Immigration Trilogy: three interesting tidbits.

I.  No Wonder Americans Say they Support SB 1070.

As we non-racists see poll after poll showing large majorities of Americans supporting Arizona’s draconian immigration bill SB 1070, we’ve been thinking a couple of things:

1.  How is it that similar huge majorities support comprehensive immigration reform with an easier path to citizenship, i.e. what Republicans contemptuously call “amnesty?”

2.  Do these people really understand what SB 1070 entails?

Well, the answer to question #2 just came a lot closer to “probably not.”  I noticed a story in Sunday’s New York Times describing SB 1070, twice, as a law that “would allow the police to check the immigration status of people they suspect are illegal immigrants when they have been stopped for another reason.”

That just sounds sensible and reasonable, doesn’t it?  No wonder nobody sees any problems with SB 1070.  Only a couple of problems:


No, SB 1070 requires AZ police, under pain of lawsuit, to check the papers of people they come in contact with, whom they could “reasonably suspect” of being “illegal.”  This explains, apart from any civil liberties concerns, why so many AZ cops are against it:  It forcibly diverts their attention and resources from more serious crimes, and it intimidates potential witnesses to more serious crimes from coming forward.  Not to mention, many Arizona lawmen are Latinos who would prefer not to be hounding their cousins.  Not their choice any more.

“when they have been stopped for another reason?”

No, the language of the bill is any “lawful contact.” That means if someone who looks Latino approaches an officer with a question or problem, or if someone who looks Latino is a witness to or victim of a crime, then the police are required to check them for their papers, and they damn well better have them on them if they don’t want to spend the rest of their day in handcuffs and talking to judges.

This obviously makes second-class citizens of people who look Latino, whether they’re documented or not.  And also ties the hands of law enforcement in a really unacceptable way.  If Americans contacted by pollsters understood all that, no doubt their reactions would be less sanguine.  But how can we expect them to understand when even the damn “paper of record,” the supposedly “liberal” New York Times, can’t describe the law accurately?

We’ll see if they print my letter to the editor…


II.   Good news:  Racist Bigots Dying Off Slowly But Surely.

Or anyway, that’s the takeaway I get from this new pair of studies:  a May 29 USC / LA Times poll, and this recent Brookings Institution study, both of which show a dramatic difference in attitudes toward race, diversity and immigration between older and younger generations:  a generation gap of racism.

The Brookings study looked specifically at the “Arizona question:  Is Arizona out of touch with the rest of America? Or, is it the precursor of things to come elsewhere?”   And one thing it finds is that Arizona has the largest ethnic generation gap – in the Phoenix area, folks over 65 are 85% white, while folks under 18 are 44% white, making for the largest gap in the nation – 41%.  That’s called unstoppable demographics, but it does make for violent, insecure reactions.

But it’s not just  the “ethnic” generational gap; both studies show a dramatic difference in attitudes toward diversity between younger and older Americans of all races.  The “boomers” in the middle are split on most of these issues, but “millennials” – those under 30 , who have grown up taking diversity for granted  – are much more comfortable than their elders living and working with immigrants, gays, etc… for example, heavily opposing AZ SB 1070 while those over 50 strongly support it.

Calitics’ Robert Cruickshank sums up,

…What we see is that the battle over immigration isn’t a battle between white and brown, but a battle between young and old, a generational war over the future of California. Given the realities of human existence, it is a war the young are destined to win. But we’ll see if the old are able to take our prosperity and our values of diversity and equality down with them.

Dude, I think that’s a call to get out and vote.


III.  Dog-bites-man-bites-dog:  Harman & Cedillo agree on an immigration resolution.

An e-mail I received from my state senator Tom Harman on Monday made me do a double-take.  Apparently Harman, running for Attorney General and hard at work trying to out-race-demagogue and out-death-penalty the other Republican candidates, wrote an immigration-related resolution that not only passed the Senate nearly unanimously (with one no vote) but received full-throated support from longtime immigrant defender Senator Gil Cedillo (known derisively as “One-Bill Gil” for his tireless attempts to allow drivers licenses for the undocumented.)

I HAD to check this one out.  What is this amazing resolution that everyone from Harman to Cedillo could agree on?  Looks like it’s a call on the Federal Government to do its job; to enforce its laws; to secure the border; to fund its mandates; and – as I understand it – to get with the Comprehensive Immigration Reform finally!

Harman’s press release:

For Immediate Release – June 1, 2010

Contact:  Eileen Ricker – 916-651-4035 –

Harman Immigration Measure Clears the Senate

California Senate urges the federal government to quit ignoring the immigration problem.

Sacramento – Senator Tom Harman (R-Huntington Beach) announced passage today of his Senate Concurrent Resolution 108 (SCR 108), a bi-partisan measure urging the federal government to act immediately on federal immigration law.  In a landmark display of unity, Senator Gil Cedillo, a leading immigrant rights activist in the Senate, spoke in strong support of the legislation, agreeing with Senator Harman on the importance of immediate federal action.  The measure passed 31 to 1.

“We don’t agree on much here in the legislature, but I am glad we can agree that the federal government should, at a minimum, enforce existing immigration law,” said Harman.  “With California facing a $20 billion dollar budget deficit, the legislature would be remiss to not demand action on a federal problem that costs California taxpayers upwards of $10 billion a year.”

… [elision here to omit the inevitable dubious & incendiary “facts” which I don’t need to reprint … check out Harman’s site if you want] …

“The porous borders are helping no one.  Not the US cities and counties stuck footing the bill for fighting increased drug crimes and gang related violence; not the US citizens that are victims of these crimes; and certainly not the innocent victims of human trafficking that are brought across our borders so easily,” said Harman.  “This is a situation that must be stopped for financial, moral and safety reasons.”

Last month Senator Harman sent a letter to President Obama warning him that lack of federal enforcement would result in Border States and local governments passing their own “Arizona style” measures.  Harman cautioned the President that if the federal government continued to ignore its responsibility to the citizens of Border States, those states would likely take matters into their own hands and pass a hodge-podge of hastily enacted laws that would only add confusion and anger to an already complicated problem.

Link to PDF of the resolution

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.