Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer sure knows how to dial back the pace of progress. Today, Brewer signed into law a bill that will allow police to demand legal status papers from anyone they think gives off an illegal immigrant vibe. Challenged by Chris Matthews on Hardball last night to provide one non-ethnic clue that law enforcement would pick up on to round up illegals, Rep Brian Billbray (R-CA) said, “They will look at the kind of dress you wear, there’s different type of attire, there’s different type of — right down to the shoes, right down to the clothes.”
So if you live in Arizona, your dressing rituals will have to allow for more than color coordination and avoiding your fat pants: You will also need to gauge just how illegal you look before you walk out the door. Like two dudes at the movies with an obligatory “I’m not gay” seat between them, who knows the lengths people will go to not look border-hopperish?
It is hard to decide what is more crazy-making: the fact that backers of the law are so prejudiced that they think you can identify undocumented individuals walking down the street based on clothing or vague hunches, or the fact that these fearmongering xenophobes have the naivety to argue that this isn’t going to turn into legally-sanctioned racial profiling. Brewer claims that she won’t tolerate anything of the sort as, simultaneously, she stokes the fears of Arizonians in a shameless mid-battle re-election bid.
Even President Obama himself has tried to stop this legislation being voted into law. He deemed the Arizona moves “misguided” and stated that they “threaten 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.” Obama has ordered his legal team to examine the legality of the decision in Arizona and said that there must be national immigration reform or we would allow for more “irresponsibility by others.”
In classic conservative “us and them” prattle, the bill’s Republican sponsor, state Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa, said that Obama and other critics of the bill were “against law enforcement, our citizens and the rule of law.” He claimed that the new legislation would remove the “political handcuffs” on police. “Illegal is illegal,” said Pearce, “We’ll have less crime. We’ll have lower taxes. We’ll have safer neighborhoods. We’ll have shorter lines in the emergency rooms. We’ll have smaller classrooms.” Why didn’t he just continue? We’ll have less shady brown people. We’ll have cleaner accents. We’ll talk to our neighbors again.
This has been a sad day for civil rights. Let’s push for immigration reform before we are all Arizonians.