Friday, April 30, 2010

Emily Litella Day in Arizona

After basking in the national spotlight for the better part of a giddy, sniggering week, maybe the legislature decided it's not that much fun being a pariah after all, or maybe they were running low on noses to cut off to spite all those socialist secret Muslim faces in Washington. Whatever the cause, the paper was full of interesting news this morning.

The biggest news is that the language of the immigration law has been scaled back from compelling the police to question the immigration status of any person they suspect is in the country illegally during any lawful contact to determining said status only of the person in question is being stopped, arrested, or detained, and that reasonable suspicion can't be based on race, ethnicity, or national origin.

The relatively reasoned explanation--as far as anything related to this law can be reasonable--comes from Jan Brewer's spokesguy Paul Senseman:

Senseman said both charges are designed to undermine lawsuits seeking to have the law overturned on the premise that it allows officers to stop and question anyone who looks like an illegal immigrant.

He said the secondary enforcement language strengthens provisions in the original bill designed to reassure illegal immigrants who are crime victims or witnesses that they can call police without being asked about their legal status.

The bitchery comes from the original bill's sponsor, Russell Pearce:

Sen. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, defended the original provision as being relevant, saying 90 percent of those in this country illegally are from Mexico and points south.

What the change does, Pearce said, is remove a target for foes, both those in court and those criticizing the measure in speeches and demonstrations.

"I'm just tired of the games played by the left," he said. Pearce said making the change and leaving pretty much everything else the same "strengthens the bill's ability of being enforced without letting the left leverage bad stuff."

I suspect the left will take a break from all that leveraging just so we can sit back and watch with great interest exactly how the cops will decide who to demand papers from without recourse to race. The original language allowing people to sue agencies or officers who adopt or implement a policy of lax enforcement remains unmolested, however, and while I assume the racial profiling prohibition extends to private citizens who want to sue Officer Friendly for not clapping that obvious Mexican in leg irons, well, this is Arizona, so who the hell knows. After all, the senate amendments to HB2162 include this little gem:

Of the monies appropriated to the department of public safety for the gang and immigration intelligence team enforcement mission in fiscal year 2010-2011, the sum of $200,000 shall be distributed to the Cochise county sheriff's office for border security, including the costs of equipment related to a pilot program to dispatch a volunteer security force to the United States-Mexico border.

The Minutemen ride again! Swell. The guys at Sportsman's Warehouse must be totally stoked. How will this play out in real life? Probably a lot like George Bush claiming that America doesn't torture, because torture is illegal, and whatever we're doing is legal, so it can't be torture.

Back to the noses and faces, remember the 300,000+ low-income people Arizona kicked off the state Medicaid rolls, and the 36,000 kids they were set to kick out in June? Yeah, somebody noticed that doing so would make AZ forfeit close to $8 billion in federal healthcare reform cash, so the legislature backed up that truck in a hurry.

Finally, and most deliciously, the birther bill had to slink out of the side door of the senate committee room when not even all the Republicans involved wanted to have anything to do with it.

Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, said Thursday not enough of the 18 Republicans in the state Senate support the House-approved measure. And with all 12 Democrats opposed, Harper said it makes no sense to force the issue to a vote.

But Harper defended the merits of the change, rebuffing claims by critics it is silly.

"It's not about Barack Obama," Harper said. "He has shown his birth certificates and birth announcements, from the time he was born, in Hawaii newspapers."

What it is about, Harper said, is "states' rights."

States' rights. Still meaning the exact same fucking thing it meant back in 1861 and in 1964. Does it still count as a dog whistle when everyone can hear it and can tell it's not really Fido you're calling for?

Final tally: Birther bullshit, check; poor people's healthcare, check, at least until the legislature decides to balance it with $7.8B in corporate tax cuts; immigration law, very slightly better in letter, still repugnant in spirit, still unworkable in practice. Still out there menacing the populace: permitless concealed guns, the gay marriage ban, the closed parks, and, oh yeah, the squintillion-dollar cuts to education and social services. But we might be a little closer to Sunday morning liquor sales. There's some hope for you.

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