Welcome to Arizona, where skin rules

Published 10:26 am Friday, July 30, 2010

Although America is and has always been a nation of immigrants, that does not necessarily mean it has been a land of equality for immigrants.

As it turns out, America has always had a preference for white immigrants, with a few exceptions. Yes, we do grant visas for those who bring specific talents and experience that are needed and in short supply, regardless of skin color. But having brown or black skin has rarely brought with it a welcome to America.

Or course our historical failing in the justification of slavery fell upon those, now our fellow citizens, who by virtue of their skin, were classified as less than others both in law and in practice.

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But we also had severe restrictions on the skin of the Chinese who hoped to start anew in America. And the original residents of the continent, the darker skinned American native Indians, certainly found no special favor from the white Europeans who pushed westward by the day.

And today, the brown skinned people of Hispanic origin are finding, in Arizona and possibly in several other states where similar legislative efforts to the new Arizona law are under consideration, that brown is different.

Immigration has been an issue in America since the nation was founded, and our southern border has never been monitored closely.

But in the last 30 years, and particularly since 9/11, additional attention has been given to that border. In 2001, we had 9,000 Border Patrol. Today there are 20,000 Border Patrol.

Since 2001 we have built over 600 miles of border wall, added high technology sensors to detect activity at the border, and improved control at the border.

And, in spite of rampant drug crimes in Mexico, the U.S. has avoided most of the violence that overwhelms our southern neighbor. Crime rates in our border towns and cities are actually falling, as have the estimated total numbers of illegal aliens in the country.

In short, much has been done recently to improve control of our border, and the lower crime rates and decreased population of illegals are evidence of some success in the expense and commitment to border control.

Those facts make it interesting that the Republican government of Arizona picks now to challenge the federal role in immigration policy and enforcement.

While there was a Republican president, Arizona found no such need to create a conflict with federal law, though the border was less under control and the crime rate was higher.

Much like the national Republican Party only discovered after George Bush raised the national debt from $3.3 trillion to over $9 trillion that they had objection to deficit spending.

Somehow, both the angst of federal deficits and the anger of border control only became issues when a Democratic president assumed office.

This week U.S. District Judge, Susan Bolton, ruled against most of the content of the Arizona immigration law, finding that the U.S. “is likely to suffer irreparable harm” if the new law is implemented.

And while many would claim the law would not result in racial profiling it is reasonable to acknowledge that only people of brown skin will be considered as possible illegals.

This in spite of the fact that among those who would be stopped and questioned would be many U.S. citizens who would face these challenges only by virtue of having brown skin.

Having white skin would most likely prevent one from being considered illegal and having to defend their presence in America.

The Arizona law decision will be appealed, and most likely, the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually rule on the case.

Jim Crawford is a contributing columnist for The Tribune and a former educator at Ohio University Southern.