additional power to the government, they are very creative in devising uses for it.
There is nothing to say, since the government is already monitoring the internet, that your anti-government views won’t be used to target you. SB1070 requires all citizens in Arizona to carry identification. It’s not a large step to see you behind bars because you were pulled over and couldn’t prove you are here legally, regardless of skin color.
The illegal problem is big, but it’s not worth compromising a single civil right to stem. As Ben Franklin said,
“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”