The best outcome, though unintended, of the harsh new immigration bill passed by the Arizona legislature last month might be to rally Latinos in support of comprehensive immigration reform.
The law that Gov. Jan Brewer signed in April goes into effect in 90 days. It requires police and sheriffs to check the immigration status of individuals they reasonably deem suspicious, demand proof of citizenship (a valid driver’s license, passport or green card, for example) and make arrests if proof is lacking. It allows citizens to file lawsuits for lax enforcement but prohibits citizens from creating sanctuaries to limit the reach of the law. Latinos are not explicitly mentioned, but they make up 30 percent of Arizona’s population and are by far its largest immigrant group. It is estimated that some 450,000 illegal immigrants live in the state.
The new law could be short-lived. Already President Obama has instructed the U.S. Department of Justice to scrutinize it for violations regarding racial profiling and civil rights. Others, including the mayor of Phoenix, Phil Gordon, are challenging its constitutionality in the courts. Clarence Dupnik, sheriff of Pima County, Ariz., called the law racist and said he would not enforce it.
Meanwhile, the law’s intrusive overreach may give Latino activists the impetus they need to build their organizations. All Hispanics in Arizona, most of whom are U.S. citizens, will be subject to police suspicion, pullovers and carding. They too will always have to carry identification as a precaution. That could bring native-born Latinos into common cause with the foreign-born—both legal and illegal.
Activist Latino voters in Arizona could join Latinos in other states to lead the debate not merely to repeal this law, but to pass federal immigration reform. A strong national Latino electorate could press Congress to act—if not this year, then next.
Damas de Blanco
The Damas de Blanco, Ladies in White, continue processing with gladiolas after Sunday Mass in Havana in peaceful protest against the incarceration of relatives during the so-called Black Spring in mid-March 2003. Cuban state security agents rounded up human rights activists, journalists and other free-speech advocates. Seventy-five received sentences of up to 28 years. Over 50 remain imprisoned.
In recognition of their peaceful protest, in 2005 the Damas received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, but the Cuban government barred the group’s leaders from attending the award ceremony in France. This past March, to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the arrests, the Damas processed not only on Sundays, but also on each of the seven days of that week, chanting, “Libertad! Libertad!” Cuban police again harassed and beat several, as a shrill mob cried, “Fidel! Fidel!” One of the Damas, Reyna Tamayo, is the mother of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a 42-year-old human rights activist. After a hunger strike to demand the release of those still held, he died in prison in February. This spring his mother received especially rough treatment at the hands of the police. “They dragged me, they beat me. I am all bruised,” she said afterward.
Cuba has made huge strides in literacy and medical care in the past half-century. The ongoing repression of dissent and denial of such basic human rights as freedom of speech, however, remain a blot on its achievements. Hopes that Raul Castro might effect needed changes have not been realized, and the brothers Castro continue their repressive rule.
Alternative Energy Horizons
Even as a toxic tide from the blowout of a British Petroleum oil rig drifted closer to Gulf states’ beaches, fisheries and fragile marsh ecosystems, official approval was finally granted for what will eventually become the nation’s first off-shore wind farm. Cape Wind will be a complex of 130 turbines in the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Challenged by nature preservationists, the proposal had been in limbo for nine years.
When completed, the project will generate 468 megawatts of electricity, about the output of a medium-sized coal-fired plant and enough to power 200,000 Massachusetts homes. The reduction of carbon dioxide emissions promised by the grid represents the equivalent of taking 175,000 cars off the road. Such tapping of Atlantic winds may one day prove an important part of an overall national strategy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Similar wind farms are planned for other locations along the East Coast and on the Great Lakes. Europe has been building such off-shore, clean-energy powerhouses for 20 years now, and China is already constructing its first off Shanghai.
The aesthetic harm of such energy innovation is real, but the loss of a beautiful view pales in comparison to the threat to human life and ecosystems now posed by our current reliance on fossil fuel. To paraphrase one environmentalist: No one will ever have to clean up after a nasty wind spill.