By Debra J. Saunders
Let me lead with what should be an unremarkable observation: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer did not write federal immigration laws that require permanent residents to carry green cards, employers to check documentation or limits on the number of legal immigrants admitted each year. Washington did.
But because Washington has failed to enforce those rules, Brewer signed into law a bill passed by the Arizona legislature to beef up and expand enforcement of federal immigration law.
Yet the law went too far. While a good chunk of the law penalizes employers who hire illegal immigrants — a good thing — the bill also allows local cops to question anyone suspected of being unlawfully in the United States and essentially bans “sanctuary city” laws in Arizona.
One might think that only those who break immigration law need fear such a measure, especially given its ban on investigations based on “race, color or national origin.” But in a state whose population is 29 percent Latino, many legal Arizona residents fear that they will be questioned because of the color of their skin or speaking with an accent because they’ve seen it happen before.
Why alienate Latinos who are good Arizonans when local police already can notify the feds after they arrest illegal immigrants?
By the same token, supporters of the bill feel alienated, too. Their belief in enforcing duly enacted federal laws earns them the tag of “racist” — whether they are or not.
Opponents of the new law drew swastikas on the Arizona capitol, yet somehow, pundits aren’t asking whether they are inciting violence. Some critics have likened the bill to the “Your papers, please” authoritarianism of Nazi Germany. Please. If you think you shouldn’t have to carry identification, don’t travel abroad. And don’t drive.
Then there’s San Francisco’s response — calling for a boycott. City Attorney Dennis Herrera believes the Arizona law is “unconstitutional,” and he may well be right. He was righteous when he told me, “We all know that racial profiling happens within the law enforcement community” — not only for arrests, but also when questioning innocent people.
I still have to ask: Why should San Francisco support a boycott of another government? Don’t city politicians have their hands full governing this place, without telling other politicians how to run their turf?
“There is a need for uniformity in this area,” Herrera told me. Now that’s choice, considering Ess Eff’s “sanctuary city” policy. Back in 2007, Mayor Gavin Newsom proudly announced that he would not allow “any of my department heads or anyone associated with this city” to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrests of immigrant fugitives.
So one year, city solons proudly flout federal law; another year, they complain that immigration law is sacrosanct as a federal bailiwick, so how dare Arizonans trespass? So much for uniformity.
Herrera pointed to the success of a past boycott that drove Arizona to accept the Martin Luther King Day holiday. He noted that politicians from other cities — Los Angeles, Oakland — want to join San Francisco in using their weight to force little Arizona to buckle. Alas, these bullying tactics only serve to divide the country.
It’s easy for San Franciscans, from 700 miles away, to sneer at Arizonans. Folks here don’t live in an area where cross-border drug violence has led to highway gun battles.
The Arizona Republic editorialized Wednesday that the bill was “ugly and indefensible.” The paper also noted, “The feds did nothing while Phoenix became the kidnapping capital of the country. The feds did nothing as rancher Robert Krentz was murdered on his border-area ranch.”
Just for good measure, Herrera told me the answer was for Washington to enact “meaningful immigration reform.” President Obama said likewise.
Why not just pour gasoline on the entire state? Surely Herrera and Obama know that what they call “reform,” many Arizonans see as “amnesty” that would encourage more of the illegal immigration that they are trying to stop. If Washington passes what amounts to an amnesty “reform,” then I guarantee: More states will follow Arizona.
This is how America gets torn apart.
The call for a boycott practically yells to America: Hey folks, if you don’t like our politics — anti-ROTC, pro-medical marijuana and same-sex marriage, as Newsom famously said, “whether you like it or not” — you shouldn’t come here.
The folks who call for boycotts — on the left and the right — seek to isolate all who disagree. There’s no debate, no real diversity and no need to listen. For the boycotters, it’s a low-stakes game.
They don’t even have the pay for their piety. Witness the proviso in the San Francisco supervisors’ resolution that limited the Arizona boycott to areas where “there is no significant additional cost to the city.”
There is a significant cost, however. In trying to isolate Arizona, San Francisco risks becoming an island.
Debra J. Saunders is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.