Friday, August 26, 2011

U.S. Citizens -- Not the Undocumented immigrants (Falsely) Charged by Senator McCain -- Charged with Arizona Wildfire


Once a Republican champion of comprehensive immigration reform, Senator John McCain provoked controversy earler this summer when, as reported on ImmigrationProf, he blamed the devastating wildfire (known as the Wallow Fire) in Arizona on undocumented immigrants. Upon visiting Tucson for the Arizona State Bar Convention in June, an otherwise pleasant and reasonable cab driver out of the blue told me unequivocally the very same thing. However, several Arizonans who I asked said there was no evidence of the claim that undocumented immigrants were responsible for the fire.

Well the truth has come out but may not get as much press as Senator McCain’s scapegoating of undocumented immigrants did. By coincidence, on a layover in Sky Harbor International airport in Phoenix while en route to a civil rights conference at the University of Georgia law school (where I will talk about the civil right implications of state immigration laws like Arizona’s S.B. 1070 and Georgia House Bill 87, see Download Immig - Johnson[1]), I picked up an Arizona Republic and read that the U.S. government had charged two experienced Arizona campers – by all appearances U.S. citizens at birth -- on minor charges for leaving a fire unattended in a national park. The campfire started a blaze that caused incredible devastation. The Republic, however, did not mention that Senator McCain had blamed “illegals” for the tragic events – and that he was dead wrong to do so.

Senator John McCain should have known better. He is a national leader – and, although it now seems like a distant memory with his Vice Presidential running mate SarahGoing RoguePalin now getting incredible amounts of media attention, was the GOP nominee for President in 2008. At least at one time, many people listened to John McCain and respected him. A courageous Vietnam vet and POW survivor, I once thought that he was honorable.

While I might give a pass to the Arizona cab driver, I will not give one to Senator McCain. First of all, what good did it do to blame undocumented immigrants for the fire -- even if they had been responsible, which they were not? Blaming the “illegals” allowed Senator McCain to make some political hay. His statement undoubtedly fired up the anti-immigrant base. But Arizona sure didn’t need any more stirring of the anti-immigrant pot. It has has seen an overheated debate over S.B. 1070 and immigration generally for many years. Long a subject of ImmigrationProf bloggings, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe (“America’s Toughest Sheriff”) Arpaio vows to make law enforcement war on undocumented immigrants and their supporters (politicians included) whenever he gets a chance and, as characterized by some, “terrorizes” Latinos and immigrants. And, given the tragic shootings of a member of U.S. Comngress and many others by a deranged young man in Tuscon, why do we need any more hatred in the air?

By blaming undocumented immigrants for the wildfire with no basis in fact, Senator McCain played off hatred of undocumented immigrants among certain segments of the Arizona public and sought to build political support for a pro-enforcement immigration agenda (and against the dreaded “amnesty” and “comprehensive immigration reform”), an agenda that he learned to embrace in successfully seeking relection. His words bred more hatred for a discrete and insular minority that, as President Bush said, lives – and works -- in the “shadows” of American life.

Thank you Senator McCain for helping us to have a more civil and respectful dialogue on immigration. NOT!

I think that we all have had enough from Senator John McCain and the “Straight Talk Express.” Nowadays, Senator McCain shoots from the hip for political advantage, tearing up whatever is in front of him. His approach on immigration is not all that different from Lucas McCain from the vintage television show “The Rifleman.” I liked the show but will pass on the McCain remake.



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