Arizona’s unelected Governor, Jan Brewer, has signed into law a measure that makes it “a state crime for illegal immigrants to not have an alien registration document,” and requires police “to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are illegal immigrants.” How do police suspect someone is an illegal immigrant? Apparently they know them when they see them. This law is touted by its proponents as essential, while critics say it’s motivated by hate and will be used to harass anyone who can be viewed as “the other.” Mexican President Felipe Calderón says the law “opens the door to intolerance, hate, discrimination and abuse in law enforcement.” Even former congressman Tom Tancredo, known for his virulent anti-immigrant language, says the Arizona law goes too far. The legislation is probably unconstitutional under the preemption doctrine, which precludes state legislation in an area of federal concern where Congress has spoken definitively. But the question is not entirely clear, and it may take years before the courts rule on it definitively.
But the critics clearly have the upper hand. Barely cloaked racism is easily unveiled when we look at the origins of this bill. Last night Rachel Maddow did a superb job of exposing the sad tale of the legislation’s sponsor and his backers: