Arizona has apparently decided to use its police force as an instrument to oppress and harass Mexican appearing people within its borders. And, as you might expect from a police state, it is doing so at the expense of protecting citizens and diverting law enforcement from its traditional functions, enforcing the penal laws.
Linda Greenhouse, who usually writes about the Supreme Court for the New York Times, had an op-ed yesterday, “Breathing While Undocumented,” that captures Arizona as the emerging police state it truly is:
What would Arizona’s revered libertarian icon, Barry Goldwater, say about a law that requires the police to demand proof of legal residency from any person with whom they have made “any lawful contact” and about whom they have “reasonable suspicion” that “the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States?” Wasn’t the system of internal passports one of the most distasteful features of life in the Soviet Union and apartheid-era South Africa?
And in case the phrase “lawful contact” makes it appear as if the police are authorized to act only if they observe an undocumented-looking person actually committing a crime, another section strips the statute of even that fig leaf of reassurance. “A person is guilty of trespassing,” the law provides, by being “present on any public or private land in this state” while lacking authorization to be in the United States – a new crime of breathing while undocumented. The intent, according to the State Legislature, is “attrition through enforcement.”
The rest of the op-ed is definitely worth reading. But there’s another point that deserves to be made about the Arizona statute.