SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- Given the drastic legislation passed in recent years and the blatantly exclusionary rhetoric of Arizona lawmakers, the state’s wide embrace of Monday’s Cinco de Mayo festivities came as a surprise to many. In fact, most government agencies reported spending days preparing for parades, picnics, cultural exhibits and public displays of Mexican heritage. “With so many Mexicans infiltrating Arizona, especially around the Phoenix area, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that May 5 is a highly anticipated day of celebration,” Governor Jan Brewer said. “We couldn’t support this holiday enough. It’s a day for food, music, dancing, revelry and, coincidentally, our state’s new census. It’s a once-in-a-year opportunity to round everybody up and see just who’s who in our communities.”
Since April 2010, when Gov. Brewer signed into law one of the most hotly debated anti-immigration bills in recent history, illegal aliens -- or those suspected of being undocumented immigrants -- have been forced to lurk in the shadows and tread lightly to avoid raising suspicion. The bill allows police to question and arrest people without a warrant if “reasonable suspicion” about their immigration status exists. It’s widely considered the toughest crackdown on illegal immigration in the country, and critics argue that it legalizes racial profiling and discrimination.
Under the reasonable suspicion clause, for example, people with dark complexions or individuals with accents, regardless of skin color, must be able to provide papers proving their citizenship.
“If they can’t, or don’t have their papers on them, they get deported…generally to Mexico,” Brewer said. “That’s what we mean by ‘undocumented.’ You must have your papers. It’s like a driver’s license. Just because you might have one doesn’t mean you’re allowed to drive without it on your person. And if you get caught, you pay a penalty. Again, deportation...generally to Mexico.”
Arizona has endured outrage and even problematic international relations issues as a result of the law. Two years ago in May, 26-year old swimming champ Alexander Dale Oen, the pride of Norway, was found dead of cardiac arrest in an Arizona pre-Olympic training camp. His death came at a time when the constitutionality of Arizona’s contentious and nuanced anti-immigration law was being argued before the Supreme Court. Worse yet, state officials delayed notifying authorities in Norway. Gov. Brewer admitted the lapse in communication, blaming the confusion on her misunderstanding of the report by police that stated “another foreigner died in Arizona after a long, hard swim.”
But she assured people that the state’s stance on immigration should not discourage them from turning out to enjoy Cinco de Mayo.
“We hardly ever get the chance to gather our Hispanic neighbors together openly in such large numbers,” Brewer said. “Cinco de Mayo commemorates a significant victory for indigenous people who are willing to fight and take up arms to overthrow foreign invaders. We’re really hoping our efforts today result in a similar spirit of liberation for the true, legally recognized people of Arizona.”
Some citizens, however, remain skeptical of Brewer’s motives. Event organizers across the state noted that police agencies ramped up their manpower, increased patrols and doubled the number of checkpoints in most counties. Police officials attributed this to another provocative act passed in 2010, when Gov. Brewer pushed through a bill that legalized the carrying of concealed firearms and other weapons without a permit for adults over 21 years of age.
“You need a license to walk down the street, but anyone can carry an unlicensed firearm,” a spokesperson for the Arizona Police Association (APA) explained. “Everyone likes to have fun, our officers understand that. Cops just want to make sure everyone gets home safe, especially if home happens to be about 300 miles south.”
2014. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License. See disclaimers.