Except for the Grinch, everybody likes to be popular. In public life, many craft their positions to win votes or garner higher ratings. Only fools or dreamers stand against conventional wisdom. And when the issue is as incendiary as illegal immigration, fools and dreamers are in short supply. Count me among them.
In signaling that they will uphold provisions of Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration statute, the Supreme Court is about to create a second class of citizen in this country: Latinos who happen to live in Arizona, or in any of the other states including Alabama, Texas, Utah, Oklahoma, Missouri, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Ohio, North Carolina, Kansas and Nebraska and others, which are contemplating similarly aggressive measures.
If you are a Latino living in Arizona or one of the states mentioned above prepare to be asked by lawful authority whether you are here lawfully. Anyone with whom Arizona police are in “lawful contact” must be questioned (not May be questioned, but Must be questioned) by authorities if they have a reasonable suspicion that the person is here illegally.
To be sure, Arizona police will be required to question the status of everyone they suspect is ‘illegal’. But let’s be real. They are not going to have much ‘lawful contact’ with tourists from Sweden or Lithuania. The hammer is going to fall on Mexicans and Central Americans, who make up the bulk of the undocumented migrants in the southwest.
But most Americans don’t care about the obvious racial profiling that will follow the Supreme Court’s upholding of Arizona’s SB 1070. After five years of demonization by cable news and radio talk hosts, a substantial percentage of otherwise reasonable and prudent Americans would approve of punishment far more severe than mere arrest and deportation.
In a new Quinnipiac poll of registered voters, 68% approve the requirement that police verify the status of anyone they suspect is in the country illegally; only 27% disapprove. Even many Hispanics are favor the measure; 47% approving, 49% disapproving.
A new Fox News poll was even more pointed.
65% approve a “papers please” requirement that people “show documents proving their immigration status if government officials have a reasonable cause to ask for them and allows police to detain anyone who cannot prove their immigration status.”
So let’s just say that my son is out for the evening at a noisy college party like the kind I had when I was a student at the University of Arizona back in the day. Because of curfew, the cops are called. The students are rousted and told to go home. But wait a second. “You there with the brown skin and fuzzy mustache. Where you from son?” “I was born in Texas,” he replies. “Prove it,” the campus cop says in a flat tone. “I can’t, I left my wallet home…”
“Get in the car son, we’re going downtown.”
There he sits until he can call his parents or his lawyer, guilty of nothing but his inability to prove his birthplace. It reminds me of my friend Cheech’s movie, “Born in East L.A.”
Now think of a thousand variations on this theme; Latino kids in malls, caught in traffic stops, movie theaters, Denny’s, McDonald’s, Starbucks. Any of the myriad places the police make lawful contact with the people. What is a citizen Latino parent to do? Telling our children not to wear hoodies was hard enough, now we have to tell them that they have to carry around their U.S. passports?
As the host of a radio talk show that airs in Los Angeles and New York, I have heard in no uncertain terms that most of my listeners believe my fears to be exaggerated. Moreover, they believe that dads like me have to take one for the team; that aggressive measures like SB 1070 are the only way to curb illegal immigration with all its attendant societal ills. They point to Muslim Americans who have to be inconvenienced and spied upon because we are at war with Radical Islam.
I argue that there are fewer undocumented immigrants than in years past; that crime is down; that most here without proper documentation are law-abiding and hard working; most listeners don’t care. They want action against undocumented immigrants and if a few citizens are inconvenienced in the process, that is the price we have to pay to secure our country from the alien horde. That is the popular message.
Geraldo Rivera is Senior Columnist for Fox News Latino.