What’s Spanish for “Gastarbeiter”?

27 Apr

There are books’ worth of statutes, regulations, procedural rules, and background information on the issues of police stops. Generally, a cop can briefly detain you and ask you questions if he has a reasonable suspicion that you’ve committed, are committing, or are about to commit a crime. Definitions like “reasonable suspicion” get litigated because they’re open to so much interpretation.

The legalities and constitutional issues surrounding these types of police interactions are what separate us from police states. Nothing can be done arbitrarily or with impunity.

But Arizona recently passed a law allowing state law enforcement to detain and demand proof of citizenship from people who they reasonably suspect may be in the country illegally.

In other words, it’s a license for police officers to stop, detain, and investigate someone who “looks” or “acts” like an undocumented immigrant. There’s no question that it’s directed towards illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America, so it will exclusively be affecting the day to day lives of Arizona Latinos.

I guess this law is a whole lot easier than cracking down on people who illegally employ undocumented immigrants. It’s the lazy, unconstitutional way out. Unconstitutional because at its essence it requires Hispanic people present in Arizona to keep proof of citizenship on their person at all times and subjects them – and only them – to a “papers, please” police state reality. This law makes it a crime for a Latino person in Arizona to not always carry their immigration documents – Green Card, Passport. It’s not just a 4th and 5th Amendment problem, it’s also a massive equal protection issue. Irish immigrants, I suspect, won’t be subjected to these rules because…well, you know.


What other ethnic group will we single out for especial treatment? The Republican Party makes occasional progress with Latino voters because they tend to be more socially conservative, but then they pass and support laws like this ones and drive them into the waiting Democrats’ arms.

Megan McCain leaves this thought in her piece:

Arizona is ground zero for the wingnuts. There’s a problem with illegal immigration and no one wants to do anything constructive about it so you get crap like this.

It’s no surprise whatsoever that the teabaggers, given a direct and palpable example of what an unconstitutional police state looks like, remain silent. Because it’s only bad when Democrats do it. Especially Democrats from Africa or Chicago or California who “pal around with terrorists”. Even George W. Bush recognized the need for comprehensive immigration policy reform, but was thwarted by those in his own party who are more narrow-minded (!) and refused to go along with anything that could be called “amnesty”. Because “amnesty” is an epithet, I guess.

First American Latino who gets detained will sue, and this law is not long for this world. It’s a shame that the United States’ immigration policy is mired in the 1960s, but God forbid we make tough decisions and change things to stem the illegality. A reasonable guest worker program would be completely acceptable, document the undocumented, permit these immigrants doing menial work you won’t do to do the work, send money home to Mexico, and be taxed on all of it.

Just over 30% of Arizona’s population is of Hispanic origin – twice the national average. 1/3 of the state’s population now has to carry citizenship papers on their person in their own country. Because some people of Hispanic origin are doing something bad, the lazy and stupid solution is to criminalize the entire population.

It beats thinking. Or problem-solving.

Sometimes, it’s not unlike the Buffalo mentality – see how everyone else does it relatively effectively, and then do the exact opposite.

There will be a march in Buffalo for immigration reform on May 1st, starting at Goodell and Main at 2pm, ending up at MLK, Jr. Park. Immigration is an important issue, and we’re hurting our own economic growth by keeping skilled people out. We’re also hurting ourselves and turning our backs on the Constitution when we single out particular ethnic groups for special police scrutiny.

44 Responses to “What’s Spanish for “Gastarbeiter”?”

  1. Adam K. April 27, 2010 at 9:17 am #

    I don’t know if commenters can imbed but this is SNL’s very accurate take on the matter. Take:

    Myers: This week, Arizona signed the toughest illegal immigration law in the country which will allow police to demand identification papers from anyone they suspect is in the country illegally. I know there’s some people in Arizona worried that Obama is acting like Hitler, but could we all agree that there’s nothing more Nazi than saying “Show me your papers?” There’s never been a World War II movie that didn’t include the line “show me your papers.” It’s their catchphrase. Every time someone says “show me your papers,” Hitler’s family gets a residual check. So heads up, Arizona; that’s fascism. I know, I know, it’s a dry fascism, but it’s still fascism.

    Officials in CA are calling for a boycott of goods, services, and travel based in Arizona until this gets repealed.

    • Adam K. April 27, 2010 at 9:18 am #

      Apparently no imbedding. Here’s the hulu link http://www.hulu.com/watch/144712/saturday-night-live-update-favorites-apr-24-2010?c=32:70

  2. jesse April 27, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    Most of the tea party crew are under the mistaken impression than immigration (either legal or illegal) is a net Good Thing.

    They have been driven, quite often by their Democratic union bosses, to think that NAFTA and other free trade agreements are bad.

    They tend to be isolationist because of that.

    But I hardly think the random shot against them here is fair since it’s not like your Democrats nor the Republicans have done anything but punt on the whole issue for decades.

    Also, SNL skit: hilarious. Well done by them.

    • jesse April 27, 2010 at 10:14 am #

      Wow, nice English in my first sentence. Meant to say they are under the impression that free trade / immigration / cultural mingling is NOT a Good Thing.

  3. Michael April 27, 2010 at 10:11 am #

    Puerto Rico is an American “colony” with real American citizenship and Spanish as the native tongue so I get a kick out of these jack-asses with their “English Only” signs.

  4. Ward April 27, 2010 at 10:11 am #

    Very clever allusion to the Thousand Year Reich in the use of the German — but why not go all the way and say, “Arbeit macht frei”, to complete the “work camp” metaphor?

    Seriously Alan, a foreigner residing legally in your beloved France is asked for his ID papers a thousand times more often than an illegal from Mexico in an American border state.

    More of the lefty meme: enforcement of immigration laws = R = Nazi. {Yawn}.

    • Jon Splett April 27, 2010 at 10:35 am #

      You’re a lawyer and you don’t see a unreasonable search and seizure problem with detaining brown people for living near a border?

      • Mike In WNY April 27, 2010 at 11:02 am #

        Jon, the law isn’t written targeting “brown people”, it is written to target illegal immigrants.

      • Ward April 27, 2010 at 11:06 am #

        Ever been stopped for being a driver out late at night?
        Are you implying that most illegals in AZ are brown, and that appearance would be a good first indicator?
        Again — {Yawn}.

      • Jon Splett April 27, 2010 at 1:13 pm #

        Most white collar criminals are rich white guys. Why don’t we arrest them on site and demand they produce proof their income is legal?

      • Jon Splett April 27, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

        ‘on sight’ even.

        And Mike, who exactly do you think it’s going to target? Explain to me a plausible scenario for law enforcement to apply this law without specifically targeting people based on race.

  5. Mike In WNY April 27, 2010 at 10:14 am #

    Alan, what is the basis for your argument that Arizona’s law is unconstitutional?

    • jesse April 27, 2010 at 10:16 am #

      I’d submit it’s a pretty f’ing unreasonable search.

      Are you seriously suggesting that “Your papers, please” should EVER be uttered within the borders of the USA?

      I’m going to take away your libertarian card!

      • Mike In WNY April 27, 2010 at 11:01 am #

        I was hoping for an intelligent discussion, “your papers please” is a knee-jerk response. Perhaps it will come to that, once the law is applied, but until then, it is just speculation.

    • Jon Splett April 27, 2010 at 10:39 am #

      Start with Terry V. Ohio and go from there…

  6. mike April 27, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    Great stuff, who is going to vote for these nuts in the mid-teams. OB maybe the first pres that won’t lose seats after 2 years. I love how some try to defend this nonsense, archie bunker lives!

  7. DougK April 27, 2010 at 2:44 pm #


  8. Chris Smith April 27, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    It’s not like the people of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and other southern states haven’t exploited illegal labor during the boom years to keep down costs and increase profits.

    Whatever, let these states secede, build a fence, move the libertarians there and call it a day.

    They can build their market utopia and anti-everything paradise. They’ll all kill each other for the conch within a year. Win for us. We can get back to regular business

    • Ethan April 27, 2010 at 3:36 pm #

      neither Tucson nor (especially) Flagstaff are exactly hotbeds of libertarianism, fwiw.  How about if we just blow up Phoenix and start over?  And how about poor, “weird” Austin?  No, I’m afraid this solution will not do.

      • Christopher Smith April 28, 2010 at 12:10 am #

        I’m willing to take all the liberals, progressives and centrists from Arizona in exchange for every member of Free NY and Tea New York or whatever other white male failure brigade is running around New York State right now. We’ll call it even, the smart people can get out of Tempe, Tucson and Flagstaff and we can set up Arizona as the fulcrum of dumb.

      • Ethan April 28, 2010 at 10:28 am #

        can’t we just corral them all into S. Arizona?  I’ll trade Tucson for Flagstaff, I suppose: the weather’s much better and there’s snowboarding.  We’ll make N. Arizona into S. Colorado, along w/ N. New Mexico (gotta keep Taos, you know.)

        All the Austinites can move to (or back to, depending) Portland, which is the same but better.

      • Kevin J. April 28, 2010 at 11:32 pm #

        Come on now; my late brother Brian’s family still lives in south Arizona, and most of them are moderate to, gasp, liberal. Of course, one niece, Kim, is (gasp) like her uncle an apparent godless liberal elitist media member.

  9. Josh April 27, 2010 at 10:18 pm #

    Fortunately for America, this law will most likely be struck down by the Federal, if not state, courts, and we won’t have to deal with this for terribly long. Definitely makes me want to make a donation to the Arizona chapter of the ACLU, though.

  10. Ben McD April 28, 2010 at 6:21 am #

    “This law makes it a crime for a Latino person in Arizona to not always carry their immigration documents – Green Card, Passport.”

    Does it make a difference that this is already a crime under a federal law, and that the Arizona law was fashioned after federal laws that are already on the books?

  11. Mike in WNY April 28, 2010 at 9:42 am #

    Predictably, none of the pc-lefties have a solution for Arizona’s immigration problem, only condemnation based on their emotional insensibilities.

    • Alan Bedenko April 28, 2010 at 10:03 am #

      Immigration is a “problem” how?

      • Ward April 28, 2010 at 5:19 pm #

        Immigration is not a problem. Illegal immigration is–unless of course you think it is not, in which case we all stand corrected and I owe a shitload more tax to the Govt to pay for welfare benefits, education etc. (Cue ChristopherSmithEricSaldanhaJohnSplett to spew spittle about corporate welfare.)

      • Mike In WNY April 28, 2010 at 8:59 pm #

        You love semantics, it doesn’t require substance.

      • Alan Bedenko April 29, 2010 at 7:07 am #

        Mike, you didn’t answer the question.  You said Arizona has an immigration problem.  I don’t understand what’s problematic about it.  I suspect Rebmann is Germanic, so I am curious by your situational concern trolling re: immigration. 

      • Ward April 29, 2010 at 12:22 pm #

        Ya gotta love Mike in WNY — the difference between immigration and illegal immigration is semantics.

    • Christopher Smith April 28, 2010 at 10:04 am #

      No, it’s that debating a topic with you is like debating with a Lew Rockwell designed Teddy Ruxpin doll.

      • Mike In WNY April 28, 2010 at 8:58 pm #

        Then Lew Rockwell must get is thoughts from me since I haven’t read any opinions on this issue previously from any libertarian sites. I did just stumble across this one, which supports my view.

    • Ethan April 28, 2010 at 10:30 am #

      predictably, nobody cares what you think.

  12. JudahMaccabbee April 28, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    Guess FDR was a Hitlerite as well since legal immigrants have been required to carry around their paperwork since 1940, when FDR and the Democrats made it a law. Here’s an updated version.


    We can embargo Arizona, but not Iran.


    • Alan Bedenko April 28, 2010 at 11:54 am #

      Let’s use JudahMaccabbee’s comment to highlight misinformation.

      1. The word “gastarbeiter” is not a “Hitlerite” term. It was never used by the Third Reich or Hitler, but was instead coined during postwar Germany when it needed to import temporary “guest workers” – mostly from Turkey and later Yugoslavia – to help rebuild its shattered economy. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of European postwar history would know this.

      2. No one is questioning any governmental requirement that legal immigrants “carry around their paperwork”. Firstly, the term “legal immigrant” can also include naturalized citizens. Naturalized citizens of the United States have no duty to carry around their naturalization paperwork. Secondly, what is so insidiously un-American about this Arizona statute is that there is no reasonable set of criteria for law enforcement – which could now be a beat cop in some podunk town – to use to determine what constitutes a reasonable suspicion of non-documentation. Since the problem in Arizona is immigration through its southern border, it is now quite possible that every single Latino man, woman, and child is subject to arbitrary, baseless detention until and unless they prove their legal status. This means that a natural born Hispanic US citizen can be stopped by a police officer and be detained until he produces proof of legal status in the US. Do you have to carry around your passport or birth certificate for domestic travel? No, you don’t. This is so mindblowingly, fundamentally wrong and unconstitutional.

      3. You use the word “embargo”. The groups calling for a cessation of economic contact with Arizona are not governments who can impose an embargo. What you mean to say is “boycott” – a voluntary decision by an individual or group to stop patronizing a particular place for some reason. Anyone can boycott anyone and anything at any time. It is particularly easy to boycott Iranian goods, for instance, because the US has had economic sanctions imposed on that country since 1979. In fact, what the US has imposed on US citizens and businesses since 1979 is called an “embargo“.

      One more thing – the right-wing media have been tripping over each other to compare the Arizona statute to what they do to illegal immigrants in North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc. Speaking for myself, I am so proud to live in a country that isn’t a totalitarian, oppressive police state and I am genuinely shocked that right wingers are so comfortable standing up not for American constitutional values, but arguing that unconstitutionality is just fine & dandy because foreign tyrants are quite brutal, don’t you know.

      I hope that helps.

      • JudahMaccabbee April 28, 2010 at 8:48 pm #

        Just for clarification, I realize that gastarbeiter was not associated with the Reich. My comment was in reference to the SNL reference and 90% of the other commentary out there that is equating the law with fascism/Nazism/totalitarianism/etc, etc.

        You are correct that an embargo is government policy and an boycott is a voluntary activity by private citizens. I was just drawing attention to the fact that we, as a nation, seem much more willing to attack our own citizens economically for something that will be (in my non-legal opinion) quickly settled in the courts while we do not have the moral fortitude to confront existential threats by entities who will not cease and desist their activity if the ICC/UN/etc says so.

        I must admit, I am rather dismayed by those who instantly think Arizona police will become jackboots, indiscriminately profiling, “anyone who is brown.” Geez, looks like half of the state will be pulled over for “driving while minority.”

        Look, you’re well positioned to oppose the law. Like I said, it probably is unconstitutional — let the courts decide. But once again, some are lazy and are taking the easy road by saying that anyone who supports or sympathizes with the law is a racist. Of course there are racists who support the bill, but there are also millions of others who are not, but simply believe that “illegal” means something and are fed up with the federal gov’ts inaction to address the border issue.

  13. Ward April 28, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    I am particularly amused by the Lefty call for a boycott of Arizona Iced Tea.
    Brewed in New York.

    • Eric Saldanha April 28, 2010 at 1:38 pm #

      Ward – who, precisely, on the Left is calling for a boycott of Arizona Iced Tea? (as opposed to an economic boycott of the state of Arizona?)

      because if that was your attempt at a joke, it was an epic FAIL grander than your usual pathetic attempts.

      • Ward April 28, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

        Heard a breathless young thing blathering on about Arizona Iced Tea on the radio this morning. I’m afraid she was one of yours, Eric.

      • Eric Saldanha April 28, 2010 at 5:31 pm #

        Oh, I see….one idiot you hear on the radio (probably Bauerle’s House of Clowery) = the Left.

        To call you an idiot is an insult to Sarah Palin.

      • Rob April 28, 2010 at 5:36 pm #

        Yeah one person that WBEN dug up can definitely be described as the “lefty call” for something.

      • Ward April 29, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

        Rob — CBS network. Same network that employs “Cute But Stupid” Katie Couric.

  14. Rob April 28, 2010 at 12:52 pm #

    I’m amused that Ward also thought the post title was a Nazi reference.



  1. A History Lesson for Arizona | WNYmedia.net - April 29, 2010

    […] Alan and Gabe have already posted cogent arguments against this bill, so I will focus on something that immediately popped into my head when I heard of the bill’s passage – this is history repeating itself. Recent history, at that, which makes its passage all the more curious. […]

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