Monday, October 26, 2009

Editorial: New laws could be model for nation

Yes, Russel Pearce's ideas, as recounted by the unnamed Courier editor, could indeed be a model for the nation. But which nation? Given the xenophobic, isolationist police state they advance, I'll nominate North Korea.

Blaming the foreigners for (your issue here) is an easy sell most times in this country, where people generally have so little contact with non-Americans, but it's especially easy in hard economic times. As the political right descends further into extremism and madness, immigration is about all it has left to attract reasonable people to vote with it. It's inevitable that the extremists will present proposals like this, so we should get used to seeing them. What we shouldn't do is accept that this country must therefore continue down the path of increasing xenophobia and subsequent economic ruin.

From his quotes even Sen Pierce does not expect to pass his agenda through the Legislature. This is a game to hold the media spotlight, keep the dwindling radical base whipped up and maintain the untoward power he holds in the Capitol.

But if these proposals were to pass -- and that's not out of the question, make no mistake -- here's what we'd get.

By expanding the jurisdiction of local police to immigration status, we get harassment of all Latinos in less tolerant communities, which will selectively cripple those local economies as people leave, and create decades of court battles as these practices are litigated and the laws slowly thrown out as unconstitutional. Meanwhile local and federal taxes will go up or important services will be squeezed out to pay for all that extra enforcement.

Attempting to make it criminal for undocumented workers to solicit day labor will cause harassment of brown-skinned day laborers (and most of them are certainly legal), triggering suits and more economic problems, catch almost no illegals, and lead law enforcement to demand new forms of ID for legal workers. Consider how you'll feel when you're standing on the corner waiting for a friend and a cop asks for your papers.

What the unnamed Courier editor identifies as the piece missing from Pearce's proposals, a rational and effective guest-worker program, is in truth the only piece we need to accomplish every practical goal most Americans want. It won't, however, accomplish what the radical right wants, and that's to whip up racism and win elections on fear.

It appears that the editor is a bit dubious about Pearce, but he can't quite bring himself to renounce a plan that is sure to "backfire badly." Perhaps he sees the danger to our own local economy, but he also sees benefits in harassing Latinos wholesale for political gain. Until he's willing to stand up and say no, he's a big part of the problem.

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