Monday, May 10, 2010

First They Came for the Mexicans . . .

It's time to get concerned about the very visible anti-Mexican (and probably anti-Hispanic) bigotry taking hold in certain parts of the country.

First, we have the "papers, please" law recently passed in Arizona. Defenders of the law tell us that the only burden will be on illegal immigrants. They ignore the new power police are given to ask anyone who "looks illegal" for proof of citizenship. Everything in the statute is based on the state criminalizing the status of an illegal immigrant. Under the Constitution (which applies both to citizens and non-citizens), a law enforcement officer has to have "reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot" to detain someone and ask questions. (Google "Terry stop" for more on this.)

How can an officer tell the difference between a Mexican-American citizen and an undocumented Mexican national? He can't, of course. So in Arizona, just being Hispanic (or probably non-white) gives an officer reason to detain someone long enough to ask questions. Terrific.

Next, we have the California kids sent home for wearing American flags on Cinco de Mayo. Many are treating this as an incident that is only about the free speech rights of the white students involved. (And I agree, their rights were violated; they should not have been sent home.) But what's being glossed over is the intent behind their "patriotic" display that day. Those students weren't just being patriotic. They were telling their Mexican-American classmates that the celebration of their heritage wasn't acceptable. They were making the Mexican-Americans aware of their otherness, showing them that they weren't quite Americans in the same way the flag-wearers are.

How do I know what the students intended, you ask? Simple. Because I never hear of students wearing American flags or "patriotic" colors on St. Patrick's Day. It's acceptable for people to wear green, display shamrocks, and celebrate their Irish heritage on that day. (I've also never seen any negative reaction to all of the black, red, and gold downtown during Oktoberfest.) Irish-Americans are OK. Mexican-Americans? Not so much. Ironic, given the history of discrimination against Irish-Americans.

The Butler County sheriff wants to bring a "papers, please" law to Ohio. In my criminal defense practice over the past six to twelve months, I've seen a growing hostility towards Hispanics. I hope that Ohioans prove that they're better than this.

In times of economic crisis, people often turn to scapegoating. That seems to be happening now in the U.S. Let's recognize it for what it is and end it. Now.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Don't be an idiot or your comment will be deleted.