A Parallel: Immigration Law
In the midst of the Oakland Ebonics controversy, many commentators across the country made their feelings known about associations between African American English and street life. Jokes about AAE being crude and foolish, while ignorant, proved popular. Those who knew better cringed at American society’s apparent flippancy in regarding African Americans’ relationship with the education system.
But now a new event has raised disturbing suggestions about another racial group’s status: Arizona’s new immigration law. Ostensibly, the statute empowers law enforcement officials to combat illegal immigration. The consequences of how this new power will be applied has been cause for debate. Opponents of the law claim that it gives police the ability to harass individuals according on racial profiling. Supporters counter that the law does nothing to distort previously ratified statutes outlawing such discrimination. While it is not yet clear how life in Arizona will change as a result of the bill’s passing, opinions have already motivated fierce words and protests.
This issue ought to interest defenders of AAE. In the past, those fighting for dialectical sensitivity in education guidelines have looked longingly on the popular support for similar guidelines regarding speakers of foreign languages. It seemed that the U.S. felt comfortable welcoming Spanish speakers into the education system while speakers of African American English had to fight for recognition. Think, then, what this new controversy says about those supposedly welcome Spanish speakers. Just as the Oakland resolution debate exposed a widespread distaste for African American culture, so it seems this debate exposes a certain intolerance for Hispanic people.
Those who designed and passed the immigration bill seem much too eager to fulfill public desire.
It is generally understood that United States possesses no policy mandating citizens to carry proof of their citizenship. If Arizona legislators wanted to introduce such a policy, then that would be another issue. Instead, they have made a law allowing for searches of immigrants for papers. If a police officer were to ask an individual for their papers and that person could produce nothing, then how would that officer know whether that individual was a citizen or an illegal immigrant? The law seems practically designed to encourage racial discrimination as a tool of police work. The governor herself has said she doesn’t know how a policeman would identify a possible illegal immigrant.
Perhaps even more discomforting is the law’s provision for citizens to sue their local police departments if they feel those officers aren’t pursuing illegal immigration arrests aggressively enough. Those who designed and passed this bill seem much too eager to fulfill public desire. If such attitudes in lawmaking were to grow prevalent in the coming years, the results may be unfortunate. Imagine if opponents of dialectical sensitivity in school curriculums could rightfully sue their school boards being too soft on speakers of African American English. Legislators would do well to ignore the public taste for blood and endorse policy focused on fact.