Desmond Tutu: Arizona: The Wrong Answer

Desmond Tutu: Arizona: The Wrong Answer

In April, 2010, the State of Arizona passed a law requiring that local police determine the immigration status of individuals they suspect of being in the country illegally, a mandate that people carry documents that prove they have a legal right to be in the United States, and a provision making it a crime for laborers to solicit work.

As SB 1070, or as local activists have dubbed it, “The Mexican Removal Act,” goes before the Supreme Court this week, we are reminded of the comments of Archibishop Tutu when the law was initially passed.

I am saddened today at the prospect of a young Hispanic immigrant in Arizona going to the grocery store and forgetting to bring her passport and immigration documents with her. I cannot be dispassionate about the fact that the very act of her being in the grocery store will soon be a crime in the state she lives in. Or that should a policeman hear her accent and form a “reasonable suspicion” that she is an illegal immigrant, she can – and will – be taken into custody until someone sorts it out, while her children are at home waiting for their dinner.

Equally disturbing is what will happen in the mind of the policeman. The police talk today about how they do not wish to, and will not, engage in racial profiling. Yet faced with the option of using common sense and compassion, or harassing a person who has done nothing wrong, a particularly sinister aspect of Arizona’s new immigration law will be hanging over his head. He can be personally sued, by ANYONE, for failing to enforce this inhumane new act.

I recognize that Arizona has become a widening entry point for illegal immigration from the South. The wave has brought with it rising violence and drug smuggling.

But a solution that degrades innocent people, or that makes anyone with broken English a suspect, is not a solution. A solution that fails to distinguish between a young child coming over the border in search of his mother and a drug smuggler is not a solution.

I am not speaking from an ivory tower. I lived in the South Africa that has now thankfully faded into history, where a black man or woman could be grabbed off the street and thrown in jail for not having his or her documents on their person.

How far can this go? We lived it — police waking a man up in the middle of the night and hauling him off to jail for not having his documents on his person while he slept. The fact that they were in his nightstand near the bed was not good enough.

Of course if you suggested such a possibility today to an Arizona policeman he would be adamant that he would never do such a thing. And I would believe him. Arizona is a long way from apartheid South Africa.

The problem is, under the new law, the one or two who WOULD do it are legitimized. All they have to say is that they believed that illegal immigrants were being harbored in the house. They would be protected and sanctioned by this law.

Abominations such as Apartheid do not start with an entire population suddenly becoming inhumane. They start here. They start with generalizing unwanted characteristics across an entire segment of a population. They start with trying to solve a problem by asserting superior force over a population. They start with stripping people of rights and dignity – such as the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty – that you yourself enjoy. Not because it is right, but because you can. And because somehow, you think this is going to solve a problem.

However, when you strip a man or a woman of their basic human rights, you strip them of their dignity in the eyes of their family and their community, and even in their own eyes. An immigrant who is charged with the crime of trespassing for simply being in a community without his papers on him is being told he is committing a crime by simply being. He or she feels degraded and feels they are of less worth than others of a different color skin. These are the seeds of resentment, hostilities and in extreme cases, conflict.

Such “solutions” solve nothing. As already pointed out, even by people on the police force, Arizona’s new laws will split the communities, make it less likely that people in the immigrant communities will work with the police. They will create conditions favorable to the very criminals these laws are trying to disarm.

The Latinos in Arizona have not come to Arizona because they want to live in communities wracked with violence and crime. I would guess that the most recent arrivals have fled their border towns and the growing violence there as drug lords tightened their control of the communities. They want to live and raise their children in peace, just as you or I do.

I am certain that, given the chance, the leaders of the Latino immigrant communities in Arizona would enthusiastically work with the State to find constructive solutions to these problems. I am very sure that they would like, as much as others, to rid Arizona of the drug smugglers, human traffickers and other criminal elements infiltrating their communities.

We can only hope that this law will be thrown out of the courts in short order. I do not disagree with the calls to boycott the businesses in the State until it is turned around.

In the meantime, it has opened the door to some smart State leaders sitting down with the leaders of the Latino communities in Arizona and hammering out some solutions that actually work. Hopefully these solutions would recognize the difference between a drug smuggler and a man willing to stand outside a gas station in the hot sun for hours in the hopes that someone will give him some work for the day.

The problem of migrating populations is not going to go away any time soon. If anyone should know this, it should be Americans, many of whom landed here themselves to escape persecution, famine or conflict. With the eyes of the world now on them, Arizona has the opportunity to create a new model for dealing with the pitfalls, and help the nation as a whole find its way through the problems of illegal immigration. But to work, it must be a model that is based on a deep respect for the essential human rights Americans themselves have grown up enjoying.

12 Comments

  1. I have to say that I am very disappointed in this article, and the tone that it takes. Archbishop Tutu states “I cannot be dispassionate about the fact that the very act of her being in the grocery store will soon be a crime in the state she lives in” – something that is completely untrue, assuming she is a legal immigrant. He later states: ” An immigrant who is charged with the crime of trespassing for simply being in a community without his papers on him is being told he is committing a crime by simply being.” Again – completely untrue – no immigrant would be charged with any crime, provided that the immigrant can provide proof of their right to be there.

    When I lived in England, a young girl was assaulted in the lobby of my building. When the police canvassed the occupants of the building for information, and came across me (an American), they immediately asked for papers proving my right to be in the country – but they asked no one else in the building for their proof of residence. They made the decision to check into my background purely on the basis of my accent. If I had not been able to offer them my papers, I would have been detained until I could. And this was not a one-off situation – I travelled extensively for my company in the UK. Whenever I checked into a hotel with my business associates, I was the only one who was singled out to present my passport to get a room. If I did not provide it, a room would not be available to me – even though I was a legal resient of the UK at the time. Can I expect Archbishop Tutu to be calling for a boycott of UK businesses? Or possibly he could acknowledge that any government has the right to impose rules for legal immigration, and that individuals who choose to live under those governments legally will sometimes have to accept inconveniences like proving their immigration status.

  2. I have to say that I am very disappointed in this article, and the tone that it takes. Archbishop Tutu states “I cannot be dispassionate about the fact that the very act of her being in the grocery store will soon be a crime in the state she lives in” – something that is completely untrue, assuming she is a legal immigrant. He later states: ” An immigrant who is charged with the crime of trespassing for simply being in a community without his papers on him is being told he is committing a crime by simply being.” Again – completely untrue – no immigrant would be charged with any crime, provided that the immigrant can provide proof of their right to be there.

    When I lived in England, a young girl was assaulted in the lobby of my building. When the police canvassed the occupants of the building for information, and came across me (an American), they immediately asked for papers proving my right to be in the country – but they asked no one else in the building for their proof of residence. They made the decision to check into my background purely on the basis of my accent. If I had not been able to offer them my papers, I would have been detained until I could. And this was not a one-off situation – I travelled extensively for my company in the UK. Whenever I checked into a hotel with my business associates, I was the only one who was singled out to present my passport to get a room. If I did not provide it, a room would not be available to me – even though I was a legal resient of the UK at the time. Can I expect Archbishop Tutu to be calling for a boycott of UK businesses? Or possibly he could acknowledge that any government has the right to impose rules for legal immigration, and that individuals who choose to live under those governments legally will sometimes have to accept inconveniences like proving their immigration status.

  3. Whether someone is a drug dealer or illegally in our country, they are both breaking the law. It is call illegal immegrants becasuse they are illegal. Drivers have to have drivers licenses. What an inconcienience to have to carry them. The difference is???

  4. Whether someone is a drug dealer or illegally in our country, they are both breaking the law. It is call illegal immegrants becasuse they are illegal. Drivers have to have drivers licenses. What an inconcienience to have to carry them. The difference is???

  5. One of poorest, illogical conclusions I’ve read yet on this debate. Fails to consider the destruction illegals have done to Arizona, the crime, kidnappings, drugs, killings of law enforcement, and more. What part of ILLEGAL don’t we understand? All of these protests are carefully orchestrated and too many flatworms are falling for the hoaz.
    Instead of wasting time on inflammatory actions, why aren’t they working to make these folks legal citizens instead?
    Why should anyone be granted immunity when a process exists for rectifying the situation…the CA governor didn’t come to America illegally so how dare he call the legal actions of AZ immoral?

    Mexico has laws about illegals that are much, much worse but I don’t hear anyone whining about them. Illegals are good for the Mexican government because American taxpayers foot the bill for medical care, food stamps, schooling and so forth, thus relieving the government of Mexico of caring for their own population…after all “Everything is free in America,” and despite the majority who favor the new AZ law, we’re damned for it.

  6. One of poorest, illogical conclusions I’ve read yet on this debate. Fails to consider the destruction illegals have done to Arizona, the crime, kidnappings, drugs, killings of law enforcement, and more. What part of ILLEGAL don’t we understand? All of these protests are carefully orchestrated and too many flatworms are falling for the hoaz.
    Instead of wasting time on inflammatory actions, why aren’t they working to make these folks legal citizens instead?
    Why should anyone be granted immunity when a process exists for rectifying the situation…the CA governor didn’t come to America illegally so how dare he call the legal actions of AZ immoral?

    Mexico has laws about illegals that are much, much worse but I don’t hear anyone whining about them. Illegals are good for the Mexican government because American taxpayers foot the bill for medical care, food stamps, schooling and so forth, thus relieving the government of Mexico of caring for their own population…after all “Everything is free in America,” and despite the majority who favor the new AZ law, we’re damned for it.

  7. I would have to say that I found this article to be very inspiring and true. Time and time again I have watched legislatures create and pass laws that are meant to solve an issue with out ever considering all sides of the issue. How do people expect to solve issues and strengthen our communities if they aren’t willing to listen to each other and work together to find solutions.

    Have you ever thought about what you would have to be going through to want to pick up your family leave most of your material positions behind and move to a completely different country?

    I would have to feel very oppressed and believe that there was no other way for me to survive and obtain a better way of live than to leave my home uproot my family break the law and than live in constant fear of being sent back to my home in worse shape than I was to begin with.

    It is so disheartening to me to see governments in our very own country institute such deliberate acts of racism!!! The state of Arizona has just made it institutionally okay to judge people by the color of their skin or by the sound of their voice or even just by a police officers opinion!!

    As far as those who believe that illegal immigrants (only for the lack of a better term!!!) are the cause of increasing violence in communities I would like to see the creditable statistics on that, I have yet to see any real research that proves the true cause of rising violence is because of the fact that they are illegal immigrants. Couldn’t it be because we allow companies to pay them less than a living wage so they live in areas were crime is more likely to happen? Is it because we like getting our oranges for less than a dollar a pound and there for they aren’t able to fee their families and have to find other ways to get food?

    I cant begin to understand how people can believe that any human being naturally resorts to violence. That theory goes against every root of human logic. Don’t we all want to live in a secure environment were we can flourish and grow? Living in a violent environment denies the human being of that security and they will take drastic measures if they have to as a way to find security. Wouldn’t as Archbishop TuTu has mentioned above we be getting a better return on our investment if we got to the root of the problem and started to create better ways for these “illegal immigrants” to come here the right way and have access to a secure community and living environment?

  8. I would have to say that I found this article to be very inspiring and true. Time and time again I have watched legislatures create and pass laws that are meant to solve an issue with out ever considering all sides of the issue. How do people expect to solve issues and strengthen our communities if they aren’t willing to listen to each other and work together to find solutions.

    Have you ever thought about what you would have to be going through to want to pick up your family leave most of your material positions behind and move to a completely different country?

    I would have to feel very oppressed and believe that there was no other way for me to survive and obtain a better way of live than to leave my home uproot my family break the law and than live in constant fear of being sent back to my home in worse shape than I was to begin with.

    It is so disheartening to me to see governments in our very own country institute such deliberate acts of racism!!! The state of Arizona has just made it institutionally okay to judge people by the color of their skin or by the sound of their voice or even just by a police officers opinion!!

    As far as those who believe that illegal immigrants (only for the lack of a better term!!!) are the cause of increasing violence in communities I would like to see the creditable statistics on that, I have yet to see any real research that proves the true cause of rising violence is because of the fact that they are illegal immigrants. Couldn’t it be because we allow companies to pay them less than a living wage so they live in areas were crime is more likely to happen? Is it because we like getting our oranges for less than a dollar a pound and there for they aren’t able to fee their families and have to find other ways to get food?

    I cant begin to understand how people can believe that any human being naturally resorts to violence. That theory goes against every root of human logic. Don’t we all want to live in a secure environment were we can flourish and grow? Living in a violent environment denies the human being of that security and they will take drastic measures if they have to as a way to find security. Wouldn’t as Archbishop TuTu has mentioned above we be getting a better return on our investment if we got to the root of the problem and started to create better ways for these “illegal immigrants” to come here the right way and have access to a secure community and living environment?

  9. I live in Arizona and see what is happening here near the border. My son is a news reporter in El Paso and he sees what it is doing there. There are several issues that are being bound up into one, and they are not one. First is the drug cartels and the violence they have produced. That is unacceptable and needs to be stopped – everyone agrees on that on both sides of the border. The second issue is that due to the poverty in Mexico people are coming to the US primarily to work. That is a different issue than the drug cartels and violence as the people coming to work are not connected to the cartels. The third issue is that there are a lot of people who have been living in US – some for generations- who cannot get citizenship due to red tape and quotas. Each issue needs to be addressed and not lumped together as one issue.

    The problem with SB 1070 is that it picks out an ethnic group to be treated differently. Anyone who says that it is not what the law means to do is being disingenuous. In Arizona illegal immigration is from Mexico. We all know that. There is no way to have reasonable suspicion someone is here illegally without having that being based on the way the person looks and sounds. It is a racist bill any way you cut it.

    Eventually we are going to have to look at immigration reform. 1. We need a way that people can some here as guest workers – often they do not want to stay here but are afraid of going back and forth across the border. 2. Allow a road to citizenship for people who have lived and worked here for a long time. BTW, often these people are paying taxes and into Soc Sec under a false Soc Sec number but never get the benefits since they cannot make a claim for it. And finally, 3. Mexico needs to step up and change the culture of corruption. It must end and they must begin to take care of their people. It is a country rich in resources. No reason there should be such horrible poverty.

    Sorry so long but that is the way I see it from a place that is up close and personal.

  10. I live in Arizona and see what is happening here near the border. My son is a news reporter in El Paso and he sees what it is doing there. There are several issues that are being bound up into one, and they are not one. First is the drug cartels and the violence they have produced. That is unacceptable and needs to be stopped – everyone agrees on that on both sides of the border. The second issue is that due to the poverty in Mexico people are coming to the US primarily to work. That is a different issue than the drug cartels and violence as the people coming to work are not connected to the cartels. The third issue is that there are a lot of people who have been living in US – some for generations- who cannot get citizenship due to red tape and quotas. Each issue needs to be addressed and not lumped together as one issue.

    The problem with SB 1070 is that it picks out an ethnic group to be treated differently. Anyone who says that it is not what the law means to do is being disingenuous. In Arizona illegal immigration is from Mexico. We all know that. There is no way to have reasonable suspicion someone is here illegally without having that being based on the way the person looks and sounds. It is a racist bill any way you cut it.

    Eventually we are going to have to look at immigration reform. 1. We need a way that people can some here as guest workers – often they do not want to stay here but are afraid of going back and forth across the border. 2. Allow a road to citizenship for people who have lived and worked here for a long time. BTW, often these people are paying taxes and into Soc Sec under a false Soc Sec number but never get the benefits since they cannot make a claim for it. And finally, 3. Mexico needs to step up and change the culture of corruption. It must end and they must begin to take care of their people. It is a country rich in resources. No reason there should be such horrible poverty.

    Sorry so long but that is the way I see it from a place that is up close and personal.

  11. Peace In Tibet

  12. Yes, I agree with Desmond Tutu. Sometimes, Immigration officer, police officers or border patrol police are lacking of respect. Without solid proof or just base on their own suspicious
    they treats others as criminal. It is just like a Robbot that has fixed programs set in their brain without any human being’s common sense.

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  1. DESMOND TUTU: Arizona: The Wrong Answer - US Message Board - Political Discussion Forum - [...] immigrants were being harbored in the house. They would be protected and sanctioned by this law. Whole article... …
  2. DESMOND TUTU: Arizona: The Wrong Answer - US Message Board - Political Discussion Forum - [...] immigrants were being harbored in the house. They would be protected and sanctioned by this law. Whole article... …
  3. Difficult Conversations « CollTales - [...] Desmond Tutu on Arizona’s new laws on immigration and its possible causes and consequences. The Community via Huffington [...] …
  4. Difficult Conversations « CollTales - [...] Desmond Tutu on Arizona’s new laws on immigration and its possible causes and consequences. The Community via Huffington [...] …
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