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Arizona Law is Product of Anti-Immigrant Hysteria

Immigrant bashing, like baseball, has become a favorite American pastime. The recent draconian, anti-immigrant law in Arizona only adds credence to this reality.

This pernicious law not only targets undocumented immigrants in this desert state, but also punishes Latinos in general, both legal residents and citizens. Apart from criminalizing undocumented immigrants with misdemeanor and felony charges, not to mention imposing monetary fines and imprisonment for deportation purposes, the law allows for the police and other authorities to stop and interrogate individuals “suspected” of lacking legal documents in this country.

In other words, the law, if upheld on constitutional grounds, allows for the police to single out individuals of Mexican descent, along with other Latinos, and interrogate them due to the color of their skin. Apart from skin color, what will prevent the police from randomly questioning the legality of brown-skinned individuals simply for speaking Spanish in public?

Apart from skin color and language, what about clothing? Will the police question individuals for wearing a soccer jersey from the Major Soccer League or El Tricolor, the Mexican national team? This seems to fall under “reasonable suspicion” since “everyone knows” that immigrants love soccer. Don’t they?

This very broad concept of “reasonable suspicion” provides the police and others with too much power to make subjective judgments against individuals based on phenotype, linguistic, and clothing characteristics. Where are the national Republican leaders, who argue vehemently against government intrusion on individual rights when we need them? Or do individual rights only apply for Americans of European descent?

This statewide law — which undermines federal jurisdiction of immigration regulation, commonly enforced by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — inevitably leads to racial profiling. We’ve witnessed racial profiling against Arab Americans after 9/11, and now we see it in Arizona against Latinos. It seems like racial profiling only occurs against racial minorities. If not, we would have seen it against whites after Timothy McVeigh, a young white male, blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City. Whites, after all, also represent a racial group.

Essentially, this law represents a violation of civic rights against American-born Latinos and permanent residents. Speaking of permanent residents, under this law, any individual who fails to carry his or her legal document, proving their status in this country, will be subject to harsh consequences, such as financial fines and imprisonment. This type of policy goes back to the dark days of Nazi Germany.

This anti-immigrant hysteria goes beyond Arizona’s borders. Conservative politicians, talk-show hosts and average Americans frequently scapegoat undocumented immigrants for this country’s financial and social ills. For instance, many Americans commonly argue that undocumented immigrants represent a threat to the American way of life by taking jobs away from citizens, depreciating wages, depleting social services and causing financial havoc. While these simplistic arguments make for good sound bites on mainstream television, radio, and print media outlets, whereby fueling anti-immigrant sentiments and laws throughout the country, they are rarely substantiated with hard facts.

It’s dumbfounding to hear these self-righteous arguments especially when Americans, both employers and consumers alike, benefit from undocumented immigrants and their willingness to perform jobs that most Americans reject due to meager wages, low social status and hazardous work conditions. For example, one doesn’t see long lines of unemployed Americans applying for jobs as farm workers, performing back-breaking tasks such as picking grapes, lettuce or tomatoes. Nor do we see hordes of unemployed Americans in front of The Home Depot and other stores, chasing down eager employers/homeowners in search of temporary cheap labor.

In addition, the notion that undocumented workers lower wages represents another falsehood. Immigrants don’t control wages; employers do. No rational worker argues for lower wages and no benefits. Lower wages in the market place result from employer greed and the bottom line. For instance, by lowering operating costs, such as wages, employers may increase their profit margins.

Moreover, by paying undocumented immigrants lower wages, employers can afford to sell their products and services at lower costs to the public, whereby American consumers ultimately benefit by saving money. Thus, instead of appreciating immigrants when purchasing a garden salad, going to the dry cleaners, getting their homes remodeled and lawns mowed, hiring a nanny or domestic cleaner at affordable prices, many Americans blame these honest, hard-working individuals for everything that goes wrong in America.

This hypocrisy must come to an end! Americans who blame undocumented workers — the same workers who make their lives more comfortable and affordable — need to appreciate the hard work and sacrifice that immigrants go through on a daily basis in this country. This goes for all of those in Arizona who support this draconian law and federal authorities, under the Obama administration, who conduct daily raids against human beings who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity instead of like pariahs.

El Robo: In Memory of My Mexican Mother

by Alvaro Huerta

Carmen Mejia was the prettiest girl in her rancho, Sajo Grande. Only 13 years old and the little girl with the sparkling, green eyes already had a boyfriend, an admirer and a stalker.

Mexico in the 1950s was not the safest place for unwed girls, especially in rural states like Michoacan, where men routinely abducted teenage girls with the aim of eventually marrying them. Once taken from her home for several nights, an abducted girl had no choice but to marry her abductor to protect her honor and family name.

Carmen rarely spoke to her boyfriend, Alfredo Ramirez. They only met a few times, under the close supervision of Carmen’s mother, who watched their every move from a distance. Carmen and Alfredo never went on a date, kissed or held hands. He was okay with their non-physical relationship since he felt honored that Carmen selected him over others who only dreamed of courting her.

Salomon Huerta also had his eyes on Carmen. Belonging to a large and respected family, this handsome young man could wed any girl that he desired. He had already set his eyes on Carmen and nobody could change his mind. It was only a matter of time when he would make his move.

Alcadio Perez was not so patient. What he lacked in good looks, he compensated with determination. It was no secret that he wanted to make Carmen his wife, at any cost.

While Alfredo played the role of the gentleman and Salomon the confident one, Alcadio behaved like a brute. He never sent Carmen flowers or love notes; he had a simpler plan. He would stalk Carmen until he found an opportunity to abduct her.

Once he crafted his master plan, Alcadio and his hired thugs stationed themselves inside the cornfields, adjacent to Carmen’s home. After hiding for days with only uncooked corn to eat and mescal to drink, Alcadio and his posse made their move.

“The old man left the house for the day,” Alcadio whispered to his accomplices.

“Let’s wait for her to go outside,” one of the thugs responded.

“Sounds good to me,” stated the other one.

A few hours later, Carmen ventured outside her adobe home with an empty bucket to get water from her neighbor Margarita.

“There she is,” Alcadio whispered to the others. “I don’t see the old lady. She must be cooking inside.”

Oblivious of the pursuing stalkers, Carmen skipped her way to Margarita’s house.

Suddenly, Alcadio ran towards Carmen with the others following right behind him.

“Let me go!” Carmen screamed at the top of her lungs, while Alcadio and his men grabbed her by the arms and legs.

“Shut up!” Alcadio responded. “Your father’s not here to protect you.”

“Somebody help!” Carmen yelled to her neighbors, who began to gather in a semi-circle to witness all of the commotion.

“Let her go, Alcadio,” a young woman said from the crowd.

“Yeah,” stated an older woman. “You can’t take her. She doesn’t belong to you.”

“I’m going to tell your mother that you’re involved,” Carmen’s best friend, Rosa, told one of the thugs, who also happened to be her second cousin.

Fearful of the growing crowd, the hired thugs fled the scene.

“Don’t go,” Alcadio pleaded with them to stay and help. “I’ll throw in an extra 100 pesos.”

Carmen broke free and headed directly for her house.

Not willing to give up just yet, Alcadio grabbed Carmen from her long, braided hair, forcing her to the ground before she could reach the door of her house. Carmen desperately reached for a rock and without looking, hit Alcadio on his forehead, causing him to bleed profusely.

Freed again from his grip, Carmen made her way home. Blinded by the blood, Alcadio couldn’t catch up to Carmen.

Alcadio then reached for his silver revolver.

“If I can’t have you, nobody can,” Alcadio yelled, while aimlessly shooting his gun in her direction.

Carmen miraculously reached her home without a scratch.

Alcadio quickly fled the scene before the local militia arrived. As he retreated to the hills, Alcadio held a lock of Carmen’s long hair in his hand, which brought a smile to his otherwise bloody face.

Once Salomon learned of the incident, he wasted no time in asking Carmen to be his girlfriend, especially since Alfredo, who left to el norte for work, couldn’t protect her from Alcadio and others like him.

Seeking justice, Salomon sought help from his father Martin. As the commander of the local militia, Martin had the authority to arrest Alcadio and his men.

Witnesses told Martin that Alcadio headed north, yet the militia commander decided to head south in pursuit of Alcadio. Carmen later learned that Martin, her future father-in-law, had no intention of capturing Alcadio, since the brute’s father, just happened to be Martin’s first cousin.

Salomon realized that Alcadio paid off his neighbor, Raul, to distract Salomon while Alcadio executed his foiled master plan.

“How could you betray me?” asked Salomon, while pistol-whipping Raul.

“That’s enough!” said Martin, ordering his son to stop.

“Okay,” responded Salomon. “Now, let’s get that bastard, Alcadio.”

“Don’t worry about Alcadio,” said Martin. “He failed. He won’t be coming around the rancho anymore, now that you and Carmen are together.”

Fortunately for my seven siblings and I, my mother, Carmen Mejia, eventually married my father, Salomon Huerta.

Throughout her life in Mexico and the United States, my mother overcame tremendous obstacles to make sure that her children had a better life.

Now, if only she could live one more day so she can tell us, once again, her favorite story of how she prevailed against her would-be abductor in the rancho.