Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Seeds of xenophobia

It turns out that one of the suspects who's been arrested for the Newark murders is an immigrant who is in the US illegally. This is generating another burst of “toss out the illegals” mania, including some from Republican presidential candidate and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani:

“It frustrates me that if someone comes here illegally,” Mr. Giuliani says as the music swells, “if they commit a crime, we don’t throw them out of the country.”


A national chorus reacted with horror to the Aug. 4 killings at a playground here, and Mr. Giuliani's advertisement speaks for a prominent subset: those who have cited the shooting deaths to bolster their argument that the criminal justice system treats illegal immigrants too leniently.

Other Republican notables with similar views include former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Tom Tancredo, a US Representative from Colorado and another presidential contender.


Once again, we have a lot of hype, a lot of exploitation of a situation, and a lot of missing of the real point. That Jose Carranza, the suspect in question, is an illegal immigrant is irrelevant, and being “tough on illegals” would have done nothing to stop these murders. He might instead have been here legally, and we might then call for expelling legal immigrants too. Maybe one of the other suspects is Catholic and a third has interracial parents, so we should be doing something about those situations.

No, the issue here is simply that Mr Carranza, this one individual, is suspected in the murders. Mr Carranza, the individual — not a representative of one group or another, not a man from Peru, not a man with a certain shade of skin, not a man with any particular religious, political, or social affiliation. Just Mr Carranza.

That he had been “arrested three times on criminal charges” is relevant, and perhaps that says something about how we should be treating the issue of releasing people on bail. But honestly, an illegal immigrant who's been arrested three times is no more (nor less) dangerous than anyone else who has. And we have to be careful there too: arrests without convictions may just be symptoms of police scrutiny of Latinos. There are a lot of variables.

I have no problem with a statement that we should deport illegal immigrants who are convicted of crimes. Until they're convicted, though, they're suspects, like anyone else who hasn't been convicted... and they must be treated as such. We don't get to presume guilt based on their immigration status.

And that's what scares me about Mr Giuliani's campaign ad, quoted above. He's implying that suspicion equates to guilt. “If they commit a crime,” implying that Mr Carranza has, indeed, committed the crime he's suspected of.

He might have. But we have a justice system that decides that, which must be allowed to work before we make assumptions, before the xenophobia kicks in.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Oh there's definitely an element of "see what these nasty foreigners are like?" in there. Of course it's only a certain kind of foreigner, from certain places.