Arizona Walks the Immigration Tightrope

Sarah Palin famously said, “I can see Russia from my house!”  Except she didn’t.  That line was uttered by Tina Fey on “Saturday Night Live.”  The impersonation is more memorable than anything Palin uttered (the consequence of satire’s target being a human cartoon).  But those of us in Southern Arizona who live within an hour of the Mexican border can relate to the statement.  While we can’t see Mexico from our houses, we can see the monsoon clouds build in the summer and, when we first see them, they are over Mexico.  We can’t see Mexico, but we have a pretty good idea when it’s raining in Sonora. 

Proximity to our southern neighbor has made Arizona ground-zero in immigration policy.  Senate Bill 1070, derided by some as the “Papers, Please!” bill, led to demonstrations and condemnation and was largely invalidated by the Courts.  The streets of Tucson and Phoenix were jammed with anti-SB 1070 protesters and, while the bill easily passed the Legislature, it was never popular with most Arizonans.  The Arizona – Mexico border has historically been porous, with nationals of Mexico and the U. S. routinely crossing and returning.  Much of Southern Arizona is bilingual and street names are filled with “Caminos,” “Avenidas,” and “Calles.”  The first mayor of Tucson was Mexican-born merchant Estavan Ochoa.  (My adopted Great-Grandfather, Pinkney R. Tully, was Ochoa’s business partner and the seventh mayor of Tucson.)  In my childhood, I attended Spanish-language Mass with my Grandparents, had menudo for breakfast afterward, and visited the border town of Nogales nearly every weekend in bull-fighting season.  I attended my first bull-fight at the age of six months and one of my earliest heroes was Luis Procuna, who was featured in the movie, “Torero.” That was a long, long way from “Papers, Please!”

But “Papers, Please!” is a part of our reality now, since the U. S. Supreme Court upheld the portion of S.B. 1070 requiring local law enforcement to verify legal immigration status under some circumstances.  That presented a quandary for local police:  how to comply with S.B. 1070 without violating the Constitutional rights of citizens and lawful immigrants.  Law enforcement authorities had to walk a legal tightrope the legislature had strung for them.  Tucson’s Police Department adopted procedures for walking the tightrope and Phoenix copied them, leading to a battle with a State Senator who said Phoenix was acting illegally.

Why would a State Senator feud with local police?  Welcome to Arizona, where preposterous folly does not invalidate legislation.  Our legislature is dominated by Republicans who claim to support local control, but don’t really mean it.  In Arizona, if a member of the State Legislature believes a local ordinance violates state law, he or she can complain to the Attorney General – even though the ordinance was passed by a chartered city that, under Arizona law, is relatively autonomous.  For example, Tucson adopted a policy of destroying firearms that were confiscated in a criminal proceeding or obtained in a “buy-back” program.  The intent was to reduce the number of firearms in circulation and, hopefully, firearm deaths and injuries.  Most of the guns the City obtained were unwanted and relatively worthless, but Mark Finchem, a self-righteous legislator from Oro Valley, complained to the A.G., who directed Tucson to stop destroying guns.  The City fought and lost in court and no longer destroys confiscated and surrendered firearms because the Court agreed with the A.G. that the policy impeded the right to bear arms by removing them from commerce.  There’s hardly a gun shortage in Arizona, but preposterous folly does not invalidate laws here.  Another example:  the City of Bisbee passed an ordinance banning plastic bags, which had become a blight on the environment.  (Try removing a plastic bag from a cactus; it’s painful!)  Warren Petersen, a Senator from Mesa and (you guessed it) a Republican, objected, because the State of Arizona has a law against banning plastic bags (just as it has a law against destroying guns).  Mesa is a long way from Bisbee and the ban does not affect Petersen in any way, but the law empowers him to bully cities and Petersen decided to bully Bisbee.  Bisbee’s City Attorney argued the ordinance is not a matter of state-wide concern, stating: “If Bisbee’s exercise of its charter powers to eliminate local litter and blight can’t survive, it’s hard to imagine what possibly could.”

A rational interpretation of S. B. 1070 could survive, even one that provides, as does the Phoenix Police procedure, “Officers will not arrest, stop, detain, or contact an individual based on race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or economic status, unless it is part of a suspect description or otherwise authorized by law.”  The Procedure prevents police from asking about immigration status during consensual contacts or asking witnesses about their immigration status.  Police are also prohibited from asking about immigration status while on school grounds.  Senator John Kavanaugh, a Fountain Hills Republican, complained to Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who upheld the Phoenix Police procedure.  While his opinion is limited to Phoenix, it logically applies to Tucson and other cities with similar procedures.

The immigration battle is going to continue on the national level, given the influence of white supremacists in the Trump Administration.  But, in Arizona, for the time being, preposterous folly took a face-plant and the tightrope walk continues.

© 2017 by Mike Tully


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My Cup Runneth Over with Idiocy

The Cup is empty and that emptiness serves as cautionary tale for Donald Trump supporters and the country, a coal mine canary wheezing one final warning:  following the President courts disaster.

Christopher Smith and Jay Warren were two of the three owners of “Cup It Up American Grill,” a fairly successful food and drink establishment in the shadow of the University of Arizona in mid-town Tucson.  For those unfamiliar with Arizona politics, Tucson is a blue island in the political Red Sea of Arizona that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and Hillary Clinton in 2016.  The mid-town neighborhood housing the University is the bluest of the blue.  But Chris and Jay are Trumpkins and decided to let the world – and their bright blue market area – know just how they felt about things in what the Arizona Daily Star referred to as “a lengthy, politically charged Facebook post.”  Then, all hell broke loose.

“Cup It Up,” like thousands of U. S. bars and restaurants, showed National Football League games — until some NFL players, mostly African-American, elected to kneel, instead of stand, for the national anthem.  After Trump called for the participants to be fired, many NFL teams expanded the protests.  Even conservative owners, like those of the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots, supported their players with on-field demonstrations of unity, such as kneeling and locking arms before the anthem was played.  They understood the players’ intent was not to disrespect the American flag or the national anthem or the ideals they stand for – it was to protest what they believe is the country’s failure to uphold those ideals.  That’s not inappropriate for a nation born as a protest.

That was lost on Chris and Jay, who decided to stop showing NFL games, which is their right as business owners, as is their decision to comment on other political issues.  They stated their support for “OUR President Donald J. Trump,” and “always standing for the National Anthem,” and denounced what they do not believe in, such as “kneeling for the National Anthem,” and “political correctness.”  Apparently, it did not occur to them that forcing American citizens to stand for the national anthem, whether they wanted to or not, is “political correctness” run amuck.  The U. S. Supreme Court said as much in 1943 in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, discussing whether public school children should be compelled to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  The Court upheld the students’ right to refuse to stand:

“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.”

From George III to Trump, that’s how America works.  But Chris and Jay apparently don’t get it, and supported Trump’s demand that the NFL, at the direction of the President, “prescribe what shall be orthodox” and “force (the players) to confess by word of act their faith therein.”  Swimming upstream against that powerful and uniquely American current is not without risk, as Chris and Jay found out.  Besides denouncing the NFL protesters, they widened their aim to express their support for drug-testing welfare recipients, repealing the Affordable Care Act, and rejecting global warming.  They defiantly stood by their Facebook outburst for a full three hours before taking the down the post.  A few days later the Cup was empty.

Chris and Jay made serious mistakes, including misreading their clientele, who declared their refusal ever again to set foot in the establishment.  Some reacted by threatening violence against the business.  More importantly, Chris and Jay neglected to give a heads-up to the one person who definitely needed one:  their chef and primary owner/partner, Julian Alarcon.  “It’s not worth it,” Alarcon told the Arizona Daily Star, citing the widespread condemnation that followed the Facebook post.  Earlier, Chris and Jay apologized for bringing their “personal political beliefs into a business forum,” adding – unconvincingly –they had not intended to “strike a nerve,” which raises the question:  how intoxicated were they when they decided to take a stand that ruined their business?

Intoxication does not necessarily infer consumption of alcohol and Chris and Jay have not indicated whether their ardor was enhanced by ethanol.  Many Americans are drunk on Trump, intoxicated by his grand promises, expansive boasting, and pseudo-macho posturing, and perhaps that’s what fueled the infamous Facebook post.  But people frequently act against their own interests when they are drunk and reap the consequences afterward.  Losing a successful business is one hell of a hangover.  So is losing one’s country.

Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said Trump “concerns” him.  “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation,” he added.  The reason:  Trump’s recklessness may place the nation “on the path to World War III.”  That’s a catastrophic hangover, and we are all in that Cup.

© 2017 by Mike Tully


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Priceless

The Frequent Flyer has flown the coop and the restless news cycle has already moved on like a tumbleweed in June.  But, let us pause to commemorate the bum’s rush visited upon former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Thomas Edmunds Price, by breathing in a healthy waft of schadenfreude.  There is a heady aroma from the tailspin of a self-righteous twit spiraling into the granite face of accountability like a bee on a windshield.  If the universe abides justice, there will be more to follow, since the current administration is populated with self-righteous twits.  So many to choose from, where to start?  (“Mr. Sessions and Mr. Mulvaney, table for two!”)

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Blood and the Bolero

“I don’t know what will become of this piece. Our brave critics will no doubt charge me with imitating Ravel’s Bolero. Too bad – this is how I hear war.”
                      — Dmitri Shostakovich

Ida Rubenstein strode onto the Paris Opera stage on November 22, 1928, and stepped onto a table.  The set resembled a rustic Spanish tavern and several couples danced below a brass lamp hanging from the ceiling.  They encouraged a female dancer to join them.  A snare drum softly tapped out a modest rat, rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat and Ida Rubenstein began to dance.  “Ida portrayed a voluptuous dancer whose suggestive dance atop a table in a rustic Spanish tavern incites the men to dance with her until they lose further control of their ‘senses,’ and end up in a violent brawl,” wrote J. M. Lacey for Season Ticket in 2010.  The dance “caused a sensation,” he said.  “When the piece ended, Ida’s provocative dance and Ravel’s dynamic music caused a near-riot between the audience and the performers.”  “Ida narrowly escaped injury,” he added.

 


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