Arizona’s SB 1070 should not be a part of this nation of ours, for it is blatant discrimination and racial profiling of people just because they are “perceived to be different.” In our LGBT community, we all know too well what these “perceived” misconceptions do to people we love, know and support. By supporting and upholding a key component of this law, the U.S. Supreme Court managed to hurt millions of undocumented immigrants from all walks of life.
Equally, it sent a message that the Justices may not fully understand the realities of being a person of color in the United States. How can they? Only two of its justices (Justices Thomas and Sotomayor) are people of color, and only one of them is of Hispanic descent. However, they are still all American citizens nonetheless and cannot fully understand the discrimination that is present for the millions of undocumented immigrants who are working in this country, paying taxes and trying to get by in a land that they consider a privileged country. That is what the Irish thought of this country too, many years ago.
In its decision, the Supreme Court sent a subjective message around the world. Immediately reports of criticism were all over the media, including TRT. As an American citizen by birth of light skin, considered to be a White Hispanic, I am not comfortable with a law that could even be prejudicial against me and my family. The differences that work to my advantage are that I know the language and my rights well, I may not be “perceived” as an undocumented immigrant, and I can enter or leave this country as I please. After all, is that not what all born-American citizens with a passport can do?
When we, as a country, take away the rights of others less privileged, we start commotion domestically and around the world. Abroad, these actions can be considered hypocritical, for don’t we advocate for justice for others living in other places? How can we interfere in what others do, while carrying out similar actions against our own citizens? The undocumented immigrants are grossly underpaid and many work in sub-human conditions, is that not another way to obliterate their rights?
I’ve seen such unfair treatments when I investigated it in Alabama, where undocumented immigrants were hired by poultry factories, worked while injured (yes, even while bleeding) as they packaged the chicken that many of us consume. The immigrants could not even complain because they did not know the language well nor did they dare question sub-human orders that kept them working long hours while sick, due to their lack of human rights. What they wanted was to work hard to be able to send monies home, monies to care for their elderly parents, children and extended family.
Frankly, all I was a witness to was a desperate group of humble individuals who wanted to work and needed to provide for their families’ livelihoods. How is that different from what we, as Americans, do here for our own families? I still have not met one educated (and I don’t necessarily mean schooled) person that is afraid of immigrants taking away their jobs, or imposing their language on us. However, I have met many immigrants who afraid of our system, our companies, our people, to the point that they are petrified to even look at us directly in the eyes. Is that not similar to the fear that many LGBT people experience in parts of this country (and abroad) where discrimination, hatred and utter ignorance prevail? It’s the same sheep, dressed in a different color, but treated just the same way—just because it was born a sheep.
It is distressing that the Justices voting for the majority opinion upheld the fundamentally inhumane and unfair element of SB 1070, thus sending a message that they simply could not relate to the immigrants’ needs. Perhaps they, too, forgot their ancestors’ immigrant status when they first came here seeking a better life, more opportunity and fairness in a land that they thought would promise them just that. Will today’s immigrants reach the status that yesterday’s immigrants were afforded? We’ll see.
*Gricel M. Ocasio holds an MBA, Marylhurst University & and a Bachelor’s in Journalism from Temple University, 1991. She has been in the journalism field for over 20 years. You can reach her at: email@example.com