In Arizona recently, laws have been put on the statute books that say the police have sweeping power to stop and search and turn over to immigration officials as necessary, ANYONE they reasonably suspect of being an illegal immigrant. Shivers run down my spine as I experience a very serious case of déjà vu. Back in the 1980s in London, I campaigned heartily against the reintroduction of sections 4 and 6 of the 1874 Vagrancy Act. Popularly called the “Sus” Laws where the police could stop and search anyone whom they suspected of committing a crime. The operative word is suspected. In early April 1981, Operation Swamp - an attempt to cut street crime in Brixton, used the Sus law to stop more than 1,000 people in six days and seriously heightened tensions in an already fragile neighborhood. What happened as a result of this unprecedented police invasion, led to the eruption of the Brixton riots in response to the arbitrary oppression of inner city youths who were corralled and marshaled by a British police force under the gun to reduce the epidemic of muggings taking place at that time. Does anyone else see where the Arizona pogrom is heading? Next they’ll be asking us to wear yellow stars on our outer clothing so that we can more easily be identified! I see that Conservative Leader David Cameron is campaigning for a return of the Vagrancy Act claiming that checks and balances currently in place to monitor racial profiling is stopping the police from actively preventing and solving crime. I wonder how much publicity his 2008 statement has gained and what traction his election campaign is getting from this point of view.
I am absolutely outraged and wonder why I don’t see the same level of anger and resistance, maybe it’s because I’ve been out of the country and my sources have been strangely silent. I just watched Lou Dobbs say that the Arizona law has been amended to remove the word race as a criteria for stopping someone – well this amendment is laughable. Just ask those four Jersey college students who almost lost their lives when a 1998 police stop predicated by common-place profiling of black and Latino drivers on the Turnpike led to a hailstorm of bullets fired into their vehicle.
I’m sorry Arizona – I know there is a problem of undocumented immigrants in your state, a state which by the way was originally annexed from Mexico (most of Arizona became part of the US after the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The remainder of Arizona was part of the Gadsden Purchase in 1853), but this legislation is racist in conception and elitist in execution. I will not be travelling to Arizona where the color of my skin will definitely mark me as an easy target.
Some surrounding states have made declarations that they will not be making official visits to Arizona, but I don’t think this goes far enough, maybe it’s time for Arizona to secede from the Union, since it clearly seems to have lost its way from the original concept of the founding fathers and their 4th amendment of the Constitution – “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” http://www.consource.org/index