Arizona Freedom Or I Guess That’s Why They Call It Our Dues

I’m not a lawyer. I don’t even play one on TV.

But to understand the mess in Arizona over their new immigration law?  You might need a law degree.

I’m not even a seasoned tourist when it comes to the west. I’ve visited southern California twice when my sister lived there. And I’ve been to New Mexico twice with my husband. But something I saw on one of those visits made quite the impression.

We landed in El Paso, TX. My husband had lived in southern New Mexico for a few years. We were visiting his old stomping grounds.

I looked out the window and saw little box structures, about double the size of a refrigerator box, dotting the landscape. Then I noticed two women and one man running toward the Interstate, having just crawled under a fence. One of the women stumbled. When she stood up I saw that she was visibly pregnant. Make that, hugely pregnant. She was having trouble gaining her footing.

“Stop!” I shouted to my husband, “That woman needs help!”

My husband kept driving. “Yeah. She’s probably in labor,” he said, nonchalantly. “They wait there on the other side of the fence until they go into labor. Then they cross here and have their baby in the United States so the kid can be a US citizen.”

“You mean, that’s Mexico?” I had no idea we were that close to the US/Mexico border. (Geography, apparently, is not my strong suit.)

The two sides of the fence couldn’t be more different. One side was developed, with cars and trucks whizzing by. Manicured lawns. Commerce-a-plenty. The other side? Open fields. Overgrown grass. Shacks-a-plenty.

When I saw all those inadequate dwellings, when I saw signs like these:

I was stunned into silence. I saw, up close and personal, that we have quite a problem on our hands. And this was 15 years ago.

Arizona is living the consequences of inadequate immigration control. Their tax dollars are stretched to the max funding health care, education and putting band aids on the strained justice system.   The Federation for American Immigration predicts that illegal immigrants cost the American taxpayer approximately $113 billion in one year.

$113 billion.

In one year.

I love it that Elton John shamed other musicians who are boycotting Arizona because of their hard stance on immigration. I agree with Sir Elton (but not necessarily his word choice). Some boycotts are noble. Some boycotts should stand. But musicians “forcing” Arizona to re-think their stance on illegal immigration?

Let’s walk a mile in Arizona’s shoes first before we judge. Better yet, let’s sit in the closest emergency room to the US/Mexico border. Or ride with a police car for a night. Or attend a budget meeting for the local school system.

The problem does not lie with the illegal immigrant. The problem lies in our immigration system.

And Arizona is trying to fix, just that.

27 Comments

Filed under All In A Day's Work, Be-Causes, Soapbox

27 responses to “Arizona Freedom Or I Guess That’s Why They Call It Our Dues

  1. angelcel

    This is a brave subject to broach because NIMBY’s are quick to have firm opinions. Pontificating about what is morally right and wrong when nothing to do with that argument appears to be impacting your lifestyle is quite a luxury, I think. Only those living in Arizona know how illegal immigration is affecting their communities.

    • Really? There are no illegal immigrants where you live? This is an issue that affects every last one of us (if you’re an American). We may not be aware of the impact, but that doesn’t make it absent.

      • angelcel

        Evenshine: Unfortunately, I think you’ve completely misread and misunderstood what I said.

      • Angelcel- if I have misread and misunderstood you, then please explain how I have. Thanks!

      • angelcel

        NIMBY (not in my back yard). I don’t know if that acronym is used over there. It was first coined here in relation to property planning applications but I used it to relate to anyone who spouts forth on what goes on elsewhere with little knowledge of the real situation and often little *desire* to actually find out.

        “Pontificating about what is morally right and wrong when nothing to do with that argument appears to be impacting your lifestyle is quite a luxury, I think.” The relevant word here being ‘appears’, because in actual fact unfettered immigration can become a huge problem that has *profound* effects on communities. This is something we here in the UK are *well* aware of after 13 years of disastrous numbskull government with a very lax immigration policy.

        Therefore, it’s all good and fine to sit, thousands of miles away and, I believe, unthinkingly regurgitate the usual platitudes, but the people of Arizona are living on the front line, where this problem has been described as being of ‘epidemic proportions’. If Arizona’s governing body feel they have no choice but to take this action, then so be it.

        Hope that’s made it clearer. I often, unfortunately, wiffle in comments. I kept it short this time and maybe, as a result, confused the issue.

  2. Katybeth

    Having grown up in El Paso, Texas–you can only understand the problem if you have lived there or at least make the effort to spend some time there–Elton John? Please. I won’t say more because you said it so well and it makes me to angry.

  3. bearyweather

    You for speaking up … you are so right!
    Yesterday when the radio said that the most “controversial” provisions of the law were not lawful and put on hold, I was very curious to hear what those were …. and when I did, I was dumbfounded.
    Law enforcement can not check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws? What is “controversial” about that? As far as I understand being here illegally is breaking a law.
    It is like saying … a person can be arrested for stealing, but the police should ignore the fact that they broke down the front door to get in and steal.
    Grrrrrr …..
    I hope the people of Arizona continue to fight for control of their State .. they know what they need best.

  4. As always, I applaud your bravery! You just go for it, no matter how sticky the issue.

    That sign is rather alarming.

  5. I considered doing a post on this. I do not live there, although a large section of my family moved to NM in the 80’s.

    “The problem does not lie with the illegal immigrant. The problem lies in our immigration system.”….I agree with the statement…..except, I believe it leaves out the actual ROOT of the problem. The problem lies with Mexico, itself. Lack of resources, industry, major drug issues, poverty and corruption. The U.S. can not “fix” the Mexican problems, but reform of our immigration system is desperately needed. However, I will not feel guilty for expecting someone to pay taxes into our system, if they expect our governmental support. Regardless of the humanitarian argument, if you are here illegally, you are here ILLEGALLY.

  6. Jen

    I’m glad you posted this. Mainstream (liberal) media are shining an untrue light on the situation, making Arizona look un-American, racist and unfair for their stance. But 70% of America agrees with Arizona? I was taught in elementary anything above 50% is the majority. But maybe mathematics has changed since the early 90s.

    It’s sad where we’ve come as a nation. I’m no longer shocked by the crazy decisions and debacles … just heart broken for my country.

  7. Tough issue. There is no right or wrong answer. Either side, people lose out. Having lived in Southern California for 8 years, I saw a bit of this (not the drama of crossing or those nifty crossing signs, but other effects). At the time I left, the state estimated that 95% of kids in certain geographic regions were failing in school because they couldn’t speak english. The teachers? Pure-bred middle-class anglophones. The parents refused to speak english at home, and didn’t want their kids to learn it. I remember my Mexican roommate taking me to this club in Palm Springs… a Mexican club, where the walls were covered with posters pushing for an underground Mexican Revolution — essentially, take back their land which they feel was stolen from them. There are huge issues underneath this problem, and until they are addressed, it’s not going to go away. (That’s just my narrow little view of things.)

  8. I’ve been considering a post on this, but you beat me to it! Nicely done. I have to disagree that there’s no right or wrong here, or that those of us outside Arizona somehow don’t have any clue what it’s like living with illegal immigration. As Americans, we’re all responsible for this problem, like it or not. I just think it makes people uncomfortable, since there *is* a humanitarian side to it. I never saw anything wrong with the Arizona law, but I do think the judge’s reasons for blocking parts of it were correct. Obama has promised immigration reform since before he was president. Until he gets to it, on a FEDERAL level, things like Arizona will continue to happen…and Arizona is not the only state considering legislation about this. They just happened to take the first step.
    Way to open up a hornet’s nest, Jane! 🙂

  9. unabridgedgirl

    Jane, I love that you wrote this! And you wrote it so well! You’re right, unless you live in a state where immigration is out of control, you have no real understanding. I lived in Arizona, and the resources taken up by illegal immigration is insane. It is the same here in Utah.

    I have no issues with immigration. If you want to come to his country, I think you should be able to come, but do it legally! My knowledge is limited, but maybe we need to make legal immigration easier?

    I don’t know. Such a sticky topic! Thank you for writing this.

  10. This reminds me of racial profiling, whether it’s in cars or on subways or airplanes, or now, on Arizona streets. Yes, there may be a problem, but in this great country, we have to deal with it appropriately. Walking up to people on the street because of their skin tone and demanding their papers? Don’t you think this would establish a fairly dangerous precedent? The same way picking every Arab out of a line before he enters the subway or airplane sets a dangerous precedent. The same way pulling every black man to the side of the road in a white neighborhood establishes a dangerous precedent. It creates a certain culture–a discriminatory and harsh culture–that is against our national ideals. And if we don’t have our ideals, then what is our country all about?

  11. Wow — that image of the pregnant woman crossing the border is something! I’m glad you shared your story.

  12. You’ve spoken your piece very well. I’m not sure I agree with you, but I applaud your courage to voice your opinion. I have a problem with extremism – and I fear Arizona’s “solution” is extreme. The problem is huge and is complicated and I’m certain there is no easy answer. Since our lawmakers seem to be unable to work together, I’m not sure that our government can find a fair, workable answer either. I think this problem, like poverty, homelessness, abuse, etc. is going to be with us for a long while.

  13. I certainly respect your opinion. I agree that the U.S. needs to deal with their immigration issues. Perhaps, the start is with the employers who recruit, hire and lure immigrants for cheap, often exploited human labor. I don’t agree with the Arizona law-it’s extreme, it places a lot of responsibility on the street cop, violates human rights (Not all immigrants are illegal and just because you have a certain profile should not always make you suspicious).

    Now, I will say cheers to Arizona because their extreme measures to deal with immigration has brought to surface again, the need to deal with immigration at the national level.

  14. I am curious if any commentors will comment on the “racial” profiling.

    It IS racial profiling……becasue they are Mexican. I am not trying to be a jerk. I probably am just to dumb to get it.

    They look Mexican/Latino/Hispanic….whatever. If you are legal, show the card, big deal. It is the same as “legally”driving a car….you have to show your license. Why is racially profiling bad if that IS what you are trying to do?

    As far as too much power to the cops…..they already have that in so many ways…..so you could raise that issue with almost anything.

    I do agree with the problem of individually asking people versus INS lining EVERYONE up when they inspect a place. Maybe we ALL need a citizen card!

    Sorry Jane. Totally using your blog to get people’s opinions:)

  15. Jane,

    Excellent way to present the subject. The sign in your post made my jaw drop. I currently live in AZ, after living in TX all my life. And you know what? I am not certain what I believe about immigration anymore. Resources are being taxed, but at the same time many illegals just want a better life for themselves and their children. Where to draw the line? I don’t know.

  16. This is certainly a sticky subject. Part of me wants our borders to remain open, remembering the mantra of our nation’s past to “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” America was founded on immigrants. Our ancestral immigrants made countless contributions to make America what it is today. And there are still those who truly want to make America their home, their country, their land. That’s called legal immigration. Take the pledge and become a citizen of the country you love.

    Illegal immigration simply is wanting the best a country has to offer without any personal commitment. No, I don’t believe we should grant amnesty to those here illegally, regardless of their ethnicity. If there are indeed immigration laws on the books, I expect our government to enforce them. If they don’t or won’t, I see nothing wrong with states taking measures to protect the resources that honest, tax-paying US CITIZENS provide.

    I ran across a very eye-opening site on the dark side of illegal immigration. This is not a Hispanic-bashing site, it touches on the broader impact and potential threats posed by those from any country who do not want to abide by the laws of our nation.
    http://www.usillegalaliens.com/

    Gee, thanks Jane…pretty heavy thinking for a Friday afternoon!

    • I’m with you! Want to enter/stay in the US? Follow the rules. Do it legally. If you are here illegally, the law need to be enforced. To me, this isn’t a human rights issue. Yes, the reason many are here can be a tragic one. But the real issue is are you here legally or illegally?

  17. Having just bought a house in AZ I really need to be better informed than I am about the whole situation there.

    Great post.

  18. Elisa

    I would just like to address two issues that were brought up. The first one is racial profiling, while that isn’t the laws intent, it does provide a nifty loop hole for officers who are driven by bias. Even if the law is followed with any racial profiling it violates my rights as a citizen. I should have the right to walk down the street without having to show a police officer my I.D..

    Some argue that this is no different than being pulled over and having to produce your license, but it is different. Driving is a privilege, not a right, so when we get behind the wheel we must produce proof we have been authorized to operate a vehicle. Also, there is no law stating a citizen must carry I.D. on them at all times, in fact I frequently leave mine at home because I don’t need it. The problem I had with the Arizona law was the fact it tramples on American’s rights.

    I shouldn’t have to worry that if I decide to go for a walk, the police can harass me basicly just because, since anyone could be an illegal immigrant. The suspicion of being illegal would be enough probable cause to stop you, which many people don’t understand. Then if I don’t happen to have my I.D. they can arrest me and hold me.

    I’m sure, if people really wanted to come together, we could find a less neo-nazi approach to all of this, such as making the process to become legal less complicated and, say I don’t, know, actually auditing companies and fining them. We have many laws we don’t enforce, why make up new ones?

    Wow this turned out longer than I antcipated, but that’s about a fraction of my thoughts on this.

    • as a hispanic living in southern california, I would happily carry around my id at all times to prove my citizenship if it meant it would help with the immigration problem.
      The same way I put up with being stripsearched at airports to help with public safety. You think Muslims aren’t racially profiled at airports?

      While the suspicion of being illegal would be enough to cause police officers to stop someone, the reality of that happening is slim to none. Cops already turn a blind eye to tinted front windows and cell phone drivers (both illegal in california) because it’s too much paperwork for such a trivial offense. I think with proper oversight the law would be used correctly to detain illegal immigrants who are causing crime.

      • Thank you for commenting on this issue! It’s so nice to hear from someone who is living this daily. Sometimes, comments from those watching all of this from the comfort of their living rooms don’t pack nearly as much punch!

      • I also disagree with the new airport security and I do live this everyday, I live in Southern California, I have all my life and my case for probable cause comes from experience as well. The chances of being harassed are not slim to none, I see it everyday in the profession I work in, I am a legal secretary. You would be surprised just how often police abuse their own power.

        Oh and not that it matters, I’m white and I don’t want to have to carry around my ID just to prove I’m a citizen. This is a very slippery slope, people are heading down and the giving up of our rights as citizens isn’t the answer becuase at some point we’ll have even bigger problems and no rights left to sacrifice.

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