Bordering On Revolution

[Crossing the Line] A hostile Supreme Court. A feckless Obama administration. America's war on Mexicans has gone too far

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wasn't merely skeptical; he appeared contemptuous of the Justice Department's argument trying to stop Arizona's cops from deporting undocumented Mexicans.

"But if, in fact, somebody who does not belong in this country is in Arizona, Arizona has no power?" asked the incredulous Scalia. "Are you objecting to harassing the—the people who have no business being here? Surely, you're not concerned about harassing them?"

God forbid.

If Luche Libre wrestlers are against SB 1070, so should you be!
William Westfall
If Luche Libre wrestlers are against SB 1070, so should you be!

Nor did Scalia suffer cara de culo alone.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts concluded an observation by noting, "It seems to me that the federal government just doesn't want to know who's here illegally or not."

With these comments, the United States Supreme Court signaled that its expected ruling this month will, in significant part, validate Arizona's Senate Bill 1070.

If that happens, being brown will permit cops across America to ask: Which brown are you?

* * *

A journalist I work with, Monica Alonzo, grew up on the hardscrabble west side of Phoenix. She has brown skin.

Although she was an American, something as simple as stopping to fill her gas tank could prompt a cruel refrain: "Go back to Mexico."

She remembers the white school-board members who voted themselves out of paying taxes to support the mostly Latino school in the town of El Mirage. Her cousin was routinely pulled over if he ventured into a neighboring white community.

But these are memories, not complaints. This treatment did not stop Alonzo. She made herself into an award-winning investigative reporter.

Today, she buys gas where she chooses.

She put the petty meanness behind her and made something of herself.

But SB 1070 changed everything.

In Arizona, brown people, citizen and immigrant, must now prove their papers are in order. The state sics badges and dogs on people of color. Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio's men wear ski masks and arm themselves with automatic weapons to stop Mexicans with cracked windshields. Families are separated, with parents deported and children left to fend for themselves. Those who remain are terrorized.

After one Arpaio sweep through the town of Guadalupe, near Phoenix, children were too frightened to attend their Catholic confirmation lest relatives be arrested.

Like the pre-Civil War era of free and slave states, America is about to divide along color lines.

Six states already have a version of Arizona's bill and are awaiting the ruling for implementation. In all, 16 states filed amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court to support SB 1070.

Where once we depended upon the federal government to protect minorities from firehoses and segregated schoolhouses named Booker T. Washington or George Washington Carver, this month, the Supreme Court is poised to tell us how far local cops can go to detain brown people.

As if the federal government hadn't gone far enough.

In fact, Barack Obama has deported 1.5 million Latinos, more than any other president. Such a massive displacement of humanity does not come without brutality.

In the first six months of 2011, 46,000 mothers and fathers were shipped back to Mexico and left their children in America. And more than 20,000 other parents were ordered out but have yet to depart. Roughly 22 percent of all deportees were forced to abandon children—children who are American citizens.

What SB 1070 does is criminalize the undocumented. The law forces all police officers to ascertain a person's immigration status whenever a cop interacts with a brown person. Lights on a license plate too dim? A call about domestic violence? If an officer harbors any suspicion, he or she must ask for proof of citizenship. And if a cop doesn't do that, any citizen can sue the cop for not taking deportation seriously. To protect against lawsuits, the cautious cop must question all Latinos.

The stated purpose of SB 1070 is "attrition through enforcement," a chillingly efficient phrase.

How does the cop on the beat tell a Mexican from a Mexican-American?

The 74 percent of all Latinos in America who are, in reality, U.S. citizens must be harassed about their origins. Unlike everyone else, they must carry papers.


Obama sells the roundup of brown people through a program called Secure Communities. The alternative is clear enough.

Have we forgotten that the Irish, Italians, Jews and Cubans generated almost as many mug shots as American dreams?

Polls show that SB 1070 and similar laws in other states are supported by voters at rates from 60 percent to 70 percent nationally.

In states that have passed laws allowing local law enforcement to hunt the undocumented, the financial impact has been devastating.

Last August, Alonzo examined labor shortages in the farm economy, where an estimated 80 percent of the workforce is undocumented. She learned that efforts to recruit Americans to pick crops have failed abysmally.

In the late 1990s, Alonzo reported, "California launched a 'welfare to farmwork' program in the Central Valley at a time when regional unemployment was as high as 20 percent. . . . A massive campaign addressed training, transportation and other obstacles to getting workers in the fields. Though there were more than 100,000 potential workers, only three jobs were filled."

Things weren't any easier in Washington state. There, "a labor shortage for the 2006 cherry harvest prompted an advertising blitz to recruit about 1,700 needed workers, particularly for the much-larger apple harvest that was just around the corner. Only 40 people took jobs."

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My Voice Nation Help

"What SB1070 does is criminalize the undocumented." Ah... that would be incorrect. SB1070 does no such thing. The act of crossing the border and staying in this country in violation of US law is what criminalizes the "undocumented". Changing the name from illegals to undocumented fools no one by yourselves. I look forward to the day when we set aside the rule of law regarding robbing (I mean, borrowing without permission) banks - after all, I'm just trying to make a better life for me and my family.

Eddie Willers
Eddie Willers

Of course, no one mentions that "undocumented migrants", who cross the Mexican-US border at anything other than an officially recognised crossing, are also breaking the MEXICAN law which requires all citizens and non-resident immigrants of the Mexican Republic to file an 'FME' (Forma Migratoria Estadistica) when leaving the country.

Gusano Amarillo
Gusano Amarillo

Justice Scalia, don't you know that SB 1070 was supposed to have been modified (HB 2162) to provide that police may only investigate immigration status incident to a "lawful stop, detention, or arrest." Where in the fuck did you, Antonin, get the idea that the legal arguments should involve any discussion about the legitimacy of HARASSING illegals/undocumented? "'But if, in fact, somebody who does not belong in this country is in Arizona, Arizona has no power?" asked the incredulous Scalia. 'Are you objecting to harassing the—the people who have no business being here? Surely, you're not concerned about harassing them?'" OK, Justice Scalia, you seem to like "slippery slope" arguments, especially when they suit your agenda (see, e.g., Here's one for you, Antonin. If we're not to be "concerned about harassing" the "people who have no business being here," then where do you, Mr. Justice, draw the line at "harassment"? Verbal abuse? Police misconduct? Sexual assault? Murder? Hey, they have "no business being here," so does that give Arizona law enforcement a free pass to beat a defenseless migrant worker to death like the miscreants on the Fullerton Police Department did with Kelly Thomas? What if the authorities are, in fact, WRONG about who "has no business being here"? Oh, that's right, the police NEVER gets it wrong: Justice Scalia's ridiculous questioning during oral argument is disturbing, no matter what one's position might be on SB 1070, or about the concern that upholding the law will result in legalized racial profiling and discrimination against people of Mexican or Latino heritage.

James Crowley
James Crowley

Hasn't gone far enough. We need to find every illegal mexican, chinaman, and european (not a racist) and send them on a one way trip to mexico city. Drop them out of the plane with parachutes and give the mexicans a taste of their own medicine. See how they like the riff raff of the world coming to their country. Build a wall and mine the area and give troops brought home from the middle east shoot on sight orders. That's what needs to be done.

K martin
K martin

"Undocumented"? Don't you mean somebody that is here without the proper legal documents, as in they entered the country ILLEGALLY? By entering the country illegally, they are breaking the law, hence they are CRIMINALS. Quit playing the word game and admit that they are indeed here illegally and are therefore criminals. This applies to all illegal aliens, not just those from our neighbors to the south. I don't give a shit what color you are, but I do care if you are breaking the laws of our country, no matter how inconvenient they may seem to you. Furthermore, the only people breaking up families are the parents who are here illegally that decide not to take their children with them if they get caught for breaking the law and are deported. That is their choice, not the government's. Quit with the race baiting--you're as bad as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.


Mexicans aren't the only illegals, pendejo.... just the majority.

Randy L
Randy L

The same racist article in another rag. Crawl back in you hole you racist. Illegal is a class of people, and illegal mexicans fall into that class. Typical race baiting from a holes.