The events of the last week have been so consuming that I missed this little ditty dated July 31 by reporter Alia Beard Rau in the Arizona Republic, entitled, "Civil-rights activist, Pearce plan summit on migrant issues."
The headline alone is enough to make your pupils pop. The day that neo-Nazi hugging state Senator Russell Pearce smokes the peace pipe with an actual civil-rights leader or advocate for the undocumented, I'll know that the good Lord has finally introduced air conditioning to Hell.
But worry not about Hades installing central air. Pearce didn't meet with a civil-rights activist. He met with Ted Hayes, a black anti-immigrant foghorn from L.A. who heads up a group he calls "America's Black Shield."
Once upon a time, Hayes reportedly did some good work on behalf of the homeless. These days, he's mainly known as being one of the few African-Americans present at nativist rallies, where he rails against the illegal alien "invasion," and generally makes the Caucasians in the crowd feel better about themselves because they have a black buddy who thinks like them.
To this end, at the June 5 nativist rally at Wesley Bolin Plaza near the Arizona state Capitol, Hayes took the stage and forgave the mostly white audience for the evils of slavery.
"White people did not start slavery," he informed the assembled ofays. "It started in Africa. That's where it started. We are just as responsible anybody else, and I would say to you, that you my white brothers and sisters have come closer to us black people than we have come to you. And I apologize for that."
Real sweet of him, huh? He also got the crowd rockin' by telling them of his plans to pull some sort of citizen's arrest of the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Reverend Al Sharpton by summer's end.
Clock's tickin', Ted. Better get on it.
Hayes has also been affiliated with a FAIR-front group called Choose Black America. That's FAIR as in the notoriously anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform, the organization responsible, in part, for the drafting of SB 1070. The Southern Poverty Law Center has rightly labeled FAIR a hate group.
In an interview with the SPLC in 2006, Hayes admitted that FAIR was funding CBA, and that he'd been flown to Washington, DC to participate in a press conference for the FAIR offshoot.
Granted, Hayes is an entertaining guy, known for saying some pretty nutty stuff. In Rau's piece, Hayes actually calls Pearce, a man who once forwarded a neo-Nazi e-mail to his supporters, "the Abraham Lincoln of our time."
Hey, why not call him Jesus Christ while you're at it, Ted? If anything, Pearce more closely resembles a whip-wielding overseer in the mini-series Roots than anyone on the Union side of the Civil War, much less the Great Emancipator.
Certainly, an actual "civil-rights activist" would be cognizant of this glaring reality. That's how you know that Hayes is not a civil-rights activist of any sort. Well, that and Google.
On another note, I want to commend Todd Landfried, a spokesman for the Phoenix-based Arizona Employers for Immigration Reform, for a stirring opinion piece on Arizona's immigration debate that was published recently on CNN's Web site.
That CNN, they'll let anyone write for them.
I kiiid, I kiiid. I only say that because I typed one out for the news org a while back when the 1070 thing was beginning to pop off nationally. Plus, I know Landfried and like to give him a hard time.
Landfried's piece hones in on the fact that Arizona had options other than turning the 1070 plane toward the ground and ramping up the speed. But no other options were considered. Why? Because in large part the eternally aggro state Senator Russell Pearce, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, bullied it through the legislature. Opposition was effectively neutered.
Was there a better way to deal with Arizona's immigration dilemma? Landfried offers some alternatives.
"How about putting Ellis Island-type centers on the borders and channeling everyone looking for work through them?" he writes. "Employers, as in current law, would tell the government what type and how many jobs they need, ones that aren't being filled by domestic workers. Those jobs would be advertised on the internet, where interested immigrants and Americans can compete for them. Knowing the job demand, Congress could set market-based visa quotas that make sense.
"Instead of paying coyotes $2,500 to be smuggled into the United States, the job seekers would pay Uncle Sam to expedite the privilege. This takes billions out of the hands of smugglers and funds the solution to the problem. If 500,000 people are crossing into Arizona each year, this generates $1.25 billion to help cover the costs of building and operating these centers, with access to labor for business and better allocation of Border Patrol resources to finding drug smugglers."
Good ideas, all. But the state's power structure just went along with Pearce and his out-of-state allies in FAIR, and backed a statute that's tarred the state's image and made Sand Land's poor economy even worse.
Landfried points out that since SB 1070 was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer, the state's unemployment rate has continued to climb. This, even though undocumented have been fleeing Arizona to avoid its new "attrition through enforcement" approach.
"The fact is, SB1070 is pushing out both the legal and the undocumented," Landfried observes. "They own businesses. They employ people. They pay taxes. They own homes. They spend money at stores owned by people who aren't leaving. Those businesses will lay off workers, reduce operations or close. That means fewer jobs, increased housing and commercial vacancies, depressed home values and foreclosures, and less sales, property and employment tax revenue for the state."
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I agree with Landfried's analysis, which is based on reason, and dollars and cents. But what we are dealing with here in the Grand Canyon State is an ideology based on fear and bigotry: i.e., nativism. Similar to unforgiving ideologies such as communism or nationalism, it brooks no compromise or utilitarianism. Any facts that do not fit its doctrine are simply avoided or ignored. Those who disagree with it are punished or removed from the discourse.
Reason has little place in battling nativism, alas. It is a pure power-play, one that has to be defeated through political means and direct opposition. Or the imposition of a new framework from a more powerful force, like the federal government.
Still, there is one way that those infected with the disease of nativism might be cured and brought around to Landfried's way of thinking. That would be through economic pain and suffering, helped along by a boycott.
Right now, Arizonans want no peace in the immigration debate, just perpetual war. But as their houses are foreclosed on, jobs leave the state, and the tax base goes bust, they will learn the lessons of "attrition" of a very different kind. One directed at them, instead of those here sans docs.