Arizona's bill orders immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times and requires police to question people if there's reason to suspect they're in the United States illegally. It also targets those who hire illegal immigrant day laborers or knowingly transport them.
As a historian, I don't like to hear people say "If we don't learn history, we're doomed to repeat it." We learn history all the time, and still do much of the same, hateful stuff that's always been done.
In reading the provisons of the bill, I wondered, how different was it from the Geary Act of 1892:
The law required all Chinese residents of the United States to carry a resident permit, a sort of internal passport. Failure to carry the permit at all times was punishable by deportation or a year at hard labor.
or the 1954 INS-sponsored operation that
coordinated 1075 Border Patrol agents, along with state and local police agencies, to mount an aggressive crackdown, going as far as police sweeps of Mexican-American neighborhoods and random stops and ID checks of "Mexican-looking" people in a region with many Native Americans and native Hispanics
or, in Arizona's own more recent history, the actions of Joe Arpaio?
Historical comparisons are not the only things circulating in my mind, though. The point is this law codifies racial-profiling and harrassment and criminalization of Latino/as (because, really? what is likely to be the basis for "suspect[ing] they're in the United States illegally"?). Isabel Garcia, an Arizona legal defender, offered this description:
[T]his bill represents the most dangerous precedent in this country, violating all of our due process rights... We have not seen this kind of legislation since the Jim Crow laws. And targeting our communities, it is the single ... largest attack on our communities.
Latino/a* lawmakers are entreating Republican Governor Jan Brewer not to sign the bill into law for fear that it will "authorize discrimination."
Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce shrugged off those kinds of worries:
You know, this is amazing to me. We trust officers, we put guns on them, they make life and death decisions every day
The casual assertion that everyone lives in communities in which police and their decisions are respected and trusted?
*I sincerely hope Latino/a lawmakers are not standing alone in protest of this travesty.