Saturday 1 May 2010

Why Arizona really matters

Why the Democrats need to push immigration reform right now:

The Democrats are on a roll, finally figuring out how to shame Republicans into ending their filibusters. But that’s not why they need to push immigration reform.

Right now people are really steamed about the Arizona “Papers Please” law. But that’s not why to push reform, either.

Right now other states – Texas, Ohio, Utah – are thinking about passing similar laws; soon there could be whole swaths of the country where it’s pretty much illegal to be brown. But that’s not why we need to move on this.

The reason we need to do this now is that the “arrest everybody who’s brown” tactic could have disastrous consequences on election day. The threat of widespread arrests based on skin color is nothing short of vote suppression: how many Latinos are going to stay away from the polls in November just to avoid getting thrown in jail by all those cops standing around at the polls? What could stop the cops from simply arresting all the Mexicans at your local polling place, and only letting the white folks vote? Could this asinine law be the element that allows McCain to keep his job until he’s 80?

That’s the real reason why we need immigration reform.

Q. What legal impediment is there, to stop a crooked, irresponsible sheriff like Arpaio from simply throwing every Mexican in jail on election day, so that only whites can vote, and then letting all the detainees back out again the next day?

A. Nothing at all. It is now perfectly legal for white Republicans to steal the election.

The Republicans know full well that passage of serious immigration reform would be really bad for them but great for everyone else: Lindsey Graham, who earlier was screeching at Obama for not moving fast enough on immigration reform, is now screeching that the Democrats must STOP pushing it or he will stonewall everything else going through the Senate.

As the Washington Monthly pointed out, the Immigration Reform Law Institute is the group which is taking credit for writing the Arizona bill, and is now urging the legislature to amend the bill and make it easier for police to concoct legal pretexts for harassing innocent brown people, to include city rules such as having a car up on blocks (they also admitted that the law as originally written was a racial-profiling law by passing a no-profiling amendment). The guy spearheading that amendment effort is the same guy who formerly was Chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, where he took credit for the vote-caging effort there – the entirely illegal effort to get blacks and Mexicans thrown off the voter rolls if they fail to answer a registered-mail verification, something they didn’t bother to do in white areas.

Gee, can anybody see the pattern here?

Republicans go after minorities in Kansas, to stop them from voting Democratic.
Republicans throw Arizona Mexicans in jail, to stop them from showing their faces on the street so they can vote Democratic.
Republican vote suppression in Ohio, stop voters from voting Democratic, steal the 2004 presidential election.
Illegal Republican voter suppression in black and Hispanic sections of Florida, stop voters from voting Democratic, steal the 2000 presidential election.
Republicans go all out to destroy any African-American voter registration effort, stop them from voting Democratic.
Republican hissy fits when one alleged “Black Panther” shows up at a polling place with a “stick” – screeching “Hey, he’s only a Democrat, only Republicans are allowed to commit voter suppression!!”
Republicans declare war on union groups, because they organize Democratic voters.
Republicans declare war on lawyers and push for tort reform, because they organize Democratic voters.
Republicans bitterly resist all efforts to reform the electoral college, because the current system artificially suppresses the power of Democratic voters, by disproportionately emphasizing the voices of the Republicans of the Great Plains.
Republicans shamelessly pushing Voter ID laws, voter purging laws, ex-con disenfranchisement laws.
Republicans putting scumbags like Katherine Harris in charge of voting laws.
Republicans jamming the phone lines of Democratic organizers to suppress voter turnout in New Hampshire.
Republicans illegally registering voters using pro-marijuana petitions.
Republicans suppressing voter representation in Democratic districts by sending fake census forms so the real forms don’t get filled out.
Republicans undertaking such a widespread vote suppression effort in the Virginia gubernatorial race that the FBI had to step in.
Republicans pushing vote suppression in the 2008 race, using caging, purging and delays a polling places to stop people from voting for Obama in Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, Montana, Wisconsin.

The Republicans seemingly can’t stop them from doing incredibly stupid things, pissing off Mexicans with their stance on Sotomayor and their immigration policies, pissing off blacks with their 19th-century attitudes toward Obama, pissing off women with their antediluvian policies on abortion, possing off young people with their fiscal policies, pissing off gays…They know that soon they will only have adult white men, who currently comprise only about 24 percent of America, and dropping. They know that the Republican party is doomed, for demographic reasons, and all they can do is try to delay the inevitable, with illegal voter suppression. So we will see more and more of it.

And what happens when Obama passes immigration reform, and gives 11 million Mexicans a clear path toward becoming citizens…and voting?

In the meantime there are one or two problems with that law, that will get it overturned.

It empowers virtually any government employee to jail almost any citizen without cause.
It mandates that government employees MUST pursue illegals.
It doesn’t properly define who can invoke these powers, or what qualification or training is required.
It will require that some people incriminate themselves.
It provides for entrapment.
It mandates the payment of court costs without due process.
It violates civil procedure by imposing costs on defendants without court involvement.
It eradicates the doctrine that any suspect is innocent until proven guilty.
It imposes penalties on anyone who brings another person into their home or car, or even invites them to Arizona.
It virtually assures that innocent people will be detained, injured or killed.
It mandates transfer of state detainees to federal facilities without federal input, and makes no provision for federal refusal to implement that mandate.
It essentially makes brown skin into probable cause.

The worst, most incompetent lawyer in the world could get this overturned in any federal court. Not only should the law be overturned, but whichever moron wrote it should be disbarred for criminal incompetence. In years to come, they will use this asinine law as a pop quiz in freshman-level Constitutional Law -- okay kids, the student who finds the most errors gets an A!

So why did the governor sign this piece of garbage?

According to Mother Jones, that crazy Arizona governor signed that crazy Arizona immigrant law because she is about to be primaried by an even crazier Republican “leader” – Arpaio, the local sheriff. This maniac could be the next governor, who could make the current incumbent look like Mary Poppins.

So let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Arpaio, ironically the son of immigrants, has created a catastrophe trying to hunt immigrants on the border. He instructed his civilian “posses” to go out and arrest “aliens”; these people now have concealed-carry powers. But the Department of Homeland Security was forced to step in and order Arpaio to stop using his deputies to hunt immigrants: even though they are federally trained, the implementation has been, in a word, problematic. Meanwhile the Department of Justice is investigating Arpaio for civil rights violations and for illegally targeting minorities; Arpaio refused to cooperate with Justice.

When he isn’t hunting Mexicans, he is hunting his critics. Arpaio is investigating many of his opponents on criminal charges. The FBI is investigating him because he has tried to terrorize his political critics – judges, county managers, a police chief, a state attorney general – by filing corruption charges and lawsuits. He has raided city hall and demanded access to a mayor’s email account. When a county supervisor made the terrible mistake of requesting an audit of the sheriff’s budget, Arpaio retaliated with 200 frivolous criminal charges. Arpaio arrested the editors of a local paper and subpoena’ed the paper as well as the IP addresses of all visitors to the paper’s website, because the paper had criticized Arpaio; a court ruled that the subpoenas were illegal. The DOJ empanelled a grand jury to charge him with abuse of power.

So what about his day job, fighting crime? He began his law-enforcement career in the early 1950s – he will soon turn 78 -- but he is actually a really, really bad law enforcement officer. A newspaper won a Pulitzer for exposing lousy emergency response and lousy law enforcement. He launched the incredibly dangerous process of recruiting volunteer “posses” to do deputy work which requires actual training -- manage search and rescue, run traffic control, execute warrants, and transport prisoners. He is under fire for “clearing” more than 80 percent of his cases without proper investigation, including three young girls who were raped. His efforts have had no effect whatsoever on recidivism. A petition to recall Arpaio from office was launched, although it failed.

Likewise his handling of detainees has gotten him in very serious trouble. His county has had to pay over $40 million to the families of inmates who died in custody, despite efforts by Arpaio’s office to destroy evidence; some of his victims were disabled. His deputies have a reputation for beating inmates. He reduced food supplies to inmates, put them in tents in the Arizona sun, put them in chain gangs, and put them in pink underwear; he then sold the pink underwear as a sideline, misused the funds, and refused all external oversight. Arpaio’s jail lost accreditation several times for lying about compliance and for violating health and safety rules. He has been sued more than 2000 times regarding prison conditions.

And then, the webcam. A judge slapped down Arpaio and fined him, for putting video of pretrial detainees on the internet, in violation of the constitutional protections regarding due process. “We fail to see how turning pretrial detainees into the unwilling objects of the latest reality show serves any of these legitimate goals…Inmates . . . are not like animals in a zoo to be filmed and photographed at will by the public. “ Even the Supreme Court, which lurches further to the right every year, wouldn’t back up Arpaio.

And this guy could be governor. In total charge of a huge chunk of the U.S.-Mexico border, including most of the border areas which are not blocked by the Rio Grande. And he will have total executive power, total veto power, total control over all state forces, everybody who has a gun. To continue to terrorize anyone with brown skin, or anyone in the state who questions his illegal behaviour.

So the Republicans want to remove our voting rights, steal elections, throw innocent people in jail, and hand the state of Arizona over to an incompetent, violent thug. This is kind of stuff we hanged Saddam Hussein for.

Now does everybody get it?

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