Reasonable Suspicion in Arizona

I don’t read a newspaper very day, or watch/listen to a regular news show. Since perils can be deadly and require pretty urgent attention, “news” is by nature about the dramatic, the lurid, the frightening. If I let every story in the news in too deeply, I would be crippled by how awful everything is and, worse, by how powerless I am to change it all. I do pay attention, reading aggregated headlines a few times a day, following more deeply into anything that seems like something I should know more about. I watch out for sources that might have different angles of vision, like the Times of India, Aljazeera, or Agence France Presse.

I check the daily stories with an eye to their immediate threat (wild fires raging in Colorado, where I have family, for instance) or for how they might increase my understanding about how change happens, the how forces of power act, where there might be possible openings for action. I noted, but only lightly, the passage of the Arizona immigration bill. It didn’t surprise me, since wherever there are people with fears there will be people who make a political career out of exploiting those fears, conjuring up both a terrifying “other” and a magical solution. It didn’t seem like anything I could do anything about, living in Massachusetts and going to a full time job.
But then I read my niece’s post on Facebook.

“arizona has lost it’s mind…70% approval for that scary, scary piece of legislation and if the gov. vetoes it she’ll “ get crushed in the primaries”…
right!? my mexican-looking father, who is a LEGAL immigrant, needs to carry his green-card on him when he goes to visit his sister in AZ??? or go to JAIL?!?”

And suddenly the issue was a relevant as a wildfire. I know about having to carry documents that prove that you are allowed to be where you are. Being on probation means that I am required to carry a travel permit on my person any time I am outside of Massachusetts. For the first few trips away, I carried the sheet of paper with the approved dates and locations folded up in a plastic case marked “Documents.” I covered my anxiety and shame with a sort of comedy routine of checking frequently, in a phony Russian accent learned from spy shows on television, to make sure I had my papers.

But one time my probation officer gave me permission by phone to travel for a family emergency, and I spent three weeks walking and driving around another jurisdiction without the required documents. Nothing happened. No one, uniformed or otherwise, found any reasonable suspicion that I might be an unlawfully present person.

So now I imagine the trip my niece imagined, her father going to Arizona to visit his sister. And I imagine myself accompanying him for some reason at the last minute and without documents. And I imagine that I, with the white skin of my Irish/French/German ancestry, violating probation and with no right to be in Arizona at all, will freely walk the streets, while my brother-in-law, with the browner skin of his Dutch and Indonesian descent, legal resident of the United States for forty years, is challenged at every corner.


Claudia Jansen said
May 3, 2010 at 12:07 am

So very true – hopefully AZ will sit up and take notice of the outrage of the rest of the country for this hideous, hurtful piece of legislation.

Lani said
May 5, 2010 at 7:33 pm

You’ve hit exactly on the undoing of this law. If the Arizona authorities cannot say how “reasonable suspicion” of an illegal Canadian immigrant will work, then this law is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause, has not much to do with immigration and everything to do with racism. Nazi Germany did not begin with the ovens, but with the yellow star of David. Thank you for your post on this.

Katherine Power said
May 7, 2010 at 12:21 am

One example of how Arizona Senator Russell Pearce, the author of the Bill, talks about some kinds of people:

“Invaders, that’s what they are. Invaders on the American sovereignty and it can’t be tolerated.”

A story about how Pearce’s ally and political supporter Joe Arraio treats some kinds of people:

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Tuesday he is creating a new Tent City jail for illegal immigrants and would segregate those detainees behind an electrified fence. Arpaio said his office will put 200 illegal immigrants in chains Wednesday and march them from existing jail facilities into the segregated tent area at the county jail near 35th Avenue and Durango Road_

Read more: Sheriff Joe Arpaio setting up separate Tent City for illegals – Phoenix Business Journal:

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About Katherine Power

I didn’t set out to be a terrorist. As a student activist, I moved from protesting the war in Viet Nam to waging guerrilla war to overthrow the government….

Recent and Upcoming Appearances & Publications
3/12/19 Peace, Justice and Transformation, Parallel Conference to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, 777 United Nations Plaza, NYC
11/13/18 A Journey from Guerrilla to Grandmother, Lifelong Learners: An Independent Collaborative, Temple Shir Tikva, 141 Boston Post Road, Wayland, MA 01778
10/10/18 Provincetown Women’s Week Reading from Doing Time:Papers from Framingham Prison, AMP, 432 Commercial Street, Provincetown, MA
4/6-9/2018 The Nature of Change, Radical Imagination Conference, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
1/15/2014 Complexity and Social Change, Occupy Radio
10/31/2013 Surrender, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
10/25/2013 Surrender, Taos Community Theater, Taos, NM

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