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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Arizona's 'Papers Please' Law is Worse Than You Think

I've been on kind of a tear against the media lately, so I think it's worth pointing out when a media outlet does it right. KPHO in Phoenix covers SB-1070 -- otherwise known as Arizona's "papers please" law -- and finds out two very important points: Republican election-year fearmongering is wrecking the state's economy by driving away tourism and top people in Governor Brewer's office stand to benefit from from the law, which goes into effect tomorrow.

Yeah, it turns out that if top politicians tell you you're going to get your head chopped off if you go to Arizona, people don't want to go to Arizona. I imagine you're as surprised by that fact as I was. And it reminded me of how conservatives echoed Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's complaint that Obama's talk about the Gulf oil gusher was driving away tourists. It's typical rightwing upside-down reality twisting; an existing oil slick doesn't drive away tourists, people talking about it drive away tourists -- but politicians talking about a crime wave that doesn't exist is fine, even though it drives off tourists. If this makes no damned sense to you, remember this handy rule of thumb; anything, no matter what it is, is fine when a Republican does it.

But more disturbing is the very real possibility that a law has been passed to benefit a private corporation. And worse, it may result in terrible injustices. We've seen a state go down that road before and the result was corruption. And not just your normal, everyday, money-under-the-table corruption, but a miscarriage of justice that should shock anyone with anything approximating a conscience.

CNN, February, 2009:

...As scandals from Wall Street to Washington roil the public trust, the justice system in Luzerne County, in the heart of Pennsylvania's struggling coal country, has also fallen prey to corruption. The county has been rocked by a kickback scandal involving two elected judges who essentially jailed kids for cash. Many of the children had appeared before judges without a lawyer.

The nonprofit Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia said [14-year-old Phillip Swartley] is one of at least 5,000 children over the past five years who appeared before former Luzerne County President Judge Mark Ciavarella.

Ciavarella pleaded guilty earlier this month to federal criminal charges of fraud and other tax charges, according to the U.S. attorney's office. Former Luzerne County Senior Judge Michael Conahan also pleaded guilty to the same charges. The two secretly received more than $2.6 million, prosecutors said.

Among the bloated sentences Ciavarella and Conahan handed down were sending "15-year-old Hillary Transue to a wilderness camp for mocking an assistant principal on a MySpace page," "13-year-old Shane Bly, who was accused of trespassing in a vacant building [to] a boot camp for two weekends," and "Kurt Kruger, 17, [sentenced] to detention and five months of boot camp for helping a friend steal DVDs from Wal-Mart." Swartley was sentenced to nine months in a detention facility for stealing change.

Now, take that mindset and apply it to undocumented people. As we've already established, Arizona politicians are whipping up hysteria over illegal aliens and, as a result, they are widely hated. If you can make a lot of money selling kids to a private corrections company, imagine what you could make selling pariahs. It could be a gold mine.

Of course the company, Corrections Corporation of America, says it never lobbied Brewer. But why would they have to? She has two lobbyists on staff. You don't have to convert the already pious. And, just as predictably, Brewer's office denies any connection -- but we've already established what her word is worth.

Back to my media-bashing; why was it that it was up to a local TV station to uncover this in the week the law is set to kick in? SB-1070 has been a big story for how long? And no one nationally dug this up, no one wondered why Brewer was so dead-set on this bad idea. I suppose they figured that it was just political grandstanding, but shouldn't someone have dug a little deeper? It seems a little late in the game to have this come out now.

Better late than never, I guess. But "better" is not the same as "best."


UPDATE: Not so fast there, Sparky.

Houston Chronicle:

A federal judge today issued an injunction barring Arizona from enforcing key provisions of its controversial immigration law, prompting promises to appeal from supporters and tears of joy from opponents outside the state capitol.

The parts of the law that Judge Susan Bolton included sections that required officers to check a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws.

The judge also put on hold the law's requirement that immigrants must carry their papers at all times, and made it illegal for undocumented workers to solicit employment in public places.

Bolton ruled that those sections should be put on hold until the courts resolve the issues.

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