By now most of us have heard about Arizona’s bill SB 1070 on immigration enforcement. Each of us can read the many different takes on this bill in newspapers or online. What no one seems to disagree with is, if passed, SB 1070 will become the toughest immigration bill in the United States.
While I am sure there is more to the bill than I fully grasp, a core aspect is; police are required, if they believe someone is in the country illegally, to determine their status as an immigrant. Now, let’s think that over just a bit. How in the world does a police officer believe or suspect a person is in the United States illegally? It appears there is general agreement, whether one agrees with the bill or not, that to suspect a person in Arizona, a police officer has little choice but to begin with the color of one’s skin. Racial profiling? Well, I wonder how many and how often will white folk be stopped in their cars or on the street should SB 1070 become law?
This and similar bills and laws miss the mark because they begin with the premise that land can somehow be mine. This thought process creates boundaries and borders in a manner that separates and isolates. The concept of ownership of land and people has a long history. From a Christian perspective, many ancient texts separate and claim land for a people. Considering the American landscape, Pope Alexander VI’s 1493 Inter Caetera papal bull declaring barbarous nations be subjugated “for the honor of God himself and for the spread of the Christian Empire,” began a process of developing the Doctrine of Discovery. The formation of the Doctrine during the ensuing year’s bull created a perception that the American landscape and its peoples could be owned. Though there is much to say about the ownership of land and people, for this space, suffice it to say the created boundaries and boarders of the American landscape have been continually fought over since their creation.
Arizona’s bill SB 1070 is but one more supporting the Doctrine of Discovery and continues a long history of laws used to: separate people, claim land, and maintain power for the few. Perhaps it is time to stop laws, legislation, and systems that drive us apart, that claim ownership where none can be claimed, and instead strive to invite our sisters and brothers to a table where there are no illegal’s, only family.