Arizona’s Immigration panic. A reality.

On April 23, 2010, Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed the toughest bill on illegal immigration in American history. The intention of the bill is to identify and prosecute undocumented immigrants that live in the state. Opponents of the law consider it to be racist, as well as a violation of the equality of all people, as guaranteed by the Constitution. Legislation to identify and prosecute undocumented immigrants has been previously enacted by the federal government. However, this is the first time that a state law will make it a crime to fail to carry immigration document. In addition, the law gives the police broad powers to detain anyone suspected of being in the country without proper documentation. The root problem that Americans must confront is who will fall into a subjective criteria that some consider to be funded on a violation of the equality of all people.

Currently, people are evaluated as individuals, not as members of a group or class. To accept this law, which is based on racial stereotypes, will only open the doors for the exploitation of one person against others, as was written by the famous economist F. Bastiat in The Law. Once the exploitation of one group of people is supported by others who benefit, eventually a new group of privileged people use the same strategy to exploit the previous oppressors, creating an infinite cycle. The passing of the law in Arizona is a historical event compared only to the Prewar period in which Nazi Germany became an anti-Semitic country.

The criteria to be used by officers to identify potential undocumented immigrants are considered by some to be based upon skin color, verbal accent or social status , which may be a form of discrimination among people. The law also makes it a crime to not carry immigration papers. Similar laws has proved to only amplify the spectrum of intolerance and discrimination. A new period of discrimination has been ignited and it must to be stopped. If this law becomes the basis for future laws, discrimination based on skin color, accent or social status should be considered a violation of a person’s rights to life and pursuit of happiness.

But the past is never really past, racism and racists have survived in the United States since before it was an independent country. Different racial groups have been discriminated and among them were Irish-Americans, Jewish Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Native Americans, and Latino Americans. As of July, 2007 , Latinos are expected to be to more than 15.1% of the population in the country. Still a minority, Latin Americans are now confronting the historical results of a different paradigm after the civil-rights movements of 1960s. This new paradigm is race-based affirmative action. As Haney Lopez, a John H. Boalt Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, explained, “the end of explicit race-based subordination did not eradicate stubborn racial inequalities, progressives increasingly recognized the need for state and private actors to intervene along racial lines.” As such, the law signed by Gov. Brewer is the result of decades of progressive recognition of racial stereotypes that have violated the Constitution’s colorblindness. This law provide the impetus for future violations of the rights of all Americans, based upon the racist belief that that societies aren’t composed by unique individuals but by stereotyped collectives.

In defense of this law, the Governor acknowledged in her remarks that “We must react calmly. We must enforce the law evenly, and without regard to skin color, accent or social status. We must prove the alarmists and the cynics wrong.” However, how could the Governor expect that a law that considers people not equal to be enforced justly? By which standards of current affirmative action will will police officers base their decisions of whom to stop and detain? Who is to determine the criteria and characteristics of potential undocumented immigrants?

Historical precedent provides a useful guide to understanding what will happen after similar laws were passed. In prewar Nazi Germany, from 1933 to 1939, more than four hundred decrees and regulations were passed restricting all aspects of the public and private lives of Jewish citizens. Jews were required to carry their passports; in addition, they were required to have visible insignia that helped police officials identify them. Meanwhile, Jews were forced to look like Jews with regard of the criteria and characteristics decided by the Nazi Government. No corner of German society was left untouched. Jews disappeared from the social order in a mere six years.

In 1933, the German public advocated for the Nazi government to start planning the oppression of Jews. By not fighting to protect their rights under the law, as well as promoting outright subjugation, the Germans opened the doors to death, war and discrimination. Luckily, the United States Constitution is color-blind; and it should no more be violated to attempt segregation than to preserve integration. “In the eyes of government, we are just one race here,” Justice Antonin Scalia intoned in 1995. “It is American.” The law passed in Arizona doesn’t comply to this right of colorblindness. For Arizonians, they no longer are just one race.

Was it “Give me privacy, or give me death!”?

If you are aware of the philosophy behind the famous The Twilight Zone anthology series created by Rod Serling in the 1960s and then revived in the 1980s you can see what a terrible world we could actually live in.  If you don’t remember this show, I will tell you a little bit about it in order for you to grasp my analogy with the title of this post.

The Twilight Zone is a story in which men live in a sort of gray area in which almost everything (real or fantastic) can occur.  It a mixture of fantasy, science fiction, suspense, and horror that often concluded with a macabre or unexpected twist.  This idea caught my attention when I read the New York Times last weekend.  The title of the article read: “When American and European Ideas of Privacy Collide” and it explored the worth of the ideas of Liberty and Privacy, and of how both terms had a different worth in the codes of values of Americans and Europeans.  As the article read, European courts believed and interpreted customs by acknowledging that the right of an individual to privacy was above the right of any individual to freedom of speech.  As such, the framework in Europe is that of “privacy as a human-dignity right,” while in the U.S. it is only enforced as a  “consumer-protection right.”

It seems that the reason why privacy has such an important stand in European legislation goes back to Nazi Germany.  Fred H. Cate, a law professor at Indiana University explains that “The privacy protections we see reflected in modern European law are a response to the Gestapo and the Stasi” and in the way they kept under surveillance their citizens during the hardest times of the national-socialist government.

While there are historical precedents for this change of perspective, its justification is philosophical.  European Constitutional law regards in the Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights that, “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”  This means that an individual in Europe can be free only if he doesn’t violate whatever is to considered private by someone.

It is in that article of the European Convention of Human Rights that the philosophical dilemma exists.  Who’s to determine what privacy, and a violation of it, actually is will depend on the case by case evaluation of evidence regarding a demand.  As such, in Europe men are free only if they do not violate what a privileged group will consider to be private or not.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution on the other hand, regards freedom of speech as one of the most important rights of men.  As such, It considers it is considered by American framework that an individual’s right to free speech is necessary for him to claim that his rights to privacy have been violated.  The article reads,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

To consider of privacy as a right above an individuals’ right to speech will take us into a horrendous time travel fantasy of sorts in which men will not be free at all to speak their minds.  It will only allow for a -Twilight Zone- world in which the interests of a small group of privileged men, corporations and corrupts will be protected and enforced by government.  Government will then be able of practicing censorship to those individuals that they consider to have violated someone’s privacy.  It will open the doors to a fantasy world in which a men would have never been able of screaming like Patrick Henry did in March 23, 1775, at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia,

Give me Liberty, or give me Death!

Online Free Seminar: The Source and Nature of Rights, Part I

Craig Biddle visited Universidad Francisco Marroquín in october, 2009.  During his visit he taught a six-hour seminar titled The Source and Nature of Rights.

Biddle is the Editor of The Objective Standard and an advocate of Objectivist Philosophy.  In the seminar Biddle surveys common theories of rights-from God-given rights to man-made rights to so-called “natural” rights—and explains why each fails to ground rights in reality. In part two, which has yet to be posted, he begins his presentation of Ayn Rand’s theory of rights.

The seminar was divided in two parts.  The first part is now available and free of charge: part one

A summary in Spanish of the seminar was prepared by Sólo historias and I strongly recommend you to check it.