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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

'Popular' and 'Just' are Two Different Words

Woman protesting Arizona lawIt's important to remember that popularity and justice are two completely different concepts. If you want proof of that, just look at the Supreme Court. The only branch of the federal government that's not democratic, the highest court is insulated from the whims of popularity. In recent years, it's become obvious that it's not insulated from partisan politics, but that's more a failure of the people sitting on the court than a failure of the court's design. "Popular" and "just" are two different words. Life's a lot easier when they're in agreement, but this isn't always the case.

Take Arizona's insane new immigration law; it's popular, but it isn't anywhere near just.

Rassmussen Reports:

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer last week signed a new law into effect that authorizes local police to stop and verify the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey finds that 60% of voters nationwide favor such a law, while 31% are opposed.

Seventy-seven percent (77%) of Republicans support the law along with 62% of voters not affiliated with either major party. Democratic voters are evenly divided on the measure.

At the same time, however, 58% of all voters are at least somewhat concerned that "efforts to identify and deport illegal immigrants will also end up violating the civil rights of some U.S. citizens." That figure includes 29% who are Very Concerned about possible civil rights violations.

The good news here is that most people realize the danger of this law to the civil rights of US citizens. The bad news is that most don't care. Twitter users have something to pat themselves on the back about here; a study by Crimson Hexagon found that 66% of the tweets commenting on the law were critical of it. But clearly this criticism hasn't had an impact on the larger population.

Rasmussen also points out that the law is even more popular in Arizona, were 70% of residents support it. With 30% of all Arizona residents being Hispanic, this does not say good things about race relations in that state. And the history of a previous "tough" Arizona immigration law doesn't speak well for them either. In 2007, Arizona passed the Legal Arizona Workers Act. This act makes it illegal to knowingly hire undocumented workers and requires employers to check immigration status on hiring. How did that go? Let's check.

"Officials from 12 of the state's 15 counties said last week that they had not taken legal action against any businesses for failure to comply with the law," writes Nicole Santa Cruz for the LA Times. "Officials in two counties -- Apache and Coconino -- could not be reached for comment."

So that went well. Not too paint Arizonans with too broad a brush, but it's starting to look like when non-Hispanic employers are the problem, it's not a problem worth actually doing anything about. But when Hispanics are the problem, it's time to go fullblown police state on them. If you think I'm being hyperbolic about a "police state" here, have a look at this report from an Arizona TV station of an incident that's taken place before the law has even gone into effect:

A Valley man says he was pulled over Wednesday morning and questioned when he arrived at a weigh station for his commercial vehicle along Val Vista and the 202 freeway.

Abdon, who did not want to use his last name, says he provided several key pieces of information but what he provided apparently was not what was needed.

He tells 3TV, "I don't think it's correct, if I have to take my birth certificate with me all the time."

He provided his CDL and Social Security card, but this wasn't enough to satisfy police. They handcuffed him, took him to the local Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, and had his wife bring his Birth Certificate. Apparently, not being a Hawaiian birth certificate, this was good enough for Arizonan authorities and Abdon was finally released. No word on how long this all took, but it doesn't sound much like a minor inconvenience. When Rasmussen's majority indicated they were "concerned" about civil rights violations, they were right. Unfortunately, they weren't concerned enough to care much about it.

"It's still something awful to be targeted," Abdon's wife Jackie said. "I can't even imagine what he felt, people watching like he was some type of criminal."

Unfortunately for them, people are already watching them like they're criminals -- again, 70% of state residents support the law, while 30% of the population is Hispanic. Those two figures fit a little too exactly to be coincidental. There's probably some crossover -- as far as I can find, Rasmussen hasn't made the demographics of their polling available -- but you'd imagine that it's minor. In fact, we have a much smaller poll that backs up the idea that conservatives are big boosters of this, so long as they aren't Hispanic.

Think Progress reported last night that of all the elected Republicans in Washington commenting on the law, exactly one comment was critical. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart said, "I strongly disagree with the Arizona immigration law." All the rest have been either praise or a non-committal expression of ignorance ("I haven't studied it yet," says senate minority leader Mitch McConnell).

What's popular and what's just may often be two different things, but it's clear that neither Republicans or the majority of voters in Arizona give much of a damn about that. In a contest between justice and popularity, popularity wins hands down.


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