Arizona’s Hate Legislation

Apr 22, 2010

By Gode Davis, political staff columnist – April 22, 2010

On March 27, 2008, Republican Governor Donald B. Carcieri signed a six-point executive order which he said at the time would enable “a vast array of state government agencies” to address illegal immigration in Rhode Island. I happen to live in Rhode Island and find this relevant considering what’s almost certainly to become law in Arizona about two years later. Carcieri said his executive order was a consequence of the federal government “dropping the ball” on immigration reform, leaving state taxpayers to pick up what he said were “the considerable costs of illegal immigration.”

Two years ago, Carcieri ratcheted up the rhetoric, referring to the flow of illegal immigrants into Rhode Island as “epidemic.”
Carcieri’s measure required state agencies and vendors to verify the legal status of all employees; allowed the state to inform people whose identity has been stolen; and directed Rhode Island State Police and Department of Corrections to work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “to ensure federal immigration law is enforced.”

Reaction to Carcieri’s order was mixed. “We’re ecstatic that the governor put this executive order out,” said Terry Gorman, president of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement (RIILE), an anti-“illegal” immigration group that supports keeping the smallest state’s immigrant population at “current levels,” which is code language for anti-immigration, a sentiment that must be expressed in shades of nuance within the politically-diverse Northeast. Opponents of the Carcieri measure brought up concerns of vigilantism and racial profiling. “Are people now going to take the law into their own hands? Governor Carcieri didn’t answer that when he was asked,” said Sen. Juan Pichardo (D-Providence), “Rather than tamping down the heated rhetoric on this issue, the governor has increased the fear in the immigrant community – among both documented and undocumented immigrants.”

Stephen Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, predicted that the Rhode Island governor’s executive order “is only going to increase the problem of racial profiling in the state.”

What happened in Little Rhody in 2008 can perhaps be described as a minor prelude to anti-immigration Arizona events unfolding during recent weeks. Here the furor focuses on what’s been described by foes as “hate legislation” recently passed by Arizona legislators. The bill, initially introduced by state Sen. Russell K. Pearce (R-Mesa), will become law if Arizona’s Republican governor Jan Brewer either signs it or does nothing prior to April 24, 2010.

Senate Bill 1070, as originally introduced by Pearce, contains a raft of Draconian provisions drafted with the intent of criminalizing noncitizens and establishing as “less than by legal mandate” anyone who doesn’t look, act, speak, or smell like a “real American,” by which is generally inferred to be Caucasian and Protestant, most preferably. Specific provisions in the imminent statute will require that state officials establish the immigration status of any person encountered in the course of their work if “reasonable suspicion” exists that the person is an illegal immigrant unlawfully present in the United States. The premise of “reasonable suspicion” has raised the hackles of civil libertarians and will almost certainly open the door to the practice of racial profiling and vigilantism if Arizona’s historic legacy is any indicator for events about to transpire. Other provisions contained in the controversial legislation will permit a law enforcement officer, without a warrant, to arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense – i.e. public urination – that can be used as a pretense for deportation. In automobiles, another provision will expand current laws to define the crime of “smuggling” in a much broader sense – potentially conflating a routine grocery excursion for “suspect” U.S. citizens into a traumatic ordeal having hellish bureaucratic implications that might be likened to plights of unfortunate Palestinians or Arabs in Israel, if not also to the immortal Franz Kafka. Embellishing the latter eventuality, Dallas-based immigration lawyer Stewart Rabinowitz asserts that all elements of Arizona’s Hispanic population – U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, persons federally authorized to be in the US, as well as the undocumented – will now be at risk for being uniformly classified in the mindsets of certain proactive law enforcement officers as “incompatible classes of persons” – while being subject to uncertain consequences without any refuge to legal recourse.

The bill’s instigator, Russell K. Pearce, is probably elated. A former deputy sheriff, State Senator Pearce has been advocating racially motivated, anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona for years. His close associates and supporters include a number of “Tim McVeigh-types,” at least in a political sense if not also the criminal, including self-avowed white supremacists “Buffalo Rick” Galeener and J.T. Ready. Galeener once made a political “statement” of sorts when he was cited for publicly urinating in the plain sight of an adult Latina and her child. Ready is known to have close ties with Neo-Nazi organizations and has publicly stated, “I firmly believe in having a minefield across the border, this is one-hundred percent effective.”

Pearce had been pushed out as a state representative after eight years due to term limits, but was elected to the Arizona state Senate in November 2009. Prior to the election, he’d solicited $5 contributions by writing a letter to Glenn Spencer’s anti-immigrant website, Other supporters have included Rusty Childress, a Phoenix car dealer and President of United for a Sovereign America, a hard-line nativist activist group; Chris Simcox, chief organizer of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a group specializing in vigilantism; and Al Rodriguez, executive director of the outspoken You Don’t Speak For Me! Far from muted, this latter quixotic organization is largely funded by the Federation for American Immigration Reform which has been designated as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center. No wonder Pearce gained the camaraderie of Galeener and can claim Mr. Ready as always “at the ready.”

Another staunch advocate of Senate Bill 1070 has been the media-friendly Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an incongruously-prominent law enforcement officer who has been accused by officials in the Obama Administration (in his mind unfairly singled out) of systematic racial profiling and civil rights violations in Latino communities. He’s quite fond of the USCIS’s 287 (g) program, which purports to contain procedural safeguards, but may well have been guilty of being over-zealous on occasion. Sheriff Arpaio was recently quoted on MSNBC’s Chris Matthews Show, asserting that “This new law will be another valuable tool for law enforcement.” Quizzed by Matthews about any potential downside to the Pearce-inspired statute, Arpaio blithely stated, “I don’t really see any. I trust the judgment of my officers. They’re extremely well-trained.”

Arizona tensions were exacerbated early on Saturday morning, March 27, 2010, when 58-year-old rancher Robert Krentz was said to be murdered after surprising an armed illegal immigrant in the lonely hinterlands of his sprawling 34,000-acre cattle ranch located about 35 miles from Douglas, Arizona, and perhaps 15 miles north of the US-Mexican border. Krentz’s tragic murder has served as a rallying cry for nativists and anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic zealots in a manner reminiscent of Pancho Villa’s banditry and raids circa 1915-1916, although the international implications are greatly tamped down almost a century later. Over the decades before and since the controversial Villa, a larger-than-life figure described alternately as hero and villain – indiscriminate killings, including lynchings, of perhaps 2,000 “brown-skinned” men, women, and children have tainted Anglo-Latino relations – and such murders have not been confined to Arizona.

As a predictor of what might occur with what’s been described by opponents as “Arizona’s Hate Legislation” and compared rhetorically to something hatched by Hitler’s Goebbels circa 1935, recent experience with the federal immigration-related 287 (g) may unfortunately prove contemporaneously instructive. In its statement of April 1, 2010, calling on Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to immediately terminate the 287 (g) program as administered by ICE, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) cited ICE’s failure to properly administer 287(g) and described numerous abuses of power affecting ICE detainees. AILA pointed to a dismal record of “abject failure” that included neglect, abuse, and deaths of detainees. Horrors said by AILA to be perpetrated by cold-hearted agents of ICE may rival the hidden human rights ledgers of the world’s most oppressive regimes, and receive scant scrutiny in the American mainstream media. One such instance featured the plight of one Boubacar Bah, who, after mysteriously suffering a skull fracture, was handcuffed by ICE officials while writhing in agony in his own vomit on the floor of a New Jersey detention center, and subsequently locked up in an isolation cell for 13 hours without receiving medical treatment. By the time he was finally taken to a hospital in a coma, it was too late to save him, and he died.

It has been mentioned that 287 (g), albeit quite notorious in its own right, contains procedural safeguards that Arizona Senate Bill 1070 inherently lacks. In a state such as Arizona, where the premise of “reasonable suspicion” may itself be dubious, the consequences of the new law may become dire indeed. That said – notable politicians such as the illustrious Republican John McCain, currently engaged in a fierce primary battle for his long-held U.S. Senate seat with the ultra-right wing talk show host J.D. Hayworth, has come out strongly in favor of Senate Bill 1070 in an effort to demonstrate his “bonafide” Conservative credentials. Hayworth is a staunch advocate of another contemporary nativist plank, the strange bid to prove that President Barack Obama’s birth certificate is fraudulent, and that the “President of color” is not a real American because he was born in Kenya, thus undermining the legitimacy of his Presidency. In such a context, even so-called “hate legislation” may rise above the level of “reasonable suspicion.”


1., Razing Arizona 4-15-2010

2., Secret Horror Stories: ICE Officials Hid The Truth About Immigrant Deaths in Detention 1-10-2010

3., Arizona Reelects Hard-Core Nativist Politician Spring 2009, Issue 133

4., Crackdown on illegal immigrants 3-28-2008

5., Arizona: A State With Hate 4-6-2010


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