Opinion

OUR CORNER: Freedom for all, all who are here

By Brian Beckley

Freedom ain’t easy.

I mean, it’s easy to say, but it’s an even tougher concept to grasp, especially in a world of finite resources.

For hundreds of years, the United States of America has been the Land of the Free, the Land of Opportunity, where anyone, from any race, creed, culture or background, could go in order to live their life as they want.

We are what is generally considered an “open society.”

Even the Statue of Liberty, that symbol of American freedom that welcomed millions of immigrants to our shores, makes it clear with the inscription on her tablet that any and all are welcome in America:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

This is the country where everyone gets treated equal, where we have a guiding set of principles regarding humanity that govern the nation.

In the great philosophical (unless you are in the Texas school system, of course – thanks, conservatives!) document that founded our nation, the Declaration of Independence, our Founding Fathers laid out a simple-to-say-and-hard-to-live-up-to set of beliefs (one that our country is still working toward in many ways):

“[A]ll Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

ALL men, not just Americans. The Constitution is the same way. All of the rights that are codified in the document are rights for everybody and anybody. If you are a human (or a corporation; thanks Supreme Court!), you have these rights. The only thing citizens get to do that the rest of the people don’t is take part in the political process.

In America, everyone gets free speech. Everyone has the right to bear arms. Everyone has the right to a jury trial. Everyone gets a lawyer.

And everyone has the right to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment, regardless of race. Everyone. Even Mexicans. Even Mexicans who happen to be here illegally.

But in the past few decades, we’ve started to move away from that. And what is more confusing is that it tends to be the conservatives who are getting away from it.

The new Arizona immigration law is a great example. I have read the law as originally passed and I am completely convinced it is a terrible, racist law.

I understand the issues and I understand that for many people immigration law is a sore spot. I also understand that many people think that they are “losing the country” to Mexicans and that our current tangle of immigration laws are not tight enough for some.

I also understand that in the Southwest, Mexican drug gang violence is a major, major issue.

But this is still a terrible law. The law requires police to ask for the papers of anyone they suspect might not be legal. Now, while it is clear to state that it must be “lawful contact” (meaning the police must have probable cause), it also says police “may arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States.”

Since being here illegally is grounds for being tossed out, if a police officer thinks there might be grounds for removing you, that constitutes probable cause.

And what might those grounds be? Looking a little too brown or having a little too thick an accent, obviously. This law makes race probable cause. Honestly, how else would you tell?

It is totally racial. If I were in Arizona (a Spanish word, ironically), I personally would not be able to prove that I was not an illegal Canadian in this country. My Washington state driver’s license would not be valid to prove that I was a citizen and those Canadians are sneaky bastards: They look just like you and me!

But that’s obviously a joke because no matter how many “aboots” and “ehs?” I threw into a conversation, I’d never be subject to this law. Because I am white. And this law is quite obviously about the Mexicans. I guarantee no one stops tall blonde women to ask if they are illegal Swedes.

Personally, I think anyone should be allowed into America. That’s why we are here: So anyone who wants to be free has a place to escape to.

For conservatives to support this law blows my mind. This a Big Government type of law. This law gives the government the power to ask you for your papers if they want. This tramples on the very civil liberties conservatives are supposed to cherish.

This law also seems to try and do an end run around the Constitution by a state trying to usurp the federal government’s power over the nation’s borders. It’s actually an extremely liberal interpretation of the Constitution that allows a state to think it has this sort of power.

Again, conservatives should be up in arms about that. But, obviously, they’re not.

On top of that, this past week we saw that it’s not only the illegals that are problematic when a perfectly legal immigrant - a full-on naturalized citizen - tried to blow up an SUV in Times Square.

Again, he was legal! And a citizen!

So while I will grudgingly accept that some sort of checks are needed on our borders, this is not the right law and is an embarrassment to what we are supposed to believe as Americans.

I refuse to accept that this law is the best we can up with.

Part of freedom is having to accept things you might not like because to not accept them would impinge on another person’s freedom.

And besides, cops running around asking to see someone’s papers is a little too Kristallnacht for my taste anyway.

This is America. We should be better than this.

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