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“Show me your papers!” is a line heard in nearly every movie ever made about Nazi Germany. The storm trooper stops an unsuspecting passerby and demands to see proof of citizenship. And it is a line that will be heard throughout Arizona.
Last week Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law a bill that makes it a crime if a person cannot show proof of citizenship or legal status. The law targets the nearly half-million illegal immigrants who have crossed the border from Mexico into Arizona.
That this law is popular in Arizona and throughout the country is no surprise. America came to the brink of a second Great Depression and many states like California remain nearly bankrupt. When people get scared, they look for someone to blame. Immigrants have become an easy target.
Could it happen here? Hopefully not.
Queens is the most diverse county in the country. It is home to millions of immigrants, new Americans who have come to this country in the hope of building a new life. And some are here illegally.
But immigrants are not the cause of the economic crisis. Nor are they to be blamed for any increase in crime. It should be noted that crime rates in the city fell to record levels and the city prospered even while the number of immigrants continued to rise.
We are repulsed by the thought of an officer demanding to see proof of citizenship from a person walking down the street solely because that person looks like he or she might be an immigrant. We do not see how this can be done without resorting to profiling.
There are signs intolerance is growing in Queens. Some residents in western Queens are angry about Latino men who stand on a roadside near a playground waiting to get picked up as day laborers. These men may be illegal immigrants who cannot get an on-the-books job. But they are also men who are willing to wait for hours for the chance to do a day’s work for a little cash to send back to their families.
The Arizona law should be offensive to all Americans, especially New Yorkers who understand the role immigrants have played in this city. Tough times cannot become an excuse to force officers to engage in activities better left to fascist states.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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