Sunday, May 04, 2008

"Codifying Bigotry" and Selling It as Humanitarianism

The Times-Picayune, in spite of the fact that it completely mangles the legislator in question's name, has an editorial in today's paper that nails the essence of the mean-spirited immigration legislation being proposed:

When Lake Charles Rep. Mike [sic] Geymann pulled some ill-conceived bills on immigration enforcement last month, he promised to address critics' concerns before refiling them. [My note: The legislator's name is Brett F. Geymann.]

The changes he made failed to correct the flaws -- yet the bills sailed out of the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice last week.

Lawmakers should recognize the widespread problems these proposals would cause, even for citizens and legal residents. The Legislature should reject the proposals. If not, Gov. Bobby Jindal should veto the bills.

Committee members unanimously passed House Bill 1357, which replaced House Bill 24, to make it a crime to "harbor, conceal or shelter" illegal residents. They also unanimously passed House Bill 25 to require law enforcement agencies to determine the citizenship or immigration status of every person arrested.

A third proposal, House Bill 1358, replacing House Bill 26, would make it a crime to transport illegal residents. Only Rep. Damon Baldone of Houma voted against it.

Rep. Geymann changed the bills on transporting and harboring illegal immigrants to allow for "humanitarian aid" by non-profit groups.

But he failed to address other serious problems.

Rep. Geymann says he is targeting people who "exploit illegal immigrants" by transporting them for high fees, but his bills do not make such a distinction.

Also, immigration enforcement is the purview of federal law. That's why courts ruled unconstitutional a 2002 Louisiana law making it a felony to drive without proof of legal residency. The new proposals face the same hurdle.

Even more worrisome, the new proposals would mandate police to require proof of citizenship or legal residence. It might also lead individuals or businesses to do the same out of fear of violating the law. The vast majority of Americans, however, have no proof of citizenship and could be unnecessarily detained after an arrest while they wait for relatives or lawyers to produce documents.

Maybe Rep. Geymann walks around with his passport or birth certificate. But most people do not, and they closely guard such documents because of the personal information they contain.

Legal permanent residents carry so-called "green cards" to prove their status. But not all legal residents get portable proof of legal status. Foreigners attending universities on student visas, for example, do not generally have documents on them.

Without a practical way to determine who is a citizen and who is not, police will resort to discrimination and racial profiling. That's what happened with the 2002 law, which unfairly targeted Hispanic-looking people whether they were citizens or not.

Rep. Gaymann [sic] should not tolerate these unintended consequences. Neither should lawmakers or Louisianians.
I wrote about these bills a while ago. The inherent bigotry remains. To wit: (1) Any "good samaritan" who gives a ride to an undocumented migrant is subject to criminal prosecution under this legislation. (2) Any public transportation provider that lets an undocumented migrant hop on the bus or the trolley without profiling them and asking for proper documentation potentially faces similar charges. (3) Foreigners who are here legally are subject to harrassment by local law enforcement by random checks based on nothing more than a snap judgment about whether someone looks like he or she might be an immigrant.

I deal with foreign students here on a legal student visa regularly. We advise these students NOT to travel around with their visa paperwork because if it gets lost or stolen, they face mountains of headaches to prove their legal status and recover their proper documentation. Yet, this recent legislation forces law enforcement officers to racially profile these foreign students and to arrest them if they find such students without their visa paperwork on hand.

No matter how I try to be understanding of Geymann's legislation, I cannot get around the impression that bigotry must be the fundamental motivation behind these pieces of legislation as written. Here's Geymann dishonestly explaining his legislation as an effort to help and protect (!?!?!) undocumented migrants:
Geymann's bills would punish anyone who knowingly helps move, hide, or hire illegal immigrants; unless the person is directly affiliated with an approved non-profit organization. "We're not here to go after church and charity groups and good citizens. We are after people trying to exploit these illegal immigrants," Rep. Geymann of Lake Charles says.
What a shameless liar and hustler. If Geymann, humanitarian Christian he claims to be, really wanted not to demonize and dehumanize undocumented migrants, he wouldn't have referred to them as "illegal aliens" to start. Second, he could have crafted legislation much more carefully to address the supposed concerns he has about protecting undocumented migrants from exploitation. In fact, we know that Geymann is actually opposed to crafting legislation that attempts to address the potentially punitive, anti-"Good Samaritan" nature of the bills. Damon Baldone, a state legislator from Houma, proposed an amendment to Geymann's legislation to try to address this concern:
Baldone unsuccessfully pressed for bill amendments that would exempt people assisting illegal immigrants for "humanitarian aid."

Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, who sponsored the three bills, and others opposed the amendments, arguing that they would create large loopholes.
Shameless. Who would have ever thought that Christian acts of kindness would ever be thought of as "large loopholes." We get into heaven by doing such acts of kindness for our neighbors, and yet this fool Geymann wants to put us into prison for it.

My friend Tom Greene, a Jesuit Priest, put it perfectly:
The Rev. Tom Greene of the Loyola University Jesuit Social Research Institute said many priests, nuns and friendly citizens - who are not part of exempted nonprofits - could suffer for kind-heartedly driving illegal immigrants to the grocery or to church.

"This bill isn't anti-immigration," Greene said. "It's become anti-citizen and anti-good Samaritan."
I know for a fact that Geymann had at his disposal immigration specialists and attorneys who were more than willing to help him craft legislation that would really have protected undocument migrants from exploitation without dehumanizing them. If he really wanted to "protect" undocumented migrant workers from exploitation, he would have been much more explicit in what he hoped to prohibit with these pathetic and bigotry-pandering pieces of legislation. Instead, he simply wants to make even common human decency towards people a criminal act, just because the people who are the recipients of such human kindness happen to be from another country and don't have official paperwork to be here legally. In fact, he's even willing to subject those foreigners here legally to the indignities of being profiled and harrassed in his big net efforts to deal with the "problem" of undocumented migrants. It's a pathetic act of mean-spiritedness, if not outright bigoted hostility.

To my fellow Louisianians, if you have a conscience, write your local legislators demanding that they stand up against this un-Christian, inhumane, mean-spirited, and, yes, bigotry-rooted legislation.

1 comment:

D-BB said...

Hey hey hey.....

You know I think you are a good guy huck but.... I think you done did it again. I think the term "un-Christian" may be a bit p.i.

It implies that Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, etc. are not as good as us when we know for a fact that only one of those groups I mentioned is inferior.