The state of Arizona has passed the most stringent, draconian immigration law in the United States. Proposition SB-1070’s impact on millions of Hispanics–both legal and illegal immigrants–will be profound. For the first time, law enforcement will be given a broad swath of powers to stop, seize and detain those they believe may be in the country illegally. The new law, signed last week by Arizona governor Jan Brewer, has caused widespread consternation and fear of increased racial profiling.
At its worst, SB-1070 is unconstitutional, clear government overreach, and a violation of the civil liberties of American citizens.
So on that front, why haven’t we heard from the Tea Party? This seems such the perfect opportunity for Tea Party activists to mobilize, harness their prodigious power in defense of the constitution, and excoriate this new law, right? So where are they? If they perceive that the rights of other Americans are being violated — as they have for the past eighteen months, vehemently opposing the current administration’s policies — why are they not on the front lines here? You could not put a better example of constitutional overreach and government expansion on the board than this. It’s as if SB-1070 is on a tee, waiting for Tea Party activists to take a huge swing at it. But they seem to be whiffing. What’s behind the deafening silence?
It’s most curious that Tea Party activists portray themselves as patriots, standing up and defending American liberties — and protecting against government growth — yet not one member has come out strongly against this law. Isn’t individual freedom the crux of the Tea Party argument? Perhaps, it’s because this law directly targets those who have brown skin and may speak a different language? Christopher Parker, a political scientist at the University of Washington, examines some factors as to why Tea Partiers are reluctant to join immigration activists, and their perceived intolerance levels:
For instance, the Tea Party, the grassroots movement committed to reining in what they perceive as big government, and fiscal irresponsibility, also appear predisposed to intolerance. Approximately 45% of Whites either strongly or somewhat approve of the movement. Of those, only 35% believe Blacks to be hardworking, only 45 % believe Blacks are intelligent, and only 41% think that Blacks are trustworthy. Perceptions of Latinos aren’t much different. While 54% of White Tea Party supporters believe Latinos to be hardworking, only 44% think them intelligent, and even fewer, 42% of Tea Party supporters believe Latinos to be trustworthy. When it comes to gays and lesbians, White Tea Party supporters also hold negative attitudes. Only 36% think gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt children, and just 17% are in favor of same-sex marriage.
Intolerance? Ambivalence? The Tea Party only seems to care about constitutional rights when they perceive white men and women are the ones being deprived of them. That would add much to my argument in a previous post about the movement. Arizona has now turned into a police state, where the clarion call will be show me your papers, much like it was during the Joseph Goebbels era. Only this time Arizona law enforcement officials will be initiating the stop and seizures, based upon the kind of shoes Hispanics may wear. And throughout this, the Tea Party is content to wield defense of the constitution as a weapon only when it’s convenient for them to do so — and not in defense of any of America’s brown people.
UPDATE: It turns out the Arizona Tea Party is not silent on this. They support the legislation. What a surprise.