What’s old has become new again.
Over the past few days, the Texas legislature was debating a bill designed to punish sanctuary cities within the state and college campus police that don’t follow along as well. Typical sort of reactionary legislation that has become commonplace in the country now. However, things took a turn for the worse when an amendment was added to the bill by Matt Schaefer, Republican state rep from Tyler, removing language from the bill that states that people could only be asked about their immigration status when they were formally arrested. After this, over 100 different amendments requested by Democrats to try to exempt things like domestic violence shelters and public schools were rejected by Republicans and the bill was passed yesterday.
This new bill is basically the 2010 Arizona “show me your papers” law all over again, a vile and disgusting law brought back from the dead like a zombie to prey on the living. I can still remember those days, the protests and television debates throughout the state and finally the Supreme Court removing the provisions allowing for on-the-street checks of people’s immigration status. Now it seems that the Texas state government has the idea that because a reactionary government has been installed in Washington, that it could revive this fetid law in a different form.
If there’s anything we’ve learned from 2016 and the first few months of the Trump presidency, it’s that things can definitely get worse even when you think they can’t possibly do so. With that in mind, it’s not hard to see that this kind of law will be repeated in other states in the South and Midwest. The right wing in this country was very angry when the Arizona law was upended, and now they think the time is ripe for this borderline fascist policy.
To make a comparison to Nazi Germany is rather cliche and obvious when talking about something like this. Yet, it’s almost impossible to not make this comparison in this sort of situation. Far right ideology and fascist ideology are both based on cliche thinking, reusing the same old tropes over and over again to try and scrape up some power by appealing to people’s base instincts. This implementation of “Papiere, bitte” is something straight out of a totalitarian state of the early 20th century. It presupposes that Latinx people in this country have no right to walk down the street without representatives of the state halting them and asking if they’re allowed to be here. It creates a situation in which their very existence in society is questioned as a possible crime every time they step outside the house.
What kind of psychological damage do you think that does to someone that has to face that every single day of their lives? How horrifying do you, the person reading this, think it is to see people like you dragged from their homes, away from their children, after ICE kicks down the door and take them to a van to drive you away? What would you feel if you were thrown into a “detention center” (read: prison with another name) for an indefinite amount of time, often times having to sleep on the floor with a blanket and pillow due to lack of space, while the private company that built the center and runs it on the state’s behalf makes money off of your abject human misery?
This law does nothing but further enshrine white supremacy in official state policy as opposed to the more subtle forms it has taken. It won’t bring down crime and it won’t return jobs back to people who need them. All it does is increase the power of the state to discriminate and make more money for capital.