George Graham

Illegal Immigration is No Excuse for Racism

No one in their right mind would defend the practice of entering the United States – or any other country – illegally. It’s as unlawful as breaking into someone’s home. And, obviously, the United States government should put an end to the importation and exploitation of undocumented workers. The reason it’s been going on for so long is that big companies profit by employing illegal immigrants and big companies make big contributions to political parties.

But that’s no excuse for blatant racism. And that’s just what a new Arizona law exhibits.

Republican Governor Jan Brewer (photo above) yesterday signed a bill that requires police to question people about their immigration status — including asking for identification — if the suspect looks like an illegal immigrant. At a press conference after signing the bill, the governor couldn’t describe what illegal immigrants look like but she opined that trained police would be able to spot them.

We Jamaicans can guess who is going to get stopped and questioned. And we know it won’t be the blond, blue-eyed Arizonans. Remind me to stay out of that state.

The good news is that this law isn’t likely to survive. For one thing, I don’t think it could withstand a legal challenge. Immigration is a federal matter. And Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon already has announced that he wants the city of Phoenix to challenge the bill in the courts. Organizations such as the Arizona ACLU and MALDEF also plan to sue, seeking a federal injunction to stop the law from being enacted, as it normally would be, 90 days following the end of the legislative session.

As you might expect, President Barack Obama blasted the bill as “misguided” and “irresponsible.” His administration is sure to challenge its legality.

So this could very well be a tempest in a teacup.

But it’s an important reminder of the rising tide of racism in America. The bill was backed by several racist groups – they call them “nativist” these days. And the politician who initiated the law (photo above) has a history of racism.

According to The New York Times:

The state senator who wrote the law, Russell Pearce, had long been considered a politically incorrect embarrassment by more moderate members of his party — often to the delight of his supporters. There was the time in 2007 when he appeared in a widely circulated photograph with a man who was a featured speaker at a neo-Nazi conference. (Mr. Pearce said later he did not know of the man’s affiliation with the group.)

In 2006, he came under fire for speaking admirably of a 1950s federal deportation program called Operation Wetback, and for sending an e-mail message to supporters that included an attachment — inadvertently, he said — from a white supremacist group.

The fact that people like Pearce are being taken seriously illustrates the disturbing new mood in parts of America. It seems the Tea Party protests over the election of America’s first black president have emboldened the bigots, and they are flexing their political muscle shamelessly.

It’s time for “pushback.” Those of us who find bigotry repugnant cannot remain silent and let the Aryan doctrine take fresh root. We must rage against the assaults on enlightenment.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for