By Fidel “Butch” Montoya
As the debate over what can be done about SB 1070 continues to generate debate and controversy, other states are now beginning to look at similar laws for their states.
President Obama, who has failed to mount a serious effort to promote comprehensive immigration reform in the Congress, is left with only his bully pulpit and teleprompter. While he did call SB 1070 a misguided attempt by an individual state to enact immigration law, he also ordered his Department of Justice to review whether the law violated the civil rights of potentially many innocent men, women, and children.
In an AP interview, President Obama said that unless the federal government acts in a responsible manner to promote comprehensive immigration reform, it leaves “open the door to irresponsibility by others.”
He said, “That includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threatens to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”
Republican leaders have basically shut the door for any legislative cooperation between their party and the Democrats. South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who had joined with New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer in writing an immigration framework for possible bipartisan legislation, has said the chances of immigration reform passing this year will not happen and that the issue needed to wait until 2012.
Graham told The Washington Times, “If immigration comes up this year, it’s absolutely devastating to the future of this issue.” He has refused to ask other Republicans to join any bipartisan effort to pass legislation this year.
This self-destructive attitude by the GOP against working for comprehensive immigration reform this year is the final nail in the coffin and Latino voters will remember at the polls the selfish and indignant attitude Republicans have shown toward Latino voters.
So it appears the game of cat and mouse by the Republicans and Democrats has reached an impasse and the lack of any federal effort to enact immigration reform will only encourage and force more states to take action on immigration reform on their own.
As of this date, seven states are contemplating introducing a similar law that recently was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. Brewer believes the whole controversy over SB 1070 is overblown and will soon pass into obscurity and soon forgotten by the people in Arizona. Yet, by watching the growing momentum in other states, in at least evaluating voter interest in this law, it does not appear the idea of SB 1070 is going to go away quietly.
Republican candidate for governor of Colorado, Scott McInnis said if he were governor of Colorado, he would push a similar law for Colorado. Another Republican running for governor from Georgia said he wants to mirror a similar law for his state. Other states wanting to push this racial and ethnic profiling law include Utah, Maryland, Ohio, Texas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Oklahoma.
No, the controversy over SB 1070 is not going to go away without a battle and a very divisive debate and political discussion at water coolers across America. It is unfortunate that the proponents of SB 1070 refuse to acknowledge that this bill is strictly a bill that is based solely on racial and ethnic profiling as the only means by which to enforce the legal status of any person “driving while brown” in Arizona.
When a reporter asked Governor Brewer if she could define what an undocumented immigrant looked like, she said no, but it was obvious that she was not going to give an honest reply to the question, even if she knew the answer. But the question remains, what exactly does an undocumented immigrant look like? Unfortunately, other states are preparing to try and answer that question with legislation of their own and debating if perhaps the color of shoes ought to be part of the racial profile.
So while we plan marches and possible boycotts of Arizona, if we do not impress upon the President the urgent need for the federal government to move forward on passing comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year, we may end up boycotting more states if they move forward with their own plans to enact twin SB 1070 bills.
What is simply appalling is the fact that more states are even considering passing legislation that is based on racial and ethnic profiling. It is even shocking that more Americans do not see anything wrong in considering passing more hate and fear bills like SB 1070. It is as if we have lost our way and have forgotten that as a nation that stands as a model for democracy around the world, we cannot ignore issues of justice and laws that violate the basic core values of civil rights.
All of the analogies of Nazi Germany and the yellow stars forced upon Jews, the rounding up of Japanese Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor and detaining them in internment camps far from their homes and friends, and similar government efforts like “Operation Wetback” when anyone who looked like a Mexican was deported, seem to have been forgotten and erased from our collective memories.
Can you imagine having our government use “Operation Wetback” as a relocation effort to get rid of undocumented immigrants today?
Unfortunately, like the situation back in the 1950’s, many Latino American citizens will find themselves on the wrong side of the border simply because they “looked like illegal immigrants.”
If we expect to see dramatic changes that are needed in our government today, we must pray and fast and ask for Godly leaders who will have the courage to speak up for justice and righteousness.
In a recent national teleconference, Conservative Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform called upon the President and the Congress to move forward without delay on immigration reform.
At the present time, the Schumer/Graham immigration framework is not an acceptable alternative to fix the broken immigration laws and system we have in place now.
The Schumer/Graham framework is heavily weighted in more border security and militarizing the border. The biometric Social Security card is another bad proposal for institutionalizing a big brother national ID card, and increased “interior immigration enforcement” is code for more raids on families and further destruction of the Latino family cultural value.
The immigration system and laws in place today are simply outdated, unconstitutional, and were put in the law books based on the special interests of big business, right wing political interests, and cultural values and morals based on the racist and bigotry of the 1950’s.
I would like to think we have come a long way from a strictly ugly and racist past. It is time to revisit the broken immigration system and put in its place a systemic overhaul of comprehensive immigration reform that addresses the needs of our economy, our national security concerns, and for ensuring the long term preservation of a work force that can contribute to meeting the needs of Social Security and pension plans by being paid a fair wage, treated with respect and a sense of fair play, and that offers any undocumented immigrant the privilege of becoming an American citizen.
More than ever, let’s put a stop to the ugliness and hate of SB 1070 by not passing any more of hate and fear bills in other states. Let us reason together and as a nation and people of justice, let us say with a collective “NO” to any more divisive and hate oriented laws intended to racially and ethnically punish and profile Latinos and undocumented immigrants.
Pray we must, but as stewards of representative democracy, let’s make sure our prayers certify that we act justly, that we love mercy, and that we walk humbly before our God. Engraving these principles and values in our minds, our souls, our hearts, and in our spirits will ensure that as people of faith, we can fight to overcome any evil attempt to replicate SB 1070 in any more states.
Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries - Latino Faith Initiative. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA - TV Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972. He serves on the Executive Council for the Hispanic Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.