I spent a decent part of my day today keeping on eye on the organized SB 1070 protests in Phoenix and several other cities, which were, thankfully, non-violent. A police officer was killed yesterday in Chandler, AZ., and I am sure the Phoenix-metro force was not much in the mood to deal with protestors blocking the main jailhouse doors. Judge Susan Bolton blocked several of the most disturbing provisions of SB 1070 from taking effect today, but did not strike them down outright. The whole mess will just keep slogging its way through the court system, as intended, spending state and fed money that no one really has to attempt to get at a problem that no one can really solve to everyone’s satisfaction.

I keep writing about SB 1070 because it really, really, really irritates me, and it’s hard for me to say nothing when something feels so utterly wrong. No, let me replace “feels” with the word “is.” Why be wishy-washy? That legislation was drafted by people who have a twisted concept of what America should be, and they cannot be allowed to steam-roll any of the people in this country, by whatever means they arrived here. That a majority of polled Americans support SB 1070 does not make it right. Read that last sentence again, all you pols and pals who use that argument. Let’s keep in mind that majority of Americans are thinking about this very simply: that no one should be able to come to our country illegally, and we should be able to toss them back out again by any means we like. In theory, that’s reasonable. In practice, impossible, without completely dismantling the foundation of what this country IS. Have you forgotten? We are THE nation of immigrants. We also ignore that there are larger realities happening outside of the U.S. and that we are not some kind of isolated island, and that we also completely refuse to change our behaviors to discourage illegals from coming here. There is never any resolution to any problem unless and until you get to the real heart of it, and have the tenacity, patience, and open-minded intelligence to struggle through all sides, especially when there is a scant likelihood of a solid answer. Most people won’t bother; they’d rather just echo “kick ‘em all out!” and leave it to the police.

Let’s break this down to the most basic facts.

WHY do people want to come to America and take the risk of being jailed and deported, or for 150 Mexican border-crossers already this year (a fact taken from this heartbreaking New York Times article on border morgues), to die a horrific death in the deserts of Arizona? Would you take those risks? No? Can you imagine a scenario where you would? Try it. What motivates people to do what they do? Mexican citizens aren’t any different in basic needs than American citizens, or Vietnamese citizens, or Irish citizens, if you weren’t aware of that fact. Overwhelmingly, people wish to provide themselves and their families with the means to live their lives free of violence and poverty, and they DON’T want a handout. They want an opportunity to work for what they have. Think about it! How BAD would your life have to be where you lived to risk death to try to escape it? There are some bad folks – really bad – crossing the border as well; there’s no doubt of that. However, the great majority are people who do not wish to cause harm, and whose circumstances are so desperate that they cannot wait to stand in line for years or forever to achieve legal status. Anyone who tries to tell you differently is a liar.

WHY are Mexico’s problems our problems? Well, keep in mind that national borders are human-made and changeable things. We are all North Americans. As former Arizona Attorney General, Arizona Governor, and current U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano succinctly noted regarding the challenges of securing our borders, “You show me a 50-foot wall, and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder.” In other words, your Congressionally-approved 700-mile border wall is not an insurmountable challenge to those who really have not too much to lose by trying to get over it. What it would take to make that wall reasonably secure? The U.S. National Guard, with a sniper posted every few feet and a shoot-on-sight policy, the handbook written by the Berlin Wall. If you have that at your southern border, you’ve got to have that at your northern border, and at every bit of shoreline, too. A death that is almost certain for an illegal crossing will absolutely stop the majority of attempts, and that is what it would take to achieve that goal, make no mistake. I am quite sure that there are many millions of American citizens who would support this, despite the hideousness, cruelty, and crippling irony. But, thankfully for the millions like me who would be horrified by such a vision, it’s unfeasible, both Constitutionally and financially. Everyone wants stuff to happen; no one ever wants to pay for it. So, as long as Mexico struggles, so shall we.

WHY do we keep paying illegal immigrants to come here? Keep in mind: if they could not find work here, they wouldn’t be here. If all the U.S. citizens out-of-work now would deign to do the jobs the immigrants do, well…stop laughing! We’re too GOOD for that kind of work, right? If you want to do something practical to stop illegal immigration, don’t hire an illegal, and don’t patronize business that do. And if you want to do something to stop the sickening violence of the Mexican drug cartels…stop buying drugs illegally and/or effectively lobby for your drug of choice to be decriminalized or legalized in your state. I’m clearly not talking to the wasted smack addict on the street. I’m talking to YOU, Casual Pot User, YOU, Dependent Upon A Few Extra Percs For That Back Problem, and YOU, Club-Going Coke Snorter. You invite the bottom of the barrel of humanity here to feed your insatiable American need to get fucked up. Don’t whine or blame it on “their culture” when drug-related violence shows up at YOUR door. One way or another, get the money out of the hands of those who use the money you paid for your buzz to terrorize and murder innocent people. Be very aware of how far back that trail leads from your dime bag.

I support peaceful protest against injustice, although chaining yourself to police HQ and deliberately getting arrested is, in my opinion, not the best use of human resources. Your plight will be noted by the media, yes, but your tactics won’t gain any new supporters and may serve to turn off some. SB 1070 and the fate of the state of Arizona and all those states who wish to emulate their take on immigration is entirely in the hands of the lawyers and judges now. What is needed is MONEY to support the legal challenges to SB 1070, and VOTES to elect lawmakers who refuse to shame and burden all Hispanics to solve a difficult problem. MONEY. VOTES. MONEY. VOTES. Or go to law school and dive in yourself. Hurry up. And don’t stop at the Big Law trough on your way to the ACLU, either.

In that NYT article about the Pima County morgue, this quote from medical investigator David Valenzuela:

“We had one gentleman who came in as bones, but around his wrist there was a bracelet from a Mexican Hospital that had his picture.”

Valenzuela’s restoring some small dignity to a stranger who died alone and in one of the worst ways imaginable by referring to him as a “gentleman,” made me cry.

(photo: Phoenix, AZ., 7/29/10 by Chris Newman)