PHOENIX (By Jon Garrido, Hispanic News and the Blue Dogs of the Democratic Party) September 5, 2007 — A federal judge dealt a decisive blow against a dangerous trend of freelance immigration policies by local governments. Judge James M. Munley of the Central Pennsylvania District, struck down ordinances in the Town of Hazleton that sought to harshly punish undocumented migrants for trying to live and work there, and employers and landlords for providing them with homes and jobs.
The ruling was a well-earned embarrassment for Mayor Louis J. Barletta and his proclaimed goal of making Hazleton ”one of the toughest places in the United States” for migrants. In doing so, Judge Munley laid down basic truths.
Basic truths that every American should remember
First, immigration is a federal responsibility. State and local governments have no right to usurp or upend a vast, ”carefully drawn federal statutory scheme” that governs who enters the country and the conditions under which immigrants stay, study, work and naturalize. Congress may be botching the job, but has not delegated it.
It is not yet clear when or whether Hazleton’s vigilantism will finally be stifled. Mr. Barletta says he will appeal. He and others across the country can be expected to keep concocting ever-more-inventive strategies to deliver pain to migrants.
But that is a legal and moral dead end. As long as people like Mr. Barletta persist in misusing the law to serve their prejudices, they will make the immigration system an ever more incoherent muddle. They will thwart reasonable efforts to grapple with the opportunities and problems borne in with the influx of newcomers. They will continue to dehumanize not only their victims, but themselves.
Mayor Barletta says he is angry at the federal failure to control immigration. But he should realize it was his side — his Restrictionists soul mates in the United States Senate that last month took the most ambitious attempt in a generation to restore lawfulness and order to immigration, loaded it with unworkable cruelties, then pushed it into a ditch. They celebrated their victory, but their shortsighted insistence on border enforcement above all else will leave places like Hazleton to grapple with a failed immigration policy for years to come.
This is why, ”The city of Hazelton could not enact an ordinance that violates rights the Constitution guarantees to every person in the United States, whether legal resident or not,” wrote U.S. Federal District Judge James Munley.
The judge emphasized illegal immigrants had the same civil rights as legal immigrants and citizens.
The Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection applies to all persons, not just citizens. The presumption the 14th Amendment can be set aside while migrants are hunted down and punished is widespread but false. The judge wrote: ”We cannot say clearly enough persons who enter this country without legal authorization are not stripped immediately of all their rights because of this single illegal act.”
Herein lies the crux of the problem, racism was the major contributing factor that killed immigration reform
The United States Constitution provides obvious symbolism of the blind folded lady is justice and justice is blind.
Her bare toes show beneath her gown, standing on the pedestal, a symbolic message that nothing comes between justice and the land. The ”land” here can be interpreted as the ”people.”
This is not the case in the United States Senate. Senators in the Congress are not blind. In fact, some senators are racist. These senators are not friends of Hispanics: Jon Kyl, John Cornyn, Tom Coburn, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and Jeff Sessions.
An Hispanic friend, Sen. Barack Obama said the recent Senate immigration debate ”was both ugly and racist in a way we haven’t see since the struggle for civil rights.”
The Illinois Democrat said he earned Hispanic support for his presidential campaign by marching in last year’s May 1 immigrant rallies and challenged whether others met that standard.
”Find out how many senators appeared before an immigration rally last year. Who was talking the talk, and who walked the walk — because I walked. I didn’t run away from the issue, and I didn’t just talk about it in front of Hispanic audiences,” said Mr. Obama.
Even Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina in the well of the U.S. Senate said, ”There’s no shortage of plain old racism in this issue.”
Immigration reform is not going away until it becomes the law of the land. This issue will in all probability not be addressed until after the 2008 elections in 2009.
While this may sound far in the future, it does provide a timeframe for doing what we must do to assure immigration reform does become law as we need for it to be, not the punitive legislative bill that was crafted by Jon Kyl, John Cornyn, Tom Coburn, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and Jeff Sessions with punitive measures that once immigration reform was enacted, all migrants including their children would have been deported for as little an infraction as spiting on the sidewalk.
We must begin by launching an all out campaign to expose anti-Hispanic bigots in the media, entertainment and politics.
The recent immigration debate in the Senate, which ended with the defeat of a bill that would have given a path to citizenship to many of the 12 million undocumented workers, has given way to the biggest explosion of anti-Hispanic sentiment we have ever seen in America. Spearheaded by Numbers USA which daily lobbied the United States Senate that Americans did not want immigration reform much less “amnesty” and fueled across the United States was conservative Republican talk radio which provided the grass roots support for Numbers USA to lobby the United States Senate to kill immigration reform.
Bendixen and Associates did a nationwide poll identifying 76 percent of U.S. Hispanics agree with the statement that ”anti-immigrant sentiment is growing in the United States,” and 62 percent say this phenomenon has directly affected them or their families.
Every brown face in America is suspect
If you think conservative Republican talk radio, cable television and other Americans focus only on migrants, you must be living in a cave for every brown face in America is suspect.
Few Hispanics believe statements by rabid anti-immigration radio and television hosts who say they only oppose ”illegal immigration.” When asked what fuels the current anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States, 64 percent of Hispanics in the poll mentioned one factor: ”racism against immigrants from Latin America.”
Every day statements are made on radio and television that go far beyond the boundaries of fair debate over the need to fix the U.S. immigration system, and that twists the facts in ways that make it difficult to believe in the good faith of those who make them.
Carlos Oppenheimer writes, ”It’s not just what fear mongers such as CNN’s Lou Dobbs or radio talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage allow to be said in their shows, which systematically blame Hispanics for many of America’s ills. Prominent academics such as Harvard University political scientist Samuel Huntington are getting away with sweeping statements such as America’s Hispanic immigration deluge . . . constitutes a major potential threat to the cultural and possibly political integrity of the United States.”
Oppenheimer further writes, ”While the 44 million Hispanics are the biggest minority in America, you don’t see the kind of nationwide protests, legal actions or calls for boycotts on a scale that you would probably see if these statement were directed against African Americans or Jewish Americans. When you visit the website of the NAACP, one of the first things you see is an NAACP ‘Stop’ Campaign headline, which is a call to action against racism in the media. The NAACP and other African American groups regularly launch name-and-shame campaigns, and most recently forced the firing of radio host Don Imus over an April comment calling the Rutgers University women’s basketball team ‘nappy-headed hos.'”
“On the National Council of La Raza’s website, you don’t find a similar emphasis on fighting bigotry. The group’s main theme is ‘Ya es hora!,’ a voter registration drive conducted alongside the Spanish-language Univisión network and other Hispanic organizations aimed at adding two million new Hispanic votes for the 2008 election.”
La Raza President Janet Murguia conceded in an interview with Oppenheimer, ”Hispanics need to do more to fight back against bigotry in the media.”
Yet, Janet Murguia is a frequent guest on Lou Dobbs’ Broken Borders. Each time she visits Dobbs, she contributes to the television program’s ratings and Dobbs viewers chuckle as to how inept an Hispanic leader can be for being ambushed time after time and continuously smiling as Dobbs bashes Hispanics. The Dobbs Murguia comedy duo has Dobbs playing the straight man and Murguia portraying the funny, unintelligent and unorthodox comic foil. The better choice for Murguia would be to boycott the show and not provide a platform for Dobbs each day attacking migrants for being responsible for the demise of the United States.
Hispanics cast 5.6 million votes in the 2006 midterms elections which represented only 13 percent of the total Hispanic population compared to the 27 percent of all blacks who cast votes and 39 percent of all whites who voted — a disappointing turnout attributed to a population too young to vote or ineligible because of citizenship status.
Locally, the Phoenix Somos America Coalition in the months of June and July registered 2,500 Hispanics to vote. This is certainly admirable but far short comparing numbers to other voters.
I was born and raised in Superior, Arizona, a small mining community in the desert an hour’s drive east of Phoenix. South of Superior is the town of Florence forming a triangle with Apache Junction to the west of Superior and northwest of Florence. This area is the next boom area in Arizona with a million building permits already issued to build Sun City master planned retirement communities for persons moving to Arizona primarily from the mid-West states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Iowa. These 2 million potential voters, assuming two voters per house, will be retired white voters voting at 39% compared to 13% for Hispanics. To compound the voting discrepancy, the Iowa electorate as the first state to vote in the national nominating process vote at a much higher rate than the national 39% white average rate.
The voting discrepancy increases exponentially factoring in other development areas in the Phoenix metropolitan area. On the west side of Phoenix, a multitude of housing subdivisions are being planned in the greatly expanded annexations of the Town of Buckeye and more than a dozen huge developments are sprouting up on both sides of the 30-mile-long Sun Valley Parkway, west of the White Tank Mountains. Nearly all 1 million residents will be white retired voters.
One can only conclude registering Hispanics in the short term falls short of making a measurable impact in voting patterns in Arizona.
So if we can not win by voting — yet, the only conclusion has to be we need to do something else in addition to registering voters. Working on getting out the vote will help but this is not enough. We need to go on the offense. We need to launch a local campaign to identify, name and shame those who systematically bash Hispanics. Then we need to launch a nationwide campaign.
If anti-Hispanic sentiment is allowed to keep growing, we will soon have an underclass of 12 million immigrants that will feel not only frustrated by not having a legal path to citizenship but increasingly insulted by mainstream media.
I am a fourth generation American Hispanic with family roots in Arizona dating back to the late 1800s. I have traveled to 19 counties. While culture and beauty can be found around the globe, the genius of the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and of utmost importance, the 14 amendment, provide for equal protection of all persons residing in the United States. This is what places America at the pinnacle of world nations — past and future. No other country has a blindfolded Lady Justice that mandates justice is blind. This is why I choose to be an American.
Each day I receive 200-300 hate emails bashing me as an Hispanic migrant with the usual message — go back to Mexico. Each time I write an article or editorial on immigration reform, the number of hate emails increase dramatically. Last year during the marches, there were even threatening phone calls I reported to the FBI. The only consolation
The only consolation is a population projection from the Unites States Census Bureau: In the year 2097, 50% of the entire United States population will be Hispanic, 30% will be black, 13% will be Asian, 5% will be white, and 2% will be ”other.” The browning of America is inevitable. No one can stop it.
Edited national editorials contributed to this article