‘Your papers please!’

Posted on 06 May 2010 at 2:39pm
By Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

New Arizona immigration law echoes with shades of Hitler’s Germany, and it’s an issue the LGBT community must take a stand on

SPEAKING UP | Thousands attended the march for immigration reform in Dallas on May 1, including a large contingent from the LGBT community. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

"Ihre Papiere, bitte!" That phrase often brought shudders to the people who heard it in the 1930s and ’40s. It is German for "Your papers, please," and it came to symbolize the iron fist of the state that slammed down on the German people and especially on immigrants, Jews, gypsies and gays.

Now that phrase will be heard, albeit in English, in Arizona with alarming frequency. It will be part of the new anti-illegal immigrant law that was signed in that state.

Police can stop anyone if they have a suspicion that they might be illegal. What’s worse, it encourages residents to monitor law enforcement and if they believe police officers are not enforcing immigration laws, to sue them.

This crazy bill, SB-1070, will probably not stand the test of constitutionality since it includes provisions that grant police officers authority to conduct warrant-less arrests of anyone who cannot immediately produce documents proving their status.

That kind of thing has already been invalidated by the Ninth Circuit Court, but apparently it hasn’t stopped the Arizona legislature from including it in their bill.

The root of the whole thing is something pretty basic, and it should be of concern to all of us: Racism.

I am not talking about KKK-style racism, but something far more subtle.

Recent research has shown that racial attitudes run so broad and deep in our society that even children can learn to discriminate based on skin color almost as soon as they can talk. They learn from both the verbal and non-verbal cues our society bombards us with every day.

The bill was supposed to be about illegal immigration, and I understand that it is a problem, But the solution offered by the Arizona law is based on the assumption that you can easily recognize a person’s citizenship by just looking at them.

Well, I haven’t heard of an "illegal immigrant uniform," so the only thing left is the color of their skin.

The problems encountered by people of color when driving through Highland Park come to mind. There has been no firm proof, but the expression "Driving while Hispanic" has already entered the vernacular.

It is the basis of a lot of traffic stops in that cloistered white enclave, and it is the kind of racial profiling that will undoubtedly take place in Arizona.

So what the heck does this have to do with us? Well, Texas has never been one to be left behind when the bigotry train is leaving the station.

Republican state Rep. Debbie Riddle of Tomball plans to put forth a similar bill to Arizona’s. The city of Farmer’s Branch is already embroiled in a similar controversy with its attempt to pass an ordinance that would prevent landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants. I will bet you there are several more in the pipeline.

The federal government is responsible for immigration, and local authorities and states getting involved just muddies the waters. Unfortunately, until the federal government comes up with a workable solution to the problem, this kind of thing will reoccur.

It’s strange that the same folks who are screeching about the government taking control of everything can’t wait to put a law in place that is about as fascist as they come.

So again, why should this bother us? Well, it is a short step from demanding proof of citizenship papers to other more draconian measures.

As one minority begins to be targeted, the scope will broaden to others. Imagine if the police in Arizona began using this law to harass LGBT people.

Say they demand proof of your gender. Even though there are laws in some states banning discrimination because of gender identity, many transgendered people are distrustful of law enforcement officials, and it would not be hard to imagine problems arising during such a stop.

It is only a small step from demanding citizenship papers to using that law to harass whoever the law enforcement officer decides they want to harass. If memory serves, our local constabulary has already been shown to be ready and willing to use any excuse to bust a few heads.

Just take a look at the Rainbow Lounge raid.

Standing beside other minorities when they face discrimination is not just a good idea, it’s something that will bring benefits to us all — especially when we need support at the ballot box.   

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Pride Weddings 2010 special section in the Dallas Voice print edition May 7, 2010.

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