June 7th, 2010

blowhard

D-U-M, Q.E.D.

I was born and raised in Arizona, so I feel this sick need to keep checking in on the not-at-all-racist anti-immigration nonsense going on there of late. Recently, there was a big doucheteabag rally in the capitol called "Phoenix Rising". Usually, the only thing that gets a Phoenician to rise up in the middle of the day in June is when the air-conditioned bus arrives to drive him to Tahoe, but this mass revolt of cranky white people was to support SOLESNA, a.k.a. SB 1070, a.k.a. the Round Up The Beaners Law.

Now, I don't especially want to rehash why this is bad legislation, or how it's the worst possible way to deal with the illegal immigration problem, or why Arizona is economically swinging its dick around so fast that it's going to poke its own eye out. What I want to address is the dimwits who parade around carrying signs that say "WHAT PART OF 'ILLEGAL' DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND?".

As it happens, I understand all the parts of "illegal". It really only has two parts, and they're both easy to figure out. It means "in violation of the law". But here is a question for you, placard-wielding dolt: what part of "selective application" do you not understand? What part of "enforcement problem" do you not understand? What part of "constitutional standard" do you not understand?

See, the thing is, there are a whole bunch of laws. This is a big country we live in, with dozens of different mechanisms for enacting legislation. There are municipal laws, state laws, and federal laws, and there are laws that are enforceable only by specific groups among the dozens of law enforcement entities in America. There are fat laws, skinny laws, laws that climb on rocks. And the other thing is, just because someone is breaking one of these laws doesn't mean we get to immediately arrest him and punish him to the fullest extent. There are judges and juries and attorneys who get to decide what cases are pursued in court, what punishment is enacted, and all sorts of other things. And all sorts of people, from the law enforcement agent on the street to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, get to decide whether they're going to charge someone with breaking the law, whether or not that charge goes to trial, what the punishment for the crime will be if the charge turns up a 'guilty' verdict, whether or not the court proceedings were constitutional, etc. This is not "judicial activism"; it's part of our very judicial system. It is, itself, the law.

You don't just get to say "this person is guilty of this crime; therefore they should receive penalty X". Sometimes I wish it was that way; if it were, there are a lot of people I would enjoy seeing hauled off to jail and their livelihood auctioned off by the state, starting with, say, Henry Kissinger, and going up to the people who run British Petroleum. But that's not the way it works. And that's why you can't just point at an illegal immigrant and say "He's ILLEGAL! Kick him out of the country!" That's not for you to decide; that's for the law to decide, and the law has to consider all sorts of things when it makes that decision, not the least of which is the socioeconomic repercussions of deporting 30 million people.

But it goes deeper than that. When I say that America has all kinds of laws, here's what I mean. In the U.S., we have stuff like:

- tax laws
- labor laws
- workplace safety laws
- public health laws
- environmental protection laws
- food quality laws
- anti-trust laws
- price-fixing laws
- traffic laws
- zoning and property laws

The big corporations and small business you right-wingers love so much violate those first eight laws, literally on a daily basis. You yourself probably violate the latter two with similar frequency. And yet, I don't hear any of you bitching that THE LAW IS THE LAW and WHAT PART OF ILLEGAL DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND about Exxon or Wal-Mart or Lehman Brothers, even though they are breaking the law just as much as an illegal immigrant. If those laws were fully, frequently, and fairly enforced, there are very few individuals or companies who would come out unscathed. Businesses could be shuttered; you could be thrown in jail. Happily for you, the government realizes that to punish every big company to the maximum degree allowable would be catastrophic to the economy; so they get away with infrequent enforcement and small fines instead of forfeiture. The government realizes that to punish every citizen for every violation of the law would lead to the majority of the population being in jail, in a country that already has the highest percentage of its citizens imprisoned of any on Earth. So, lucky for you, the government is choosy about when and how it enforces those laws against its citizenry.

Sometimes this works out in a pretty ugly way: for example, while everyone agrees that illegal drugs are a big problem, the government is also aware that it's an astonishingly common thing, and that the majority of drug users are white people. But the majority of people doing jail time for drug crimes are not white people. This is called "selective enforcement", and it can come into conflict with civil rights laws, which are also the law, which you can see by the presence of the word "laws" there at the end. Selective enforcement is a practical decision, and usually a good thing, but when it is applied in a way that violates OTHER laws, it becomes just as big a problem as the initial violation. And yet the teabagger dicks don't seem to apply the "BUT IT'S ILLEGAL" argument to civil rights laws, or tax laws, or labor laws, or any of those other kinds of laws. In fact, one might get the impression that they'd be in favor of violating those laws.

I know, I know. Ten thousand words, and it adds up to "IDIOT RIGHT-WINGERS IN HYPOCRISY SHOCKER". But it just drives me gorilla when one of these morons holds up a sign that says "WHAT PART OF ILLEGAL DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND?", like they've come up with a retort so clever it cannot be answered.