While the details of this single encounter are hazy, this set of government behaviors defines the nature of immigration enforcement, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has a well-known habit of deporting United States citizens. (President Obama is outraged by the Arizona law, but someone might mention to the president that ICE works for him and does the same things every single day. But whatever -- theater is theater.)
In every regard, the immigration enforcement law signed by the governor of Arizona this month creates a list of government practices that have long been decried on the political right as well as on the left. It makes citizens subject to the demand to produce federal papers for armed agents of the state, allows for warrantless arrests on thin suspicion, and makes local police into agents of the central government. And some on the right are making exactly this case: William Norman Grigg, a former staff editor at the John Birch Society, wrote a few days ago that the new law would have the effect of"turning Arizona into an authentic police state."
Meanwhile, the Arizona Tea Party...
...strongly supports the law, announcing proudly that it's among those"leading the fight for defending our borders." So they're for limited government, and they're for being forced to show your birth certificate and Social Security card to the federalized local police. Got it.
The evidence is piling up for a view of the Tea Party as a historically familiar advocate of white man's liberty, heirs to a revolution that fought abolitionism and British tyranny at the same time. Add their apparently unwavering support for the violence of empire, and I'm increasingly inclined to regard the Tea Party as the Paxton Boys plus time. I'm reluctant to reach that conclusion, but it's hard to avoid. We need a political movement that has the discipline and the desire to fight against the rapid growth and increasing concentration of political and economic power, but this isn't it. I would love to be proven wrong. Note that this conclusion still doesn't fit the prevailing media narrative, which raises fears about anti-government violence growing from the Tea Party movement. The proper fear -- anyway, the proper thing to notice in the world of reality -- is that the Tea Party is fiercely supportive of government violence.
Still, another recent political development looks more promising. In a recent discussion here, commenters expressed concern over promises from the Oath Keepers, a group of police and military officials, to withhold their obedience if ordered to violate the constitutional rights of citizens.
But the most inspiring response to the new law in Arizona is precisely that some local law enforcement officials are refusing to enforce it (and suing to overturn it). I can't tell yet if any Oath Keepers are among that group of Arizona cops, but I know this: the disobedience of the state's agents is the most reliable check on state brutality. Government isn't a magic box; it's a group of human beings who need to get other human beings to enact their declarations.
If you're horrified by the Oath Keepers, one question: are you horrified this week by the announcement from the Pima County sheriff that he won't enforce Arizona's immigration enforcement law?