Thursday, February 17, 2011

HB 2191: The Arizona Syndrome Or another Arizona anti-immigrant law of white privilege

By Arnoldo Garcia

The Arizona legislature, dominated by white supremacists and anti-immigrant haters, continues leading the way to undermine if not gut the 14th Amendment. And everyone's rights are in danger.

The Arizona House just approved a bill that would not allow undocumented persons their day in court.

The East Valley Tribune in Arizona reported:
A House panel on Wednesday approved legislation designed to benefit one man: Cochise rancher Roger Barnett.

The measure would spell out that anyone who is in this country [SIC] illegally cannot collect punitive damages even after winning a lawsuit.

Voters already approved a constitutional amendment doing precisely that in 2006. But that came nearly two years too late for Barnett who was sued following a 2004 incident when 16 [SIC] illegal immigrants said the rancher illegally imprisoned them.

HB 2191 makes that ballot measure retroactive to the beginning of 2004.
Guilty by immigration status.

Arizona is not alone in its zealot anti-migrant, anti-Mexican, anti-human notoriety. From Prop. 200, approved in 2004 and that prohibits state public services to persons who can't prove their status in the U.S., to SB-1070, the anti-immigrant racial profiling law approved last year, at least 20 states are pursuing similar initiatives. Now, across the U.S., a person's rights are being trumped by their immigration status, race, color, class and gender. This is the new double standard: "guilty by immigration status." (NNIRR's HURRICANE initiative, working with community groups, documents the human rights abuses being committed by ICE, police and other government officials and private citizens, issued the report "Guilty by Immigration Status.")

While HB 2191 represents another low blow to our rights, it's is not just another law. The fact that a measure of this nature -- protecting Roger Barnett a rancher with a hate reputation that's a staple of the anti-migrant violence on the border -- would get this far is testament to the depth of the human rights crisis in Arizona. How far can the Arizona hate legislators drive a stake into the heart of the U.S. Constitution? HB 2191 is more evidence of the the new normal defined by a deepening anti-immigrant hate and vigilante vitriol.

Tit for tat: Even so, Arizona is the offspring of a big plan, Operation Endgame, fueling the national anti-immigrant pandemic. ICE operations against workers; the extension of federal immigration-police collaboration to every nook and cranny of the U.S. and the anti-immigrant hate are not passing fancies. And Arizona's Prop 200 was the offspring of California's Prop. 187. SB-1070 is the culmination of federal immigration-police collaboration programs and the militarization of immigration control and border communities. The U.S. will enlist the police force in every county by 2012 to take part in immigration control. Every county that abuts the border and every county in Texas and Arizona and about two-thirds of all counties in California are already part of the Department of Homeland Security's "Secure Communities, which allows police to share the fingerprints of everyone arrested with the DHS database....

These are not just flawed policies and laws. We are witnessing an emerging immigration policing regime that is criminalizing immigrants beyond recognition and using the shameless excuse of going after "criminals" to destroy everyone's rights -- citizens and non-citizens, immigrants and non-immigrants, working people and communities of color.

The Rise of the U.S. Immigration Policing Regime

HB 2191 may be just a shamefaced attempt to change the rules for a white rancher who was convicted of imprisoning migrants at gunpoint. While the legislator behind HB 2191 is ratcheting white privilege up a notch, HB 2191 whittles away our basic rights.

The recent conviction of Shawna Forde for the cold-blooded murder of Raul Flores and Brisenia Flores, his nine-year old daughter, is a small measure of long-overdue justice. Stopping HB 2191 would be a tiny sign of sanity in the Arizona legislature. But don't hold your breath waiting for the Arizona Senate to stop HB 2191. The cold-hearted Arizona Senate got cold feet and yanked yet another one of its worst case scenario bills, which would have allowed hospitals to ask persons for their immigration papers before helping them; they didn't have the votes to pass it.

The revolution is civil rights?

What are we going to do? How do you stop them from legislating hate, from continuing to build a policing regime with its own criminal justice and prison system exclusively for persons with immigration status? It's easy to say: we need push back on all the criminalization, which drives the hate movement, and demand that the 14th Amendment be defended and expanded, say with policies and measures that ensure that:
  • A person is innocent till proven guilty;
  • A person has the right to her day in court;
  • Racial, ethnic/national and religious profiling -- i.e. all forms of discrimination based on race, color, religious and political creed and belief, gender and class -- are illegal.
That would be revolutionary.

Come to think of it, this is the law of the land right now; but not in Arizona and dozens of others states and counties if we don't push back hard.


Arnoldo Garcia works for the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. For more information visit:

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