Innocent until you “look” guilty?

This particular news item caught my eye this morning, regarding immigration legislation in Georgia, signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal.

Is this about jobs? About tax dollars and services, or something more insidious?

Netting it out – Georgia has joined the states of Arizona and Utah in trying to enact their own immigration legislation.

To quote a 20-year old undocumented worker who is cited in the article:

“You’ll be innocent until you look guilty,” said Hernandez, a restaurant worker who was 2 years old when his parents brought him to the United States.

And yes, I’m anticipating the cost of the court battle that is apparently expected to come by this summer. Wouldn’t that money be better put to our public schools?

I find myself embarrassed and baffled by what appears to be an attempt to profile based on (apparent) ethnicity. And while I generally don’t address political issues here in any direct fashion, I admit to being perplexed by the sorts of laws that states seek to control, and the subsequent clashes of state and federal bodies. What comes to my mind immediately?

Marriage, divorce, custody and child support – certainly areas with which I’m familiar. Why are we left to the devices of our state of residence when it comes to our ability to seek a fair result in family court? Or even a streamlined and consistent process?

As to this state-level legislation, I am appalled that some still seem to think that this is any sort of solution to the problems in our economy. I am equally appalled that fear of those who don’t “look like us” – whatever that means – continues to play out in our culture.

To quote another article on this legislation (originally USA Today), dealing with the profiling aspects:

HB 87 would allow police to check the immigration status of suspects, even in routine traffic stops.

The article goes on to state:

“Anytime you do something like this, there are the intended consequences and you have unintended consequences, and the unintended consequences in this case are worse,” said Bob Hope, a public relations executive in Atlanta who is on the board of the Atlanta Sports Council, Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau and Women’s Sports Foundation. “It presents us as a bigoted city or a bigoted state. Nationally, people can easily look at the bill and say there are uncomfortable issues relative to coming to Atlanta and Georgia. It hurts.”

The Center for American Progress, a liberal watchdog organization, says its research shows meetings and convention cancellations have cost Arizona $141 million in the last year.

According to Brian Robinson (on Governor Deal’s Communications staff):

“There’s nothing in this legislation that should spur the concerns of any groups inside or outside of Georgia,” Robinson said. “Georgia is not doing anything but finding a more efficient mechanism for enforcing U.S. law and Georgia law.”

If you live in one of these states, what are your thoughts? And if you don’t – aren’t you concerned about the profiling aspects, not to mention your tax dollars at a federal level used for the upcoming legal battle?

© D A Wolf



  1. Timmy says

    The world is changing. We won’t stop it from changing by passing laws such as these nor by moving inside gated communities. I have a little difficulty writing about it because I keep falling into a practice that I think must change if we are to make progress. The problem is that my writing voice is racially Caucasian, economically middle class, spiritually Protestant, and ancestrally European. Those of us who are in that group have come to think of these as part of the defining characteristics of “American”.

    And many feel that those characteristics entitle them to an unchanging world in which Anglo males are favored for every influential role in society. The America of Ozzie and Harriet is no more. It’s not something to be missed or looked for in laws to lock out the “different”.

    A happy little island of white people using more than their share of the world’s resources won’t be tolerated forever. The happiest ending I can see requires that we maintain an open society–one that is open to change, open to new cultural influences, and open, at last, to removing race from the list of characteristics we use to determine who gets what in society.

    BLW, your political antennae are very sensitive and I think you would have much to contribute to political discussion on the boards if you spoke out more politically on the issues you have addressed, so far, only personally and emotionally. This stuff needs fixin’ if our kids are to have a decent world to live in. If you wrote more on these topics, it would help. You have lived America’s institutionalized injustice. You have a voice. Maybe another blog would be better if you think the folks here don’t want to talk about politics. But I think these readers need to hear more from you on these topics. You have a very special voice and experience to write from.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Thank you for joining the conversation, Timmy. And with such a thoughtful response. I only wish more were open to being “open” – and seeing that we are a single human community, with differences – of course – and all the richer for those differences.

  2. says

    I think what we are seeing is naked fear on the part of white Americans — and also, to be fair, the impact of the awful economy of the past few years. We’re moving from a majority Caucasian to a multicultural majority and some of “us” don’t like that.

  3. says

    There has got to be a better way! I have an intense dislike for extremism in any form and an intolerance for those who practice it. Unfortunately, there seem to be more that I can’t tolerate than that I can these days. Sadness.

  4. says

    It reduces the essential freedom for all of us when anyone can feel intimidated merely by his/her appearance. The legalities of immigration are something for our national government to consider and respond to as the people see fit, in accord with the Constitution and other legal precedents. In the state instances you mention here, the money would be better spent for schools and teachers.

  5. says

    Like you, I find this type of legislation perplexing at best, and plain bigoted at worst. It seems that with each new generation our tolerance level on most issues increases. But this is one where I see us moving in the wrong direction. Immigration isn’t an issue that has an easy answer and I think this kind of profiling is trying to create one where none exists. We would all be better off to have a difficult and realistic conversation about immigration (esp. the value that illegal immigrants provide to our economy), than to merely go on state-sanctioned witch hunts and call it progress.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      It is the “difficult” conversations we seem to have the most difficulty with, isn’t it. Thank you, Gale – and the others who chose to comment – for your feedback.

  6. says

    I happen to live in the state where this all started (*sigh*). Even before SB 1070 was signed into law, two of my family members (one a Vietnam War veteran, the other served the U.S. Marine Corps for 20 years) were racially profiled. In one case, my relative witnessed a crime and called the police. The police officer refused to take his statement until he showed proof of citizenship.

    To say that there is nothing to be concerned about, is nonsense. Until you’ve been suspiciously followed while shopping in a store or told that you don’t belong in that store (I’ve experienced both) or experienced some type of harassment because of assumed ethnicity or legal status, you will not fully understand the fear and humiliation that comes with being treated in such a manner.

    BLW: I applaud you and thank you for taking on such a sensitive and often times sensitive subject.

  7. says

    As you know BLW, we live in AZ. When the recent bill was passed, my husband and I joked that we had to keep our “papers” with us. This, despite, the fact that I was born in the United States and my husband became a citizen over twenty years ago. Immigration is a complicated, delicate issue. I’m not certain the legislation is accomplishing really anything other than building a strong anti-minority sentiment.

    Thanks for raising this issue Wolf.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      And thank you for your remarks, Rudri. When it comes to these issues we debate from such a distance (or worse, ignore), I think it really helps to put a face on the problem. That face may be a friend or a relative. Or it may be us.

  8. Timmy says

    Good discussion. Immigration may be a concept that doesn’t work for us in the globalized economy. Do nation states even have relevance in the modern world? And what are the purposes of borders? Are they critical to the integrity of nationhood? Or are they just convenient barriers to social justice?

    At any rate, I think you have attracted a uniquely sophisticated group of followers here, BLW, and we need to hear more from you on topics like this. You (we?) are living out our country’s institutionalized social injustice and you can write in such meaningful ways.

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