An hour south of Tucson, you'll find deserted silver mines used to make Confederate bullets in the latter days of the Civil War. The settlers of the region tried and failed to gain the federal government's protection for their business interests.
They were at war with the Apache tribe and desperate to have federal troops present, so they could excavate in a place named after the Aztec word for "silver-bearing." The feds ignored them.
The then-residents, numbering in the thousands, probably by counting everyone twice, decided to succeed from the Union. So, when Arizona cries foul at the federal government's shortcomings, this time it's not new territory.
In fact, everything about SB 1070, Arizona's new ruthless immigration law signed last week, seems refried. It's the same bill Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed twice. It's a three-peat of a bad idea. And it's a political cliche: When the economy is struggling, scapegoat "illegals." In 1994, California's then-governor, Pete Wilson, knew the drill: His notorious re-election commercials showed immigrants running over the border like invading pathogens and he got to appear responsive to voters' fears.
What happens to illegal immigrants when the economy is thriving? Business owners adore them. They don't have to pay them the whopping federally mandated minimum wage. Undocumented workers will never unionize. They will never sue. They are the perfect employees from a business owner's perspective, and that is why they continue to be employed in this country.
They increase profit. They're an endless resource -- an exploitable subclass. Their legality is only an issue when attention needs to be drawn away from something else. Then "illegals" are a moral outrage. A sudden threat to national security! Why haven't we had immigration reform since Ronald Reagan's 1986 amnesty? Because in the boom times , we love all the cheap labor.
But now, it's lean for Arizona. The recently appointed governor, Jan Brewer, needs to (gulp) raise taxes. So, in a cowardly kowtowing act of desperation, she gave the rabid of her base what they want -- a dramatic crackdown on the-people-easy-to-point-a-finger-at. So, the same people whose sweat and sacrifice assists the booms are going to get busted after the bust?
Using vague and coded terms like "reasonable suspicion," the law enables police to pick up people who don't look a certain way. What way? Gov. Brewer told reporters after the signing ceremony she doesn't know what an illegal immigrant looks like. Of course, she's federally obligated to say she's against racial profiling, which she offered like a disclaimer before realizing the opposite.
The next time you need a definition for the word "disingenuous" use the example of a governor of a state bordering Mexico creating a law to arrest those without proper identification being coy about what Mexicans without papers look like. The kicker was the governor stating, "We have to trust our law enforcement."
The signing was spineless as it was witless. It's like writing a law to ban teenagers, but not having the cojones to define who they are. They wear different shoes. We'll let the police just sort it out. This isn't leadership. It's pandering. It's vilifying the voiceless while setting up the police to catch blame for implementing an ambiguous decree -- all the while terrorizing a third of Arizonians who are Latino. Weak. Cheap. Sniveling. Sycophantic.
As a state, Arizona has always been a little kooky. It's all personality: From Barry Goldwater to John McCain, from Wyatt Earp to Sylvestor Mowry. The state is infamous for being the backdrop of the most romantic of American lore -- the outlaw, the cowboy. It's a state of unprecedented beauty with goofy politics and sun-baked passions. It's all woven through with this defiant libertarian-leaning credo of letting people do their own thing.
Arizona hasn't been a police state since the California Column confiscated all the land from the Confederate sympathizers. Way to break that run.
Unlike most who are calling for a boycott, I had two trips to Arizona planned this year. Regretfully, I have cancelled them both. I would happily have paid the one percent increase in sales tax, but I won't give my tourist dollars to state sanctioned harassment. I hope the voters get better leadership, but until that time, I'll vote with my pocketbook.
Tina Dupuy is an award-winning writer and the editor of FishbowlLA.com. Tina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.