AZ law follows past unjust attempts to deny rights


What do Rosa Parks, César Chávez, Japanese Americans, Nelson Mandela and American Jews have in common?  They were all law breakers. “Illegals” we would call them today. And like today’s undocumented Mexicans (and the other third of the state population in Arizona who look like Mexicans), they were suspect and persecuted primarily because of their race.

In 1955, Montgomery, Alabama police charged Rosa Parks with violating the local segregation laws by sitting in a “Whites Only” part of the bus. In 1973 César Chávez, (a native Arizonan) and 3,500 migrant farm workers were arrested for striking against unfair employment practices in California. Of course, the fact that they were mostly Mexican-Americans made it easier to argue they didn’t deserve the same rights as other Americans at the time.

In 1942 Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order authorizing the mass incarceration of 110,000 Japanese Americans.  Two-thirds were American citizens, and more than half were children and infants.  From 1948 to 1994 thousands of black and white South Africans, including Nelson Mandela, were arrested for violating the segregation “apartheid” laws of that country.

Eric Griego

Jewish discrimination has roots during the Civil War, when General Ulysses S. Grant issued an order of expulsion against Jews from the portions of Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi under his control.  President Lincoln rescinded the order shortly thereafter. Despite Lincoln’s action, Jews continued to be discriminated against in employment, social clubs and colleges throughout most of the 19th and part of the 20th centuries.

In most of these cases, popular opinion supported these unjust laws and discriminatory treatment of certain groups.  Whites in the American South overwhelmingly supported laws such as the one used to arrest Rosa Parks. California farmers and many local citizens supported the unequal treatment of Mexican migrant farm workers.  The overwhelming majority of Americans supported the Japanese internment camps during World War II.  Most white South Africans and western governments did not oppose apartheid until two decades after its implementation.  And only recent generations of Jews have been fully accepted in the American social and political landscape.

Headed for the dustbin

There are other similarities between these historic events and countless other misguided attempts, such as Arizona’s SB1070 to deny rights based on national mood, a poor economy, or unabashed racism:

• First, all of these policies or laws have at their core discrimination against a group of people because of their race or nationality.

• Second, all them justified arresting and punishing these groups based on “illegal” activity – i.e. they broke laws that perpetuated discrimination.

• Third, as discussed above, these laws had broad support in their local and national citizenry, at least among those in the majority or in power.

•Finally, and perhaps most importantly, all of these laws were ultimately repealed, struck down or otherwise relegated to the dustbin of history.

So it will be with Arizona’s SB1070 and similar attempts around the country. Unjust laws that target people based on race or national origin have never survived in America or most of the civilized world.

Whether they are blacks or Japanese or Jews or Mexicans, the courageous and just among our leaders and countrymen have stood up to these efforts – even if it was politically unpopular at the time. And history is on their side.

Let’s hope more Americans speak out


Thomas Jefferson once said, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” Not enough Americans are speaking out against SB1070.

The vast majority of Americans are themselves descendents of immigrants who came to this country for the same reasons most Mexican immigrants come here – to work, to raise their children with an education, and most of all to have some dignity. There were no papers or documents when the Irish, Italians, Germans, Dutch or countless other waves of immigrants arrived on our shores.  They were welcomed and, although many faced some of the same discrimination Mexicans face today, ultimately they became part of the American mosaic and we are better for it.

Rosa Parks said, “I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people.” She wasn’t just talking about black people.

Let’s hope the ill-conceived Arizona immigration law, and the nationalistic and often racist sentiments it has raised in American public opinion, will go the way that segregation in the South, apartheid in South Africa, Japanese internment, and anti-Semitic laws and the “leaders” who defended them have all gone – straight into the scrap heap of dark chapters in history.

Let’s also hope that more Americans and their leaders speak out against this kind of political scapegoating.

Griego is a state senator representing southern Albuquerque, the East Mountains and Northern Valencia County. He is the former chairman of the state economic development commission and former president of the NM municipal league.

24 thoughts on “AZ law follows past unjust attempts to deny rights

  1. I believe the senator has a complete disregard for the sovereignty of the US side of the border. This rhetoric is designed to call forth our collective guilt, and require that we erase our borders and allow the migration that Mexican president Calderon says we are criminalizing. President Obama, meanwhile, again apologizes for our being a nation and laments not having the 60 votes he needs to “fix” us, I mean the problem. For more read my post;

  2. Mr Griego says: “Finally, justifying this law by saying the majority of Arizonans and Americans support it misses the point.” Really??? So a politician can just ignore and frustrate the will of the people and voters, who are your boss as you are our paid servant, and justify it on some higher intelligence or power those who believe like you hold? That sounds like politicians like you are asking to be fired, wait til November.

  3. Mr Griego says: “Finally, justifying this law by saying the majority of Arizonans and Americans support it misses the point.” Really??? So a politician can just ignore and frustrate the will of the people and voters, who are your boss as you are our paid servant, and justify it on some higher intellience or power those who believe like you hold? That sounds like politicians like you are asking to be fired, wait til November.

  4. I really don’t understand the anger and viciousness in some of the comments on this thread. Nobody, including Mr. Griego, has said that there should be open border or that there shouldn’t be consequences for breaking immigration laws in this country. But there is a difference between having a reasonable, fact-based discussion of immigration issues and the kind of racial attacks and fear-mongering that has been going on in this country lately, most recently with the issue of Hispanics in Arizona. It’s not just the racial-profiling immigration law, it’s the ban on ethnic studies and the hard-right turn of Arizona politicians and the tone of “them” versus “us” which has definite racial overtones.

  5. Thank you Mr. Griego for “clarifying” your views. It is obvious now that you see open borders as a preference (for ethnic bias I would suspect), and do not think federal immigration laws should be enforced by any law enforcement agencies, as you think these are but minor. unimportnat crimes. I see, exactly as I suspected,but what other laws do you see as unimportant? The public might like to know as you are an elected official who pledges to uphold the law.

  6. Border Patrol has the training but the fact is they question the status of people based on how they look and talk, which is racial profiling, the source of all the angst about the AZ law, the potential for racial profiling. I’m anglo and have never been given more than a cursory question at the checkpoints but I’ve known of hispanics who had to go through a more time consuming process just based on looks.

    The training may justify questioning someone’s legal status for no other reason than suspicion but the AZ law requires that some other legal issue be involved before immigration status can be inquired about.

    If that is wrongely applied there will be consequences, but the fact if the matter is the basic problem many have with the law, already happens, “training” doesn’t alter that reality.

  7. Border Patrol has extensive training in immigration law and constitutional rights of American Citizens. The local Arizona law enforcement does not have such training and the little bit of training planned for them is not near sufficient to bring them to the level of Border Patrol officers. Not only that, but ICE agents and Border Patrol agents are trained and charged with enforcing immigration issues…but they do not investigate murders, robberies, rapes, and other crimes. Local law enforcement is supposed to investigate those crimes, but if they spend all their time checking people’s papers…they will no longer have time to protect people from violent crime and catch serious criminals.

  8. As EQMunoz mentions, the Border Patrol checkpoints have been operating for quite some time and if you look or sound suspicious of being an alien or smuggler, you’re going to get looked at closely. Where’s the outrage?

  9. Is Mr Griego must not understand that to enter this or any other country without the proper documentation is an illegal act. He evidently does not have the slightest inkling of what happens to the economy of the United States when the tax payers have to support 20 million illegals with their tax dollars.
    I would suggest he do a little studying and take a few trip along our border, as well as study what the word “illegal” means.

  10. Oh and Griego, how dare you suggest that I’m a racist when you say “His comments also show that racism crosses all ethnic lines.” I’m racist against my own race???! NO, I’m against illegals using our services and threatening the lives of Americans!!

  11. It is obvious that Griego doesn’t travel south of Valencia County much. Because if he did he would know that travelers on northbound I-25, westbound I-10 and eastbound US 70 are asked each and every day the same question by Border Patrol, usuaully another Hispanic man doing the asking: “Are you a U.S Citizen?” and I’m proud to say “YES, SIR I AM!” We are used to it and no one is going all crazy because I have brown skin and talk with a slight accent. I thank them for their service to MY country when I travel down those roads.

    You revealed youself when you said this: “However, migration accross the U.S. border is not a criminal act.”

    So let’s just put the Border Patrol out of business since they are enforcing laws that don’t exist. Is that what you’re saying????

    You say that you want people held accountable and prosecuted, but that doesn’t happen all the time because of these stupid sanctuary policies and it all started with that Jesse Jackson BFF Toney Anaya. That’s when we started having the big problems in my neighborhood. Wasn’t enough with the food stamps. When they started driving better trucks then we had we knew we had a problem with drugs coming in.

    My abuelta was scared for her life and she came here to this country LEGALLY back in the 1920’s. She would have loved to be “profiled” if it meant she didn’t have to live in fear. When she died, she was buried with an American flag in her hand because she was proud to be AMERICAN!!!

    I guarantee that if more Hispanics had to live like we did with illegals threatening our lives then the would understand. We just have a bunch of spoiled brats who haven’t been through anything and crying “don’t profile me!” and then the go and vote Democrat and elect people like Griego.

    I want reform so we can let the good people in who actually want to work and learn English and become Americans AND so we can really enforce the laws we already have on the books so we can keep the bad ones out.

  12. Mr. Griego, while the AZ apparently does not require that a person be charged with another crime, HB 2162 ( ) does require that a person must be stopped under reasonable suspicion of ANOTHER crime (read: not violation of immigration laws) before immigration status can be checked.

    As for the alleged economic benefits of illegals, I can find no such study that indicates such a benefit. is down, and the Pew articles I found were related to views and not facts. Please help us find these studies that contrast the CBO/wiki articles I’ve found (CBO report: ) (wiki: )

    As for healthcare usage, illegals have a much lower insured rate, so I would figure they’d use the “free” services more ( ).

    As for the letter of the AZ law, I’d like to know your thoughts on the constitutionality. I agree that the wording of SB 1070 would lead to govt harassment, racial profiling, etc. (which my original opposition to this bill stemmed from), but HB 2162’s wording changes it so that persons must be suspected of other crime(s) before their immigration status is checked. That can hardly be considered unjust. It’s the same as an officer checking for existing warrants if you’re pulled over for speeding.

    I further agree that the response is quite reactionary, although I would not go as far as “misguided.” This law mirrors federal, LA county and numerous other laws. Real federal reform needs to happen, and the Bush admin’s proposition (guest workers and all) was the best option introduced in years. That failed because it was too strict for some, and too lenient for others. Pragmatism needs to be introduced into this discussion, and idealistic unicorn dreams disregarded…and that goes for both “sides” of the issue.

  13. Let me get this straight. You just voted in the legislature to increase taxes –and yet you are lecturing Arizona lawmakers how to do their jobs?

    Second, you made no attempt to ensure that the correct version of the bill–with langauge that clearly bans law enforcement from using race as a reason to check immigration status–was provided to readers?

    Third, under federal law it is already a criminal offense for “aliens” (not my word, the feds’) in our country NOT to carry proper documentation showing they are here lawfully.

    US Code Title 8, 1304 (e)

    (e) Personal possession of registration or receipt card; penalties
    Every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him pursuant to subsection (d) of this section. Any alien who fails to comply with the provisions of this subsection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall upon conviction for each offense be fined not to exceed $100 or be imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both.

    You also mention that “Anyone who commits a crime, whether a citizen or not should be held accountable.” So by your logic, wouldn’t you agree that if someone can’t produce paperwork that shows they are here legally, it is worth looking into?

    If i get stopped by a policeman and don’t have my license on me–I’m in big trouble, why should this be any different?

  14. Eric wrote:
    “What do Rosa Parks, César Chávez, Japanese Americans, Nelson Mandela and American Jews have in common? They were all law breakers. “Illegals” we would call them today. And like today’s undocumented Mexicans… they were suspect and persecuted primarily because of their race.”

    I do not understand the label “undocumented Mexicans” because those from Mexico do have documents showing they are Mexican citizens. Their country requires it. We are speaking of people who do not have permission to be in the United States. So a more precise term is, “In Our Country Without Legal Status.”

    You are wrong that Americans of Japanese heritage and American Jews were law breakers. I do agree with the statement that all of the above at times faced unfair prejudice.

    Now these people without legal status are a group that legislators like yourself have abused for many years by not acting forthrightly. The inability of political leaders to get “their act together” has caused much pain and suffering. These people have been condemned to a world outside of legal status that prevents them from seeking legal remedies when otherwise appropriate for citizens, they do not have property rights like citizens and every moment they have the law hovering over their heads.

    It seems you would be most interested in getting them legal status rather than throwing racial bombs at everyone. Where do you stand on this issue of legal status? There are three parts to the question: How do they get legal status, can we treat them differently than other people who wish to immigrate to our country, and what do we do if they continue to break our laws after we have given amnesty. Tell me your take on those three.

    On a more fundamental level, people being in our country without legal status does violate our laws. You have taken an oath to support the constitution of the United States and the constitution and laws of this state. Are you violating that oath by not supporting the laws in the case of people without legal status? More so, can you follow the example of Mexico when it closed its southern border? Why is it right for them to do it but not us, the U.S.?

    As an elected official, please help us understand your position.

  15. I’m glad my guest op-ed sparked some debate. Rather than take personal swipes, as some of the comments have, I will respond to their concerns.

    In fact, I did read the law, and despite efforts by some Arizona legislators and the Governor to add additional protections against racial profiling, in practice, that is what Arizona police are being asked to do. Maybe that’s why the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police oppose the amended law. It would be interesting to see how many red heads or folks who look like Tim McVeigh will get asked for their papers. Or how many folks with a southern, versus a Latin accent will be asked for papers.

    I agree we need comprehensive federal immigration reform. However, scape goating Mexican immigrants whose only crime is that they committed a CIVIL not CRIMINAL offense by crossing our border to work is un-American. Unlike other state and local laws (including Albuquerque) the Arizona law does not ask police to wait until a crime is committed to ask about immigration status. It can be done before a person has been arrested or charged with anything.

    For those who claim these are emotional arguments, let’s review the data. FACT: Arizona and national crime statistics show that undocumented immigrants have lower rates of criminality than citizens. FACT: Most economic studies including one by the Pew Foundation and New Mexico Voices for Children demonstrate that undocumented aliens actually pay more in taxes than they consume in services. FACT: Despite the misinformation to the contrary, non-citizens are not eligible for Food Stamps, TANF (welfare), or Medicare. FACT: In terms of health care utilization, undocumented immigrants have lower rates of health care use than citizens.

    As for the person who said I claim to speak for all Hispanics, I do not. I have my own opinion. But for him or anyone to use the example of neighbors who were immigrants committing crime and collecting welfare to justify the discriminatory Arizona law shows how uninformed this debate has become. His comments also show that racism crosses all ethnic lines.

    Anyone who commits a crime, whether a citizen or not should be held accountable. No one has asked that undocumented immigrants be treated differently if they commit a criminal act. They should be fully prosecuted. However, migration accross the U.S. border is not a criminal act.

    Finally, justifying this law by saying the majority of Arizonans and Americans support it misses the point. As my op-ed pointed out, the majority of Americans supported numerous other discriminatory laws including slavery. That doesn’t make them right.

    I welcome a debate on the facts with anyone who wants to discuss the merits of the Arizona law. We are all entitled to our own opinion, but not to our own facts. And as discussed above, there is now factual merit to the Arizona law. I believe it is a cynical, misguided response to a real problem. It is also discriminatory, unconstitutional, and un-American.

  16. The fools that brought me up here in the Good Ole’ USA taught me a few things that are now obviously just getting in my way nowadays:

    “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

    “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    “The Congress shall have the power to…To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization…throughout the United States…”

    “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”

    Issues relating to how we can reform our immigration process and procedures, control the financial impacts to our local communities of illegal immigration, and prevent crime related to open borders are completely legitimate areas of debate and discussion for our country today. We need to come up with common sense, just, and economically realistic ways to fix the system, which now forces too many Americans and non-Americans alike to live in a

    Mixing up these complex issues with anti-immigrant and racist sentiments, witch-hunt politics, and with the tossing out of our civil and constitutional values and protections is NOT.

    Calling people who disagree with you “bleeding heart ” or “emotional” is not particularly useful or even accurate. It pretty much shows the rest of us that it is YOU who are reflexively responding to this subject with no reflection, just pure emotional overreaction.

    Those of you who think it’s some sort of proof of your conservative values to give up your own liberty for the pathetic amount of safety laws like this might give you deserve neither, according to that notorious socialist, Ben Franklin. I, FOR ONE, DO NOT WANT TO HAVE TO “SHOW MY PAPERS” TO ANY LOCAL TOWNIE COP LOOKING TO ASSERT HIS OR HER POWER AND AUTHORITY!!!!!

    Maybe the Arizona law can be described as intended to protect legal individuals in their state, but I guarantee it will be found to be so vague and sloppy in its language that it permits violation of the US Constitution, which is ILLEGAL. The truth is, the problems we have right now are not from being too “liberal” –they’re from ignoring the issues so that the moneyed interests–who usually vote and support Republicans– can benefit from the giant pool of unprotected workers illegal immigrants represent.

    Quite frankly, anyone who has the ability–or desire–to put themselves in the shoes of an Hispanic or African-American for five minutes can see what is going on in Arizona right now. Just look at all the other laws just signed into effect by their Governor: teachers with “accents” cannot teach dual language classes, no classes on minority studies can be taught in their public schools for fear they might instill anger towards white people. It’s the manifestation of a 15 year Rush LImbaugh inspired pity party in which the majority is the “persecuted minority”, and they are attempting to put those minorities who have asserted their right to be equal in value in their communities right back in their proper places. It’s ugly, ugly, ugly.

    I remember reading in grade school about how we treated the Irish, the Polish, the Italians, the Chinese, the Japanese–any group of immigrants that came to our country in the past, so this is nothing new. For a country that prides itself for being a “melting pot” we’re really good at ugliness and xenophobia. We can and should make good law that protects our essential concepts of liberty, fairness and equality in regards to immigration. Or we can just keep repeating the ugliest episodes of our nation’s history over and over again.

    The Constitution talks about “persons” not “legal citizens” in regards to civil rights. When we protect the rights of all of us, we protect all of our rights.

    Oh, here’s another “Bleeding heart do gooder’s” saying that I was taught was a profound statement on protecting the rights of ourselves by protecting the rights of all:

    “In Germany they first came for the Communists,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Catholics,
    and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.

    Then they came for me —
    and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
    -Pastor Martin Niemöller

  17. As a HISPANIC I’m offended when other Hispanics like Griego attempt to speak for all of us!!!

    I grew up in a poorer neighborhood where my next door neighbors were illegals who got welfare. Guess what? My big Catholic Hispanic family didn’t have much but we never went around asking for handouts. Yes we reported them to the authorities but do you think anyone did anything about them. NO! That was in 1985 and it got worse with amnesty.

    And that house ended up getting raided as a drug house. We feared for our lives sometimes and had to put up with random stuff being stolen from our yard and cars. 25 years later and nothing has changed but gets worse all the time!!

    Griego is just like the rest of these Hispanic activists like Toney Annoya and others that we’ve had to put up with years. All they want is to rile all of us up so we will vote for them. Guess what Griego I hope Hispanics start waking up and putting your politics out of business!!! I’m a proud Hispanic but I am AMERICAN first!!!

  18. More disillusioned commenting from more “holier than thou” politicians and intelligentsia. *sigh* Mr. Griego, as Dr. J pointed out, relies on emotions rather than facts and logic to make his (absurd) point.

    Randal Archibold wrote in the NYTime yesterday ( ) that our State House of Reps passed a resolution acknowledging the economic benefit of illegal immigrants. Mr. Archibold apparently forgot to read the actual memorial ( ), because had he done so, he would see that no such proclamation came from the 2010 session.

    Further, it has been announced that Los Angeles’ (oh God, here we go) City Council has banned city business and travel from interaction with AZ. Hypocrisy much? Last May LA County became one of the first counties in CA to start checking the immigration status of arrested persons.

    I would be amazed to see one thoughtful, logical and factual argument against Arizona’s legislation. However, I won’t hold my breath.

  19. Mr. Griego,

    The Arizona law does NOT target individuals because of their race or national origin, it targets ILLEGALS!! The law would apply evenly to lily white Canadians. Illegal immigration results in state and federal expenditures of OUR tax money to provide services for them, whether it be social services or policing services. OUR tax money is spent on people who do not contribute to the state and federal coffers. California’s budget shortage and their lack of strict immigration policy is a perfect example of this.

    Your argument misses the point entirely.

  20. Once again, bias, prejudice, and emotional reactions are being used instead of facts and actually reading the law. I was amused to hear an interview with an LA city counselor about their new boycott law against all things Arizona for LA. She stated that LA and their police respect and need the trust of all their illlegal immigrants and thus would never consider a law like Arizona’s. They need the illegals because of all the crimes committed in their high-crime neighborhoods in LA. And these illegals help the police in solving all the crimes committed by their neighbors in the illegal immigrant neighborhoods and surrounding areas, so a mutual respect and trust is necessary she says. I just had to laugh at such logic for not enforcing the laws of the land. What we really need to do is to pin these politicians down on the Arizona law, and that is why do they feel it is not necessary, prudent, or wise to enforce federal immigration laws in your city, county, state? This LA city counselor had a Freudian slip moment on that logic. But the question is, if the Border Patrol was rolling through these neighborhoods every night enforcing the law, don’t you think crime would go down fast? And I am sure Mr. Griego has seen the latest Pew polls that show a large majority of Americans support the Arizona law.

  21. Excellent article and I agree with you completely. The ugly tone of this anti-immigrant attitude is very similar to past such discriminatory actions and attitudes. If there needs to be a discussion about immigration problems, fine…let’s have that discussion. But the lies and smears against hispanics in Arizona these days indicate that those in power in Arizona are just using xenophobia and racial resentful to prop up their own political careers…and they don’t really care about solving problems or protecting the rights of human beings in the process.

  22. The problem lies not with Arizona but with the Federal Government. Either the laws must be enforced or changed. Arizona is just following the law. Doing nothing is no longer an option. If Eric is right, then why pay property tax, income tax, drive the speed limit, and accept the new health insurance reform. Why follow or have any laws?

  23. Mr. Griego,

    Just to be clear, the final version of the Arizona bill explicitly included language that addressed the racial profiling issue. Maybe we should start talking about that law instead of always harkening back to SB1070.

    Read it for yourself (pay attention to language in sec. 2 (B) and sec. 12 (C) of the bill:

    If there are issues with the final language in the bill, discuss those points. But regardless of whether you are ignorant about a bill you are bashing or you are knowingly ignoring language in the final bill because it doesn’t fuel your argument—you are providing a disservce to your readers.

  24. A typical bleeding-heart, do-gooders article.

    We are either a nation of laws or we are not.

    Illegal immigrants are not following the law, thus do not deserve any American rights.

    If national or state immigration laws are unjust or illegal then get rid of them.

    If the Federal immigration law is not to be adhered to then what’s the point of the law?

    As I see it — Arizona is simply trying to protect those legal citizens within the state which is theatrically the purpose of laws.