Saturday, May 15, 2010

Don't Trivialize Arizona's SB 1070 with the Holocaust

Arizona’s enactment of SB 1070 ignited a national debate over the rights of immigrants. The debate has been spirited, robust, vigorous, vitriolic, informed, and uninformed – in short, a validation of America’s unique First Amendment Rights.

Schools have cancelled band trips and basketball championship games in Arizona. Boycotts have been announced.

Charges of racism, racist, racial profiling, bias, moral crisis, anti-Hispanic, bias are hurled, often at a fever pitch.

Much in a vacuum of what the act provides.

The Bill’s backers counter by calling the opponents supporters of human trafficking, drug traffickers, smugglers, kidnappers, and murderers. They want to regain “control of our borders.”

Attorney General Eric Holder, who had questioned the Bill and hinted the Justice Department may file suit against it, admitted yesterday before a House Committee, that he had not read the 10 page Bill.

The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to initiate a boycott of Arizona and Arizona products. The Council debate was illuminating.

Councilman Paul Koretz, whose father escaped Nazi Germany in 1939, compared Arizona to Nazi Germany: “This is very frightening stuff.” He added “If this was being proposed at the federal level, I would think we’re absolutely at the beginning of what went on in Nazi Germany.” He viewed SB 1070 as ‘just the tip of the iceberg.”

Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who’s running for Lieutenant Governor, has stated that “When people are asked to show their papers, it brings back memories of Nazi Germany.”

Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles has championed immigrant rights since his parish priest days. He too echoed the Nazi thoughts: “I can’t imagine Arizonans now reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques whereby people are required to turn one another in to the authorities on any suspicion of

These comments trivialize the Holocaust, the 6 million Jewish victims, the 1 million Gypsy/Roma victims (My father was Romanian), and the 5-6 million other victims.

The actual executions began not with the Jews, but with the mentally ill as the Nazis emptied out the mental institutions upon achieving power. Gays were also singled out, but on a smaller scale.

The Holocaust was the greatest in a series of tragic 20th Century genocides,
although both Chairman Mao and Stalin had more blood on their hands.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said in a phone call on Thursday “This type of language is toxic, is not accurate and makes the whole issue more difficult, not less difficult, to resolve.”
He cautioned “We don’t need on top of everything invoking imagery that is inappropriate.”

The Center issued a statement opposed to the Arizona statute, but objected to the use of the Holocaust analogy, stating that we should not demonize opponents, even when they are mistaken, to those whose actions led to history’s most notorious crime.”

Hitler signaled in Mein Kampf his intent to act against the Jews.

The formal state sponsored discrimination began shortly after he assumed power in
1933. Jews were barred from professions, such as the law, medicine, and farming, excluded from colleges and universities, and from being publishers or editors of newspapers.

The infamous Nuremburg Laws followed in 1935, barring Aryans from marrying Jews, annulled existing marriages between Jews and Aryans, barred Jews from the Civil Service, stripped German Jews of their citizenship, and deprived them of all their civil rights.

Arizona’s law comes nowhere close to this.

Then came Crystal Night on November 9-10, 1938, followed by the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. The mass killings and concentration camps became soon thereafter.

The Arizona statute should also be contrasted with California’s history of racial discrimination against Asians and Hispanics.

History tells us that the Central Pacific Railway brought Chinese laborers to America to build the railroad to its connection with the Union Pacific at Promontory Point, Utah.

Actual discrimination went back to the time of the 49ers.

The California Legislature enacted in 1852 a “Foreign Miner’s License tax” of $3 per month to discourage Chinese from mining for gold.

San Francisco, beginning in 1850, prohibited Chinese students from attending the
public schools, and then followed the infamous 1896 Supreme Court “separate but equal” decision of Plessy v. Ferguson. A California school law of 1860 excluded “Negroes, Mongolians, and Indians from the public schools."

The California Supreme Court held in 1854 that a Chinese witness could not testify against a Caucasian. California’s 1879 Constitution explicitly denied the vote to idiots, insane persons, and “natives of China.”

San Francisco’s ban on Chinese laundries was reversed by the Supreme Court in 1886 in Yick Wo v. Hopkins, an early civil rights case.

California continued to bar non-citizen Asians from several professions and occupations, including attorneys, doctors, teachers, pharmacists, veterinarians, hairdressers, cosmetologists, barbers, funeral directors, peddlers, and hunters.

Restrictive covenants were enforced against prospective Asian American house buyers, as were the laws against miscegenation.

California also led the way for several western states in 1913 and 1920 by enacting Asian land Exclusion Laws designed to preclude land ownership by “aliens ineligible for citizenship,” which under federal law meant Asian Americans. The penalty for violating these statutes would be land forfeiture to the state.

The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act initially suspended Chinese immigration for 10 years and held Chinese immigrants were ineligible to become naturalized citizens. The statute was renewed several times. Japanese immigrants faced the same discrimination when they started immigrating to the West Coast mainland a century ago.

The Johnson-Reed Immigration Act (Japanese Exclusion Act of 1924) restricted all Asians from entering the United States.

Conversely, Congress extended “naturalization” to African Americans in 1870 and American Indians in 1924.

The anti-Japanese racism culminated, of course, in the World War II concentration camps. The drive to imprison the Japanese Americans was led by California’s Attorney General Earl Warren.

Not until 1952 could Asian American immigrants become U.S. citizens.

The discrimination did not totally end then.

Although they denied it, Berkeley and UCLA discriminated against Asian American applicants in admissions decisions in the 1980’s, analogous to the quotas imposed on Jewish students by elite eastern colleges earlier in the century.

Much of the anger in the Rodney King riots of a decade ago was directed at Korean American merchants. Hundreds of Korean American merchants lost their burnt out, looted businesses in their pursuit of the American dream. They never received compensation.

The record of the LAPD in the 1930’s is also one of shame. They engaged in two major efforts to keep the City of Angels white and mostly Protestant. First, they sent officers to the Border, that is, the California-Arizona border, and turned back “undesirables.” Second, they would periodically sweep the streets of Los Angeles, round up and deport Mexicans, without even worrying if they were U.S. citizens.

Regardless of your views on SB 1070, it nowhere approaches the Holocaust, much less California’s history with Asian Americans or LA’s with Mexicans.

No comments: