Editor’s note: Following publication of this article, U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton enjoined the state of Arizona from enacting key provisions of state Senate Bill 1070. Though the law’s most dangerous sections were put on pause, pending the outcome of litigation, the remainder of the law goes into effect, as scheduled, Thursday, July 29.
We in the Grand Canyon state salute, by statute, the howler monkeys in jingo trees.
Unable to regulate our border, unwilling to create a reasonable path to citizenship for the immigrants who labor in our place, Arizona law enforcement officially now undertakes to rid us of Mexicans.
Because of infamous Arizona Senate Bill 1070, which is scheduled to take effect on Thursday, July 29, the pretext of traffic stops will now initiate a search for residency papers, a practice at once abhorrent and also under consideration by as many as 20 other states.
The national terror of reconquista will now flood the streets and courts of Arizona.
The ACLU and the United States Justice Department are seeking an injunction to put SB 1070 on hold until the seven lawsuits pending can be addressed.
While lawyers cosseted in leathered briefs discuss the depth of the anti-Mexican deluge, the boots on the ground of this immigrant monsoon wear badges and guns.
If police officers were supermen, there would still be the matter of kryptonite; lawmen, however, like the rest of us, are human: The alarm doesn’t go off, but the spouse does; calls get dropped, coffee gets spilled. And, every so often, officers’ problems are the stuff of television drama.
Now, like Noah with his ark, the police will sort the brown in the automobile: “You two remain; you two go to Nogales.”
Daniel Magos, once an immigrant, now a United States citizen, is one man who understands the divide in a cop’s life.
Once, when one of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s men had a flat tire, Daniel stopped to help.
On another occasion, a deputy was adrift in a conversation with a Spanish-speaking immigrant in south Phoenix. The officer had trouble understanding or being understood. Daniel stepped forward and translated for Arpaio’s man.
Nor has Magos hesitated in the face of danger.
In 2000, he saw a group of men attacking what he believed was a mojado, a wetback. Magos summoned a deputy. The lawman grabbed one of the belligerents, and as his compadres attempted to flee in a car, they tried to run over the deputy. The officer gave his prisoner to Daniel.
“You hold him for me,” Magos recalled the deputy telling him.
The deputy then gave chase in his vehicle, and the pursuit ended only when those fleeing crashed their car. In the ensuing chaos, Daniel was left to his own devices. “I called the sheriff’s department and asked: ‘What will I do?'”
What Daniel Magos would do today, 10 years later, is walk away.
Only this: Daniel and his wife, Eva, were recent victims of racial profiling.
Daniel and Eva were, if you will, ahead of their time, ahead of SB 1070. And herein lies a small story about what happens when we hunt Mexicans and Mexican Americans and Central Americans in our national hysteria over the brown-skinned people among us.
We hear so often that Senate Bill 1070, which demands that police — in the course of their enforcement responsibilities — question people about their citizenship, will frighten Latinos away from speaking up in domestic-abuse calls or in drug investigations or in gang probes.
Critics of SB 1070 characterize the victims of this racial profiling bill as a population caught up in some low-rent episode of Law & Order.
The caution that SB 1070 will make witnesses silent is true, as far as it goes.
But SB 1070 has a more insidious side.
The victims of racial profiling sacrificed to the nativist fears that spawned SB 1070 are just as likely to be upstanding American citizens, even Good Samaritans like Daniel Magos .
Keep this in mind as America rushes to inquire: Are your papers in order?
Born in 1945, Daniel Magos is soft-spoken, reserved, firm. Despite the run-in with a sheriff’s deputy he and his wife suffered, his manner is dignified, not put-upon. He presents the sort of serenity you see upon the faces of victims portrayed on holy cards. Not to suggest Daniel is a saint — he’s simply a good man and a better neighbor.
He met Eva in 1965, as a 20-year-old, at the American Legion, Post 41, in Phoenix. “I was sitting at a table by myself when she and another lady came over and asked if they could sit down. It was her friend’s idea.”
When he met Eva’s family, he had one vivid impression: “Her father was quite strict . . . If you went out to dinner, you had to be back by 8 p.m.”
Dances offered a little more leeway on time, so Eva and Daniel would visit the Calderone Ballroom on 16th Street and Buckeye Road. “Actually we went next door, to Nano’s. The music and the people were different. There was a higher social status at Nano’s.”
They married November 25, 1967.
Over the years, Daniel Magos had traveled mile upon agricultural mile by way of Muleshoe, Texas, and Pinon, Colorado, to arrive at that Thanksgiving week nuptial in Phoenix. And he reached those exotic locales only after leaving Chihuahua, Mexico.
He attended classes and worked with gardeners in Mexico until the sixth grade, when he joined his father in America. “My father worked here in the U.S. as part of the Bracero program. On April 1, 1958, we became legal residents,” said Magos. His family followed the crops, and with three brothers and three sisters, there were plenty of hands for the fields.
“We moved to get away from the snow in Colorado,” said Magos. “You could starve.”
He eventually attended Pecos Junior High in Texas. “People in school were pretty decent. They accepted us in school, but society was different than school,” remembers Magos.
He lived in the South when signs warned that blacks were not served. “I tried to go to movie theaters, but there were no tickets for Mexicans.” Daniel Magos might have been a legal resident, but that didn’t make him white.
When he moved to Arizona, he lived on Phoenix’s south side but labored in the fields at the western end of the Valley. He cut alfalfa and the corn-like sorghum to feed stock. He went to school. When he wasn’t in class, he was with farmers and cattlemen.
Today in Arizona, you see demonstrators calling for the heads of people like Daniel Magos. What you do not see are the children of protesters demanding to work in the fields.
Perhaps that is next, but I do not actually believe it. I say this as a parent of two young men. I say this as someone who has observed your children on Arizona’s soccer fields and in classrooms. I say this as a result of who I am and what I have observed: We do not have a generation coming along that wishes to pick crops.
After high school, Daniel went to college but only lasted a year and a half. “I thought I could make more money working construction than I could with a degree,” said Magos. “My first job involved manufacturing bathroom components — tubs, showers. Did that for several years.”
In 1973, Daniel Magos started a manufacturing business, putting the skills he’d learned into his own company. “It was a sacrifice,” remembered Magos. “I took no pay for five months, until my wife said our savings were depleted. Then I took a small salary.” That was nearly 40 years ago.
Daniel Magos made it. He runs his business in a very conservative fashion, relying upon small contractors and customers so that debt seldom threatens him.
None of that was relevant on December 4, 2009, when one of Arpaio’s deputies slowed down as the Magos’ vehicle approached the squad car from the opposite direction.
“He stared at me, then my wife,” said Magos. “I asked my wife, ‘Why is he staring at us?'”
For several years, Joe Arpaio’s forces have rounded up Mexicans in notorious “crime sweeps.”
Arpaio’s man flipped a U-turn and got behind Magos. “He followed me for 300 feet or so and pulled me over.”
Magos produced his license and insurance and searched for his registration, and then something unusual happened.
Magos said the deputy was loud, intimidating, and used a harsh tone of voice as he said, “I want to see her driver’s license.”
Why did he need the driver’s license of a then 69-year-old lady sitting in the passenger seat?
When questioned, Magos produced a gun that he carried legally.
After complying with the deputy’s requests, after turning over the weapon he possessed legally, after producing proper identification, Magos was ordered to stand spread-eagled against the truck.
“I’m going to search you,” Magos was informed.
“There’s no reason to search me. You are doing it without my consent.”
After frisking Magos, after taking possession of the pistol and the paperwork, the deputy got on his radio. At this point, one of Daniel’s clients happened to call him. When Daniel answered, the deputy returned and yelled at him to get off the phone, which he did.
Magos said the deputy informed him that he was pulled over because the license on the back of his truck wasn’t clearly visible.
I do not know if the license was visible or not. I do know that the deputy could not have known this either, when he stared at the Mexican-American couple as he approached them from the opposite direction. I do know that the deputy could not have seen this until after he turned around and began following the couple.
“When I asked for his badge number, he said, ‘I hope you don’t think this is racial profiling,'” recalled Magos.
Daniel and Eva were released without a citation.
One of Daniel’s daughters has a boyfriend in a law firm. This gentleman got the name of the deputy’s supervisor and, on three separate occasions, attempted to file a complaint. On three separate occasions, the man was ignored.
Daniel’s older daughter is a financial advisor with The Hartford; the other teaches fifth-graders. What does he tell them about how he was treated?
Current estimates peg the number of immigrants who have fled the ongoing Mexican pogrom in Arizona at 100,000. Fully 20 percent of Arizona’s immigrant population has moved, mostly to other states. Ignore — if you choose — the dogging of people who came here for no meaner reason than to work; this hounding cannot happen without targeting American citizens who are of Latin descent.
That’s a fact, Jack — one brown man looks like the next.
If you think this sort of harassment is no big deal, you do not grasp what it means to be American. Living in peace does not involve tinhorns acting like First World guardia.
Every interrogation scrapes self-respect raw. Lawmen who question your presence, rather than your behavior, make toxic the idea of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness . Even if your papers are in order, particularly if your papers are in order, every confrontation is a violation.
What does Daniel, who was not born by accident into citizenship but worked to live here legally, tell his daughters?
He starts to answer but chokes up. “I try to tell them [that] I truly believe that [SB 1070] will not happen. I never told them, ‘You need to be Mexican and push white people back.'” He raised them as the American citizens they are, who now hear that their 65-year-old father and, now, 70-year-old mother are rousted for the color of their skin.
After she signed SB 1070, Governor Jan Brewer put running Mexicans to ground into context. She informed a television audience on June 15 that immigrants did not come here to work but rather to smuggle drugs.
All of them.
This crack helped make Jan Brewer a national heroine, because people across this fair land are watching the goings-on in Arizona, and because every poll suggests that a majority of our countrymen like what they see. Some are doing more than just watching.
Last month, the good people of Freemont, Nebraska (not to be confused with Fremont, Nebraska, a relatively progressive small city near Omaha), voted to make it illegal to rent an apartment to an undocumented immigrant. For added measure, they made it illegal to hire an illegal. Folks in Freemont have their blood up, despite the fact that less than 10 percent in their community are non-white. And the Mexicans and Guatemalans who do live there are employed in meat-packing plants outside town. (No reputable survey yet suggests that America’s high-school seniors envision employment in a charnel house, either. In fact, the idea that our little Jimmys and Susies want to doff their caps and gowns and put a bolt in Elsie the cow’s skull and then cut her up is so piquant that Gallup has yet to consider the question.).
So voters of Freemont are opting to shut down their primary source of tax revenue just to rid themselves of Latinos. In this noble undertaking, they join like-minded Americans in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, and Farmer’s Branch, Texas, who have passed similar edicts.
With the winds of economic dislocation, we are discovering that the topsoil of our souls is without the stabilizing roots of decency. Bone-ribbed Joads who can’t rope up the guilty bankers settle instead for innocent Mexicans.
And our politicians play to these hillbillies.
One candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission, Barry Wong, sniffed the breeze of discontent. He promised, on June 29, that if he’s elected to regulate utilities, he’ll cut off heating, cooling, and water from any and all illegal immigrants.
Hundreds die every year crossing the Sonoran desert into Arizona, and Wong suggests that the thirst and chill and terrifying heat be continued once the Mexican reaches civilization.
I visited recently with one of Arizona’s grande dames, Carole Steele. She once ran a trail-blazing bistro in the Valley, but these days she oversees an organic fruit orchard in Aravaipa Canyon, where she hosts the occasional traveler. She is not typically an eye-roller, but she did have a brief story in reaction to Wong’s suggestion.
Years before, she met a young woman in Guadalajara, Mexico, in the art studio Steele ran. When Carole returned to Arizona, the girl, Rosa, crossed the southwestern desert on foot and worked for Carole’s family. Over time, Rosa grew into a responsible young woman who married a truck driver in Mexico. She crossed back and forth, making the trek across the wilderness to supplement her income in Carole’s employ. As often happens, Rosa became one of the family, albeit one who came and went. Inevitably, an elderly member of Carole’s circle became quite ill. When word reached Rosa in Mexico, she insisted upon walking back to America to nurse, to tend, which she did. In 2000, they found Rosa’s body in the desert. She was on her way back to Carole.
No one at the table had a further comment about Barry Wong.
But I have a question.
Mr. Wong: Your ancestors — and here I’m taking a stab in the dark — they came over on the Mayflower or originated in a Navajo hogan? Is this why you do not recall with any sense of empathy the savagery directed at Chinese immigrants?
We await the call from the political trombone announcing the public stoning of Mexicans.
In lieu of immigration reform, President Barack Obama and his Justice Department sued Arizona seeking to block SB 1070. The American public howled with indignation that the president appeared to be taking the side of immigrants. Such is the national rage at listening to taped phone messages instructing them to push the “1” button for English that citizens sent more than a million dollars in tens and twenties to Governor Jan Brewer’s litigation team.
The legal challenge by Obama is a bloodless matter that avoids most questions of race, as if race were a pathogen. (For a cold taste of legal banter that dices thought without any of the salt of the street, review the exchanges between U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton and various attorneys putting together the SB 1070 cocido.) If the public at large sees Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Mexican roundups and SB 1070 as a matter of state’s rights, President Obama sees it as Fort Sumter. The Justice Department’s major claim is that no state can usurp federal responsibilities.
The suit parses the Constitution with less verve than Sister Mary Margaret’s proper diagram of a charmless sentence.
Arizona’s alleged moderates, the white ones, from members of Congress like Harry Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords to state Attorney General Terry Goddard, all urged Obama not to sue. They worry about their election prospects and forget it is only the federal government that historically pries the bigot’s fingers from the victim’s windpipe.
Maybe lawyers can restore the integrity of the Constitution, a document that forbids states like Arizona and towns like Freemont from fueling diasporas with their own immigration policies.
But what can lawyers do about jackals always tracking the immigrant’s dusty footprint?
What do we do about the pregnant 31-year-old woman who was the target of another U-turn stop because of a faulty license-plate light on the back of her car? She was slammed into the hood of her vehicle when she did not readily consent to a search for non-existent narcotics. A U.S. citizen of Latin descent, she clearly remembers being told: “I can be an asshole if you’re going to be a bitch.”
What would you tell the 17-year-old child, an American, who was followed into a gated community on her way home from school? When asked for identification, she produced a valid Arizona driver’s license. The officer insisted upon further proof, claiming he was required by law to get more documentation.
Though she speaks perfect English and knew the law wasn’t scheduled to go into effect until this week, she was frightened half to death. She allowed the officer to tail her another couple of blocks to her home, where she retrieved her passport for inspection.
Each of these crude assaults upon dignity happened without benefit of SB 1070. Each happened to an American.
While Jan Brewer, state Senator Russell Pearce (1070’s author), Barry Wong, and Joe Arpaio sport conservative mufti, this is neither a right nor left issue. The feckless few, Goddard, Giffords, and Mitchell, are not without incriminating shadow.
Historically, America attacks immigrants, only embracing the foreigners long after the Yankee has pummeled them to within an inch of their ethnicity. Progressives and those who should know better have their place in this roll call of sulfurous shame.
What? You thought local fecks invented political convenience, not to mention ignorance? To provide perspective, here is the first president of Stanford, David Starr Jordan, on immigrants: “Most of them . . . are very different from the Anglo-Saxon — very much less capable of self government, and on the whole, morally and socially less desireable.”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, celebrated suffragette and rum obsessionist, viewed alcohol as an immigrant issue: “Patrick and Sambo and Hans and Yung Tung, who do not know the difference between a monarchy and a democracy, who never read the Declaration of Independence.”
Understanding that this sort of drivel always has been a part of the national fabric is not to excuse it. We must not tolerate the midway we’ve been invited into, where barkers with badges play whack-a-Mexican for the delight of gap-toothed voters.
But it is useful to understand that politicians are not going to rectify the situation. Splenetic officials who fan the fever of common boobery must be kicked to the curb. Remember, too, the fair-weather moderates when they come calling for your campaign contribution.
And we also must stand up individually.
To the pious constitutional scholars who yelp, “What part of ‘illegal’ don’t you understand?” there is but one answer:
Why, none of it, sir. None of it at all.
If you live in Phoenix, you will be asked by out-of-state Nellies why you don’t move out of a state whose legislature notoriously canceled the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Because the fight is in Arizona; I would not be anywhere else.
My hand to Mexicans, and my fist to crackers.
Daniel Magos agreed to the use of his name in this article, but some others requested anonymity out of a sense of caution. Our subjects came courtesy of the ACLU and other activist concerns. We are indebted to Daniel Okrent’s exemplary Last Call for references to Jordan and Stanton.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting the Village Voice and our advertisers.