That’s a version of what immigration law protesters’ signs say, trying to remind citizens in some of the toughest immigration areas that illegals, as they are often called, are still, first and foremost, human, deserving to be treated as such. A message that was reinforced when the justice department cracked down on Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio citing Maricopa County law enforcement had run afoul of the constitution, engaged in racial profiling, denied immigrants, suspected illegal Latino inmates, basic civil rights including medical care for those who could speak little or no English, punishments doled out to those who could not properly understand instructions given to them, even going so far as to detain one legal US Latino resident for driving without a license, who was subject to the same abuse before his residency status could be confirmed. While this is the most significant backlash against tough state immigration law, as well it should be, it’s not the only one; Alabama is now suffering the consequences of its own overzealous legislation, not just in terms of famers harvesting crops but in terms of drawing business to the state, as one Chinese company is considering backing out of their significant investment and a steel company has decided to wait until foreign workers feel more at ease in the area. But the latest, most shocking, immigration story is that of a 14 year old runaway who gave a fake name to police then was deported to the country of Colombia, given a work card and released to a work program there

Joe Arpaio is no stranger to controversy forcing inmates to live in tents, forcing males to wear pink, all effective, if non-conventional methods, considering the goal is to make sure inmates do not become repeat offenders, but the Arizona sheriff’s stance on immigration enforcement is something else when you talking about denying medical care and basic services to people who hardly speak the language, locking them in their cells with no access to food for up to 72 hours (it’s reasonable to assume that’s what is meant by barring them from the “canteen area,” for that time period) It’s something else when inmates are thrown into solitary confinement 23 hours a day for failing to understand commands in English, when inmates are subject to listening to racial slurs on the part of their jailers, when officers refuse to process request forms for services, mistreatment complaints just because they are written in Spanish. Worse police officials were compelling signatures, from limited English speakers, on forms stating they understand their rights in legal matters without interpreters. While this may all sound well and good to many, factoring in these people have been convicted of crimes, are suspected of committing serious offenses outside flouting immigration rules, the question must be asked, how many of these people are truly guilty of what they are accused of taking into account the tactics of their arrest? What details are being missed in handling limited or no English speaking persons minus translators? Just because you are guilty of being an illegal immigrant doesn’t mean you are guilty of all other crime, nor does it mean you forfeit your rights as a human being.     

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According to the associated press his patrols known as sweeps have been under investigation since 2009; current investigative findings determining Latino drivers were 4 to 9 times more likely to be stopped than others. His immigrant smuggling squad conducted traffic stops without reasonable cause, detaining legal U.S. residents and rarely leading to smuggling arrests. Even went as far as to arrest groups of possible Latinos for gathering outside businesses but having committed no crime.  So who else is being arrested, jailed, possibly convicted without anyone getting to the bottom of what really happened? Next what about Latino victims of crime; our Arizona sheriff treats them no better than ones he has already deemed guilty in his mind, if the child sex crimes uncovered are any indication; in which this sheriff’s office failed to investigate 400 of such cases properly or, in certain instances, at all. However when higher authorities intervened they discovered 32 reported child molesters virtually ignored, despite suspects being named in the majority of cases bringing up questions of adequate policing within the Hispanic community. Further evidence painting Joe Arpaio and his office as an entity out of the old west, making its own rules and running rough shot over all else are his tendencies to arrest, jail, silence people who speak out against what he is doing, lawsuits filed against attorneys and other officials he doesn’t like, all falling apart before getting to court. Mr. Arpaio, according to press releases, calls the report “a sad day for America as a whole.” No what is sad is it has taken this long to rein in a rouge law enforcement power house along with his office; no, what is sad is this is how we are willing to treat human beings period, never mind ones whose only sin is being born on foreign soil but wanting to make a better life here. What is even sadder still is how much support actions like this have among the American public; how many will say good for him, there’s only room for us here now.   

Alabama has a different problem in their near blood lust to rid the state of illegal immigrants and their accompanying ills, they have forgotten how to treat legal ones, forgotten the importance of their foreign investors, not only for their economy but the national economy. Example, the Chinese company, mentioned in the opening, coupled with a Canadian one having spent 230 million on factories in Thomasville, creating 800 jobs in a town of 5,000 people, now the former is ready to back out solely because of the new law. The steel company is not writing off the US or Alabama, instead waiting for the day workers feel welcome to both work and reside their without the restrictions of such an oppressive legal maneuver. When you have off shore investors point blank telling you, you didn’t think you actions through you should know you have a problem, but are they repealing the law, no. Their only partial solution is a measure up before the state legislature in February making it a crime for non-citizens not to no carry their citizenship documentation, this after a German Mercedes businessman, here legally, spent a night in jail post traffic violation. And being without his citizenship information, presumably it took that long to ascertain his residency status. Alabama officials say they are only taking such a hard line on the issue because the federal government has done that poor a job on the matter; however, it took CBS news no time to point out the Obama administration has deported more illegal immigrants than any other. How many of those 800 jobs will be lost because of bad legislation; how many more jobs will never come to the state when word goes abroad about citizenship documentation regulations, when people in other countries hear about the reception, treatment received in Alabama and begin to think all of the U.S. is like that?

The problem, their law isn’t merely cracking down on the brown people characterized as working for lower wages, taking jobs from hard working American citizens; neither is it deporting the supposed criminal element certainly not working, epitomized as those likely to be picked up by police for loitering, trespassing, vagrancy, public intoxication, urination, exactly the kind of people you don’t want in your city, all the more so if they are not supposed to be. What it is clearly doing is driving away successful people who want to invest money in the area; people who are white, Asian, speak no hint of Spanish, arguably speak more understandable English than natives of the region. Not that their skin color should matter for a moment, or dialects should be mistaken for unintelligence,  but even of a visual, visceral level these are people who command respect, who are now nervous about building, expanding their business in states, cities, communities hanging out signs, physical or not, saying no outsiders welcome. Alabama in its thirst to rid themselves of the “undesirable brown people” detailed above have no compunction about the perceived harassment international would be investors might feel in encountering an immigrant hostile environment, how alienated they might feel being forced to produce citizenship documentation during a routine traffic stop. Better than spending a night in jail, yes, but neither should have happened; the man should have been issued a ticket for his violation, told how he could resolve it, pay the fine, or what office to visit for further information, instruction.

Added to that people should shutter when they hear that phrase, because something says we’re not talking about a simple passport, visa or green card, rather documents far more extensive, invasive and intrusive to people sightseeing, making an honest living, getting educated or running businesses in Alabama. Even if citizenship documentation requirements didn’t sound eerily like slave days and masters giving passes for slaves to be on the road, even if it didn’t sound reminiscent of passes in British controlled India to track and control native populations, even if it didn’t strike a chord similar to Nazi Germany and Jews walking around with stars sewn on all their clothing, how stiff a penalty are they willing to level on some tourist who accidentally left their passport in their hotel, students who left it in a dorm? Speaking of, it doesn’t take a psychic to know what will happen to millions, possibly billions of tourism dollars if innocent visitors, young college kids start turning up in local jail cells either because they didn’t know of the law or just forgot. Similarly what impression does it leave on the business man or woman settling fines, being booked; sure they may stay for the sake of their investment, but they will no doubt tell their home country colleagues to stay away. Continuing, do the police in Alabama have a plan, should the February law pass, to handle people whose documentation was left in a vehicle, purse, travel bag that was suddenly stolen; following currently employed logic, they’ll be locking up victims of theft for lacking proof of citizenship. Just another reason people shake their head, look at the south and wonder at its reputation shadowed with ignorance. 

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo playerHow does a US citizen, and a minor US citizen at that, get deported to another country; that is one of the many questions facing both the state department and the family of Jakadrian Tuner, a 14 year old runaway who gave a fake name when picked up by police for shoplifting. Apparently the name, Tika Cortez, matched that of a 22 year old foreign national illegally residing here from the country of Colombia; while immigration officials maintain they did everything to confirm the identity of the detainee they were holding, questions still abound as to how this 14, currently 15 year old, was mistaken for someone 22, how they managed to buy her story seeing as she spoke not one word of Spanish, and more compellingly how this obviously African American girl was taken for Latino. Subsequent interviews given by the family have led many of the public not to believe the young girls story that she was taken in by a trafficker, scared to call home for fear of shaming her family, or that she told officers her age and they didn’t believe her, that she tried to tell them who she really was and the result was the same, that she didn’t understand the deportation hearing. Adding insult to injury, once her identity was confirmed on the US side, both governments agreed she could be sent home, but the family would have to pay airfare; only after the news broke the botched deportation story was Jakadrian released from the detention center, that picked her up on behalf of the US government, and put on a plane.  Many have come to the conclusion that is what happens when you lie, when you are dishonest, there are consequences and yes, you could be deported, going a step further saying the girl was coached on what to say “so these people could get rich” was one comment on a related story.

Independent of kids lying, doing stupid things, this by far being one of the stupidest, and the ramifications thereof; it doesn’t preclude police officials doing their job and doing it correctly. Lying shouldn’t lead to the deportation of a US citizen to another country. What, they had no picture of this 22 year old illegal immigrant, no finger prints, no sketch artist wanted or missing poster, despite the real Tika Cortez having warrants? Then how were they supposed to find her or identify her once they had, considering if a 15 year old can give a false name, an illegal person picked up by immigration, fearing deportation certainly can. Other astute members of the public, along with the Turner family, justifiably chide the immigration department for believing her story taking into account she spoke no Spanish, possessed no accent consistent with where she stated she was from and didn’t look 22; next, a missing persons report, no doubt including a photo, was filed on Jakadrian with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, something immigration enforcement says did not come up in the investigation. Again, what they’ve never dealt with possible runaways; police don’t automatically start out in immigration enforcement. By the time they end up in such a post they have been around the block a few times, but it seems police only went by the name Jakadrian gave as hers. Bringing us to another point, outside this teen’s story, how many people of the same name there can be in an area; the name Tika Cortez may sound unique enough to average Americans, yet Huston has a heavy Latino population where such names are common. Looking at the shoddy job done investigating this case; had the young girls name actually been Tika Cortez, she could have easily been a natural born US citizen, a naturalized US citizen, a legal resident alien here with a green card, student or work visa, a tourist in possession of a passport, confused with a felon who then would still be deported unjustly.

Do we need a sound immigration policy, perhaps even immigration reform, yes, but most can agree none of the actions here constitute anything close to it. Adhering to immigration policies that support denying people civil rights, human rights only reflects poorly on us as a nation, reinforces our reputation as selfish, self-centered and cruel. Not to mention giving power hungry bullies like Joe Arpaio places of authority will taint even the best immigration guidelines.   Shunning international investors, coming off as inhospitable to persons just because they weren’t born here is egregious enough, but doing so to people looking to create jobs here, looking for a market for their product, is almost unforgiveable, especially in this economy. Making visitors feel welcome, making people feel free to work, thrive here provided they go through the proper process, obey the laws, which these people all seem willing to do, is critical to operating in the global economy, never mind leading it as America wants to.  At the same time treating minor offenses like traffic violations the same, regardless of immigration status, cuts down on feelings of harassment and ill will towards people far from home, and no matter if they are just a student, tourist or worker, doing us a favor by buying goods supporting their regional economy. Of course we need to deport illegal people causing mayhem, people who have warrants here or in their own country, yet it is equally important to confirm who you are deporting, to prevent embarrassments, tragedies like what happened above or worse. Because this is what happens in the zealotry of politicians not wanting to look soft on immigration, innocent people get caught in the middle and we lose both credibility and investment capital