Would Arizona Police Stop Jennifer Lopez for ID?

The Supreme Court is on the verge of allowing states to make Latinos automatic suspects.

Picture this: A-list actress Jennifer Lopez and All-Star third baseman Alex Rodriguez are hanging out at a Phoenix club, dancing and drinking with friends after leaving their courtside seats a few minutes before the end of the Suns’ 116-83 shellacking of the 76ers. They decide to discreetly slip away from their entourages and the paparazzi to get something to eat at a nearby restaurant. While walking the two blocks to get there, they are stopped by the police and asked for ID. But neither has any because J.Lo’s pocketbook and A-Rod’s wallet are back at the club with their personal assistants. So they are questioned, detained, arrested and then transported to the local INS lock-up where a deportation hearing is scheduled. No way, you say. Way, I say. Although this never really happened, it could if Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 is upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court, which began hearing arguments on April 25th and is expected to reach a decision by the end of June.

The state law, SB 1070, which is officially and deceptively known as the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act”—but which the Arizona chiefs of police strongly and publicly oppose primarily because of its racial profiling—was signed by Governor Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010 and was to go into effect on July 29th of that year.

However, a day before its scheduled implementation, federal District Judge Susan Bolton issued a preliminary injunction that outlawed most of its extreme elements. This includes a part that “requires law enforcement officers to stop, question, detain, and arrest anyone that they have a ‘reasonable suspicion’ to believe is undocumented.” The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the injunction on that “papers please” requirement that could have thrown J.Lo and A-Rod into the slammer. The court also precluded a provision that criminalizes undocumented immigrants’ presence in the Grand Canyon State and another section that similarly criminalizes them when they seek employment there. The final blocked part permits cops to make warrantless arrests of anyone they claim to have probable cause to believe has committed a deportable offense—not just deportable from Arizona but deportable from the United States. So that means one of those local Barney Fife-types gets to play the role of a real-life G-man. That’s just plain wrong.

And you know what else is wrong? The law itself is wrong. As constitutional scholar and dean at the University of California at Irvine School of Law, Erwin Chemerinsky, pointed out, “The law is clearly pre-empted by federal law under Supreme Court precedents.” (Not to mention being preempted by “the outcome of the Civil War,” as nonetheless mentioned by angry black guy Michael Coard.)

Moreover, the law constitutes racial profiling and therefore is unconstitutional as violative of the 14th Amendment’s due process and equal protection clauses mandating that no …

“State (shall) deprive any person of … liberty … without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Moreover, and most important to the ultimate resolution of this Arizona v. United States case is that it defied the Supremacy Clause as found in Article VI, Clause 2: “ … the Laws of the United States [i.e., federal government] … shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state [including Arizona] shall be bound thereby, anything in the … laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.”

This simply means that the federal government—in other words, the USA (which fortunately stands for the United States of America, not the United States of Arizona)—has authority over the states in immigration and other matters and that only the federal government can enact and enforce immigration laws.

But that doesn’t seem to matter to the Supreme Court, which incredibly (but maybe not so incredibly) appeared to be opposed to affirming the district and appellate courts. I’ve drawn this tentative conclusion based on comments and questions from Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts, and Antonin Scalia—which also means the ever-silent (but deadly) Clarence Thomas, too. Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor raised some concerns about various aspects of the law. And Elena Kagan recused herself, reportedly because she had worked on the case as solicitor general.

So far, that seems to add up to 4-4, which means the Ninth Circuit’s judgment would be upheld. But, in the absence of a majority ruling, that would leave wide open the door to similar racist and unconstitutional laws that were passed in five other states (namely Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Utah) and those being seriously considered in eight more—including Pennsylvania! But that’s not really too incredible when you factor in the right wing’s racist love for states’ rights, beginning before the 1861-1865 War Against Slavery, a.k.a. the Civil War, and continuing through the battle against school segregation up to and beyond 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education.

In the absence of a clear majority, other states could argue that their Arizona-like laws aren’t usurping federal law. They’re just assisting. In other words, it’s OK for 50 disconnected and often contradictory inexperienced minor leaguers to offer unsolicited “help” to a single, united and consistent experienced major leaguer. Yeah. Let’s see how that works out, especially during the big game, meaning on the international stage where this country needs to speak in one voice, not debate in 50.

Despite the wink-wink, nod-nod language in SB 1070 that allegedly bars racial profiling, racism is a key—but frequently unspoken—part of this Arizona case, at least by the lawyers and judges on both sides. Remember, this is the state that was “dragged-kicking-and-screaming” until it was forced to approve an MLK holiday. Yes, that MLK! The personification of racial unity and non-violence. Despite being unspoken about, the 800-pound gorilla is definitely in the courtroom. As a 2010 Rasmussen Reports national poll revealed, although 58 percent of the American public is “somewhat concerned that efforts to identify and deport … illegal immigrants will also end up violating the civil rights of some U.S. citizens, still 60 percent were nonetheless in favor of SB 1070-type state laws.”

And what race might those violated U.S. citizens be?

Hmmmm. Let me think.

Probably caucasian, he said sarcastically.

That poll used the term “illegal immigrants,” and many Americans often say “illegal aliens.” But both are not only imprecise but arrogantly racist, as well. These brown human beings are “undocumented workers,” and they are such only because this country won’t give them documents. There’s nothing inherently illegal or alien about any of these people. In fact, the last time I checked, it was the Europeans who were the real illegal immigrants and illegal aliens, beginning with the Spaniards who financed and armed the genocidal Christopher Columbus in 1492 on the Santa Clara (known as the Nina), the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. They were followed by the intrusive Pilgrims in 1620-1629 on the Mayflower I, the Fortune, the Anne, the Little James, and the Mayflower II.

American history teaches us that the land they arrived on was basically uninhabited. But it wasn’t. It was already occupied, first with Comanches (a so-called Indian people) for thousands of years until the initial round of brutal conquering by the European Spaniards who left the land to the exploited and enslaved Mestizos—or Mexicans—along with the Aztec and Mayan peoples to the south, all of whom worked and developed the land and created their culture and civilization. That land, by the way, consisted of all or parts of what today is California, Colorado, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. And, yes, Arizona, up until 1848. You think maybe the Supreme Court knows that and as a result will, sua sponte, do the right—in other words, equitable—thing by deporting the real illegal aliens and returning Mexico’s stolen land?