Your Papers, Please: Readers React To Arizona


A reader writes:

Whenever I read about the absurdity of the Arizona law (and of course, the lawyer that I am, I went out and read the law), my thoughts turn to my family.  I'm half Cuban, my family has been here for more or less 40 years - citizens, naturalized or natural born, all.  What I think about most is my 85 year old grandfather (or my 75 year old great aunt) whose English isn't very good (it's deteriorated a lot in the last ten years since my grandmother passed away).  He's a naturalized citizen, he doesn't have "papers."  He may have a passport, but are we really going to say that you have to carry your passport for domestic travel (which, by the way, is unconstitutional)?  How, exactly, is he suppose to prove his citizenship?  Or for that matter, my mother, who was so young when they came to the US that she was naturalized because her parents were naturalized?

There are a lot of people who are going to be harassed under this law.  And they're not going to be illegal immigrants, they are going to be American citizens.

 I've already heard the line coming from people on the "right" that "no one should be ashamed to declare their citizenship."  But seriously, why should we have to?  It's no different than saying "if you haven't done anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about."  And more importantly, what happens when the law enforcement officer doesn't believe someone who says (in broken English, or another language) that they are an American citizen?  How do you prove it if you don't have "papers"?

This is California Prop 187 all over - but in a digital age.  This may well be the undoing of the GOP.

Another reader:

I'd like to comment briefly on Bryon York's excerpt in the "Showing Your ID" post. If you don't want to produce ID at the airport, you can choose not to use the airport. The same goes for using a credit card, entering a government building, or any of the other services he lists. A person does not need to produce ID provided that they agree to forgo using any of the services that require it. The Arizona law, on the other hand, is very much a "where are your papers" scenario in which law enforcement can presume that you are in the country illegality unless you have the documentation on your person that proves otherwise. As a natural born citizen of this country, that scares the hell out of me.

Yet another:

A person who gets stopped and doesn't have adequate proof of citizenship will get fined $500. In other words, if you go out for a jog and don't have your drivers license or whatever the police that stops you thinks is appropriate, you'll get fined. That will happen to people who are legally here...even citizens. Matter of fact, the only people that would get fined are legally here, since presumably the undocumented would get put into federal custody.

This means, in theory, that everyone needs to be carrying papers constantly in case they get stopped. Of course, many people know full well that they won't get stopped. This is the main reason why the Tea Party crowd, who cry "fascism" throw up pictures of Adolf Hitler for things like health insurance reform, are not the least bit outraged by this. This is the main reason why Arizona

Legislators, who have passed resolutions against the Real ID act and tried to ban speed cameras as police overreach, is not the least bit outraged by this. I suppose we won't see any true outrage "small government conservatives" unless this gets enforced against folks that look like the people who are supporting this.

Who looks more illegal: the blonde Norwegian U of A student who overstays her visa or the Army vet in Guadalupe who is sweaty after a day of yard work? Our trouble is that we know the answer that many of the politicians supporting this law would give.

And by the way, I don't think it is a stretch to call the people who are pushing this racist. Sen. Pearce got dinged a few years ago for forwarding neo-Nazi propaganda to his e-mail list and for hanging out with a white supremacist leader.


I don't have a deep thought about the new Arizona law, but I can give you a personal perspective that I'm sure many US born non-white citizens share.  I will not go to Arizona with my children for a very simple reason.  I'm a 40 year old of Chinese Mexican background.  In some parts of this country (from Los Angeles to Massachusetts), I have been stopped or denied services for the way I look.  I'm not going to Arizona because I do not want my family to share that experience, which Arizona has set up to be inherently humiliating.  All the policy issues pale in comparison. 

I'm very sorry for this since I was recently thinking of taking my children to experience the Grand Canyon.  What a loss.

Another reader:

I am a legal immigrant to US and love it here. I have been legal all my 10 years in this country and never had any issues with law enforcement. I must correct Byron York that the Arizona law is not about the drivers license. The law requires immigration papers to be shown wherever requested. A drivers license is a simple thing to show but carrying all immigration documents always is a nightmare. Do supporters of the bill even know how long it takes for USCIS to replace those documents if stolen or lost? If American citizens think DMV is hell, then USCIS/INS is super-hell.

Say they change the law to make it such that a drivers license is enough, even then I don’t want to carry my drivers license for when I go for a quick 10 minute run around the block. And the biggest question of all is “what is  reasonable suspicion”? Being different color? Being a tax-paying, law-abiding LEGAL immigrant, I definitely consider this law to be racist and being close to police-state.

Cesar Conda's post gets into the nuts and bolts of this. Another:

While technically correct, your correspondent who said that legal immigrants must carry their documents, misses a big point. First, these documents fall apart fast. But the major point is, WHEN HAS ANYONE BEEN ASKED TO PRODUCE THEM? If you get pulled over for speeding and produce a valid license, what would make a cop ask for your birth certificate? I don't carry mine. I'm a legal immigrant in a sense; I was born in Scotland to American parents. My birth certificate disappeared years ago, when my mother got Alzheimer's and evidently misplaced a lockbox.

This law places a new burden on a cop. Does the driver or any passengers look like a wetback? Do any of them not speak English? Do they wear Mexican clothes? Do they look shifty?

When I was a kid, some friends of mine were pulled over and one had a joint in his pocket. During the trial, the cop said, well it was four long-haired kids in a Volkswagen. So I had probable cause. Even the judge, a total fascist, was outraged.

The case was thrown out. And this law will be too.

(Photo: Undocumented Mexican immigrants are searched while being in-processed at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), center on April 28, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. Across Arizona, city police and county sheriffs' departments turn over detained immigrants to ICE, which deports them to their home countries. Last year the federal agency deported some 81,000 illegal immigrants from the state of Arizona alone, and with the passage of the state's new tough immigration enforcement law, the number of deportations could rise significantly. By John Moore/Getty Images.)