Is Voter Suppression Behind Arizona’s Anti-Illegal Immigration Law?

Greg Palast in a guard tower looking out on Joe Arpaio's jail in Maricopa County, Arizona. Photo: Greg Palast/Truthout (CC)

Greg Palast in a guard tower looking out on Joe Arpaio's jail in Maricopa County, Arizona. Photo: Greg Palast/Truthout (CC)

BBC journalist Greg Palast has written a new article for TruthOut suggesting that perhaps the real reason for the insane-o “Papieren, bitte” (that’s “Papers, please” to you non-Nazis) law in Arizona is not actually about illegal immigration, so much as it is about voter suppression of LEGAL Hispanic residents.

If past trends in that state are any indicator, he may not be far off the mark. He writes:

What moved GOP Governor Jan Brewer to sign the Soviet-style show-me-your-papers law is the exploding number of legal Hispanics, US citizens all, who are daring to vote — and daring to vote Democratic by more than two-to-one. Unless this demographic locomotive is halted, Arizona Republicans know their party will soon be electoral toast. Or, if you like, tortillas.

In 2008, working for Rolling Stone with civil rights attorney Bobby Kennedy, our team flew to Arizona to investigate what smelled like an electoral pogrom against Chicano voters … directed by one Jan Brewer.

Brewer, then Secretary of State, had organized a racially loaded purge of the voter rolls that would have made Katherine Harris blush. Beginning after the 2004 election, under Brewer’s command, no less than 100,000 voters, overwhelmingly Hispanics, were blocked from registering to vote. In 2005, the first year of the Great Brown-Out, one in three Phoenix residents found their registration applications rejected.

That statistic caught my attention. Voting or registering to vote if you’re not a citizen is a felony, a big-time jail-time crime. And arresting such criminal voters is easy: after all, they give their names and addresses.

So I asked Brewer’s office, had she busted a single one of these thousands of allegedly illegal voters? Did she turn over even one name to the feds for prosecution?

No, not one.

Which raises the question: were these disenfranchised voters the criminal, non-citizens Brewer tagged them, or just not-quite-white voters given the José Crow treatment, entrapped in document-chase trickery?

The answer was provided by a federal prosecutor who was sent on a crazy hunt all over the Western mesas looking for these illegal voters. “We took over 100 complaints, we investigated for almost 2 years, I didn’t find one prosecutable voter fraud case.”

This prosecutor, David Iglesias, is a prosecutor no more. When he refused to fabricate charges of illegal voting among immigrants, his firing was personally ordered by the President of the United States, George W. Bush, under orders from his boss, Karl Rove.

[More at TruthOut]

In 2004 alone there were 3.7 million people under the age of 30 who registered as new Democrats, whereas only 1.2 million new voters registered as Republicans. This trend does not speak well of the GOP’s future, so it is reasonable to ask, what is the real motivator behind this new law? Why would a bunch of corporatists, who frankly PROFIT off of having what amounts to a cheap labor force at their disposal, care whether illegals walk our streets or not?

There clearly is racism at play here, but the only way political party hacks like the Governor of Arizona get behind anything, is if it keeps them in power. They don’t really CARE what the excuse is.

Palast has been keeping a good eye on this for some time, and he noted as far back as 2004 that there were weird going’s on with respect to not just brown people’s votes in Arizona, but with the red man’s as well in places like New Mexico.

You can read about that in his article at TomPaine.com:

“If the vote is stolen here, it will be stolen in Rio Arriba County,” a New Mexico politician told me. That’s a reasoned surmise: in 2000, one in 10 votes simply weren’t counted—chucked out, erased, discarded. In the voting biz, the technical term for these vanishing votes is “spoilage.” Citizens cast ballots, but the machines don’t notice. In one Rio Arriba precinct in the last go-’round, not one single vote was cast for president—or, at least, none showed up on the machines.

Not everyone’s vote spoils equally. Rio Arriba is 73 percent Hispanic. I asked nationally recognized vote statistician Dr. Philip Klinkner of Hamilton College to run a “regression” analysis of the Hispanic ballot spoilage in the Enchanted State. He calculated that a brown voter is 500 percent more likely to have their vote spoiled than a white voter. And It’s worse for Native Americans. Vote spoilage is epidemic near Indian reservations.

Indeed, it’s a bit of a long-term trend. Vote dilution/spoilage has been an ongoing struggle on the reservations. Back in the 1980′s Republican state lawmakers even attempted to create an all-Indian county through redistricting, a proposal one state senator called the “Arizona Apartheid Act.”

Back in 2004, Republicans put a referendum on the ballot called the “Protect Arizona Now” measure (Proposition 200), which would have done several things, including requiring proof of citizenship for anyone registering to vote – in other words, have police standing out in front of polling places intimidating brown-skinned Arizona citizens. Indeed the state was absolutely flooded with GOP-controlled astroturf organizations (like the Southwest Voter Registration Project, New American Freedom Summer, Truth in Action, and Moving America Forward) pushing such measures. Truth in Action even sent thugs in black t-shirts with “U.S. Constitutional Enforcement” written on the back and the image of a badge on the front to polling places to “monitor” things.

So to me at least, I think we need to ask broader questions about what is really behind this anti-illegal immigration law. Illegal immigration is a huge problem, no one’s denying that, but I think we would do well to think critically and ask ourselves just who is exploiting that fact, and for what reasons?

, , , ,

  • http://ninure.tk Ninure

    Makes sense to me…

    Why anger millions of Hispanic voters, unless you have plans to suppress their votes?

  • voxmagi

    Well…as most recall, more-ID laws were rejected nationwide because there was no money provided to implement them for the poor. The DNC are scum, but they know where their bread is buttered. The GOP couldnt get that crap passed anywhere else…except where its only applied to brown people.

    And the funny part is, like I said before, Mexico and the GOP are a match made in heaven…patriarchal, success-obsessed cultures with deep religious beliefs, stances against women's rights, gay rights and pretty much every advancement of the 20th century…but the GOP spends all its time spitting epithets at Hispanics…so they lose out on votes that even Reagan and Bush Sr. used to be able to pull in for an extra couple of percent in November.

    Idiots.

  • Darfur Deng

    I have seen and heard some pretty outrageous claims concerning this US Law, but this is the most imbecilic, narrow minded, and bigoted one of all.

    Pseudo Journalist Racist Bigots like Greg Palast need to address the Racist Bigotry that runs rampant in the UK, which many deem as the most Racist Nation in history. He would be better suited to go home and bash the Irish as usual. Of course Mr Palast will see Racism every where he looks, that is how Racist view the world.

    “Those who seek to truly know themselves or those around them need merely follow this rule, a person will first see in others those things most prevalent in themselves, the good man will see their good, the honorable will see their honor, while the bigot will see their bigotry, and the Racist will see nothing but Racism in all but themselves, for they are the most venomous of all forms of Evil every unleashed upon humanity….. Racist are the easiest servants of Evil to find, for Racism cannot comprehend itself from with-in. It must always reflect itself upon another by calling forth the Evil by its name, a Racist will always tell you what they are by name ” – VICAAP International – OK Hicks –

    • Andrew

      And what was the first thing you saw in Greg Palast?

      • Darfur Deng

        It was not the first thing I sought in Mr. Palast. I sought the honor in his words, and found none. I sought the truth in his written word, and found even less. Then I sought the wisdom of his words, and found a bigoted fool. The rule applies to the first thing one seeks in others, it does not require one to ignore all others.

        Those who choose to slander others must first seek the knowledge of fact, not the simplicity of ignorance. However, to slander others with unsubstantiated drivel; violates the most profound of journalistic principles. If Mr. Palast did not present himself as such, a response would not have been needed. If he had performed the most basic aspect of journalism, he would have vetted his remarks thoroughly.

        On the other-hand, when a journalist that uses his profession to perpetuate @ propagate the issue of Racism, becomes nothing more than a merchant of the most dangerous evil one can fear to witness. Racism gleans little hatred from its deeds for hatred is an emotion of the living, not one of the dead.

        It is clear that Mr. Palast has never experienced such a vile form of evil, nor has he stood upon its path of horrific destruction, as so many of us can stand witness to its path in Rwanda, Southern Sudan, the Congo, and Darfur.

        If Mr. Palast had ever witnessed but one of the horrors of which he writes, he would tremble with fear when writing in its name, for fear that he might invoke it. Any who have truly witnessed its carnage, would endeavor with the effort of a hundred fold to bury it, rather than seeking to dig it up. This is what I felt from his words, the chill that always accompanies the Evil of Racism, when written by the hand of a fool.

        What many perceive to be Racism is merely that of prejudice. The only difference between them is the lack of bodies, which pure racism demands.

        • Andrew

          I see. So you sought honor, truth, and wisdom in Palast, because you yourself are an exemplar of all those things? And that’s how you know Palast is a liar who looked for racism in a law which was merely prejudiced?

          That’s a lot of weight to put on the difference between your personal (not in the dictionary) definitions of the words.

          Well if racism demands bodies, and you call Palast a racist, then tell us who he murdered, or helped murder, or had murdered. And substantiate it. You may also wish to substantiate your accusations of him doing no research, lying, and never having witnessed racism. Otherwise, by your own definition, you’ve slandered him and failed to tremble and bury the issue, perpetuating racism like the ignorant.

          You haven’t disproved a single thing he’s written.

  • Andrew

    And what was the first thing you saw in Greg Palast?

  • Darfur Deng

    It was not the first thing I sought in Mr. Palast. I sought the honor in his words, and found none. I sought the truth in his written word, and found even less. Then I sought the wisdom of his words, and found a bigoted fool. The rule applies to the first thing one seeks in others, it does not require one to ignore all others.

    Those who choose to slander others must first seek the knowledge of fact, not the simplicity of ignorance. However, to slander others with unsubstantiated drivel; violates the most profound of journalistic principles. If Mr. Palast did not present himself as such, a response would not have been needed. If he had performed the most basic aspect of journalism, he would have vetted his remarks thoroughly.

    On the other-hand, when a journalist that uses his profession to perpetuate @ propagate the issue of Racism, becomes nothing more than a merchant of the most dangerous evil one can fear to witness. Racism gleans little hatred from its deeds for hatred is an emotion of the living, not one of the dead.

    It is clear that Mr. Palast has never experienced such a vile form of evil, nor has he stood upon its path of horrific destruction, as so many of us can stand witness to its path in Rwanda, Southern Sudan, the Congo, and Darfur.

    If Mr. Palast had ever witnessed but one of the horrors of which he writes, he would tremble with fear when writing in its name, for fear that he might invoke it. Any who have truly witnessed its carnage, would endeavor with the effort of a hundred fold to bury it, rather than seeking to dig it up. This is what I felt from his words, the chill that always accompanies the Evil of Racism, when written by the hand of a fool.

    What many perceive to be Racism is merely that of prejudice. The only difference between them is the lack of bodies, which pure racism demands.

  • Andrew

    I see. So you sought honor, truth, and wisdom in Palast, because you yourself are an exemplar of all those things? And that’s how you know Palast is a liar who looked for racism in a law which was merely prejudiced?

    That’s a lot of weight to put on the difference between your personal (not in the dictionary) definitions of the words.

    Well if racism demands bodies, and you call Palast a racist, then tell us who he murdered, or helped murder, or had murdered. And substantiate it. You may also wish to substantiate your accusations of him doing no research, lying, and never having witnessed racism. Otherwise, by your own definition, you’ve slandered him and failed to tremble and bury the issue, perpetuating racism like the ignorant.

    You haven’t disproved a single thing he’s written.

21