A Kinder, Gentler Form of Ethnic Cleansing

One hundred thousand Latinos have fled Arizona in the three months since the passage of SB1070. This represents a huge demographic shift in the state, and the reasons behind it could be explained as a kinder, gentler form of ethnic cleansing.

Ethic cleansing: the planned deliberate removal from a specific territory, persons of a particular ethnic group, by force or intimidation, in order to render that area ethnically homogeneous.
– The United Nations Commission of Experts

According to the United States Census Bureau, Arizona has a Latino population of 1.9 million which is 30 percent of the state. In addition, there were an estimated 460,000 undocumented Latino migrants in the state as of April 2010.

As reported by myself from Phoenix at the time, there was a palpable tension in the air, a charged atmosphere between those who advocated comprehensive immigration reform and those who advocated a harsh crackdown. It appeared as if one stupid spark from either side could have set the whole state ablaze.

In the midst of this polarized atmosphere, the resurgent ultra-conservative base in the Tea Parties, backed up by openly vocal White Supremacists in the state hatched the infamous Arizona Anti-Immigration Law, also known as SB1070. The bill itself was introduced by State Senator Russell Pearce, who has called the Holocaust a “tale” and has ties to J. T. Ready, a Minuteman and nativist linked to the American National Socialist Movement. Further, the bill itself was written by Kris Kobach, a birther who was an attorney for the legal arm of the pseudo-racist organization “FAIR”, and is the Secretary of State elect from Kansas.

SB1070 is an unfunded mandate that has a few central points. It
-Outlaws the hiring of day laborers off the street
-Prohibits anyone from transporting an undocumented migrant
-Forces police to check the residency status of people they suspect are illegally in the country

This last provision is key here, and the source of the controversy that has surrounded the bill. Beyond superceding federal immigration laws, this law would mandate charging anyone without their papers with trespassing, even if it takes place on private property. What criteria would law enforcement officials be using to judge who looks like they are in the country illegally? They would either have to use racial profiling or have to question everyone, either of which would violate the 4th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which reads:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

SB1070 is likely to be unconstitutional, as was determined by courts around the country when local municipalities have attempted to pass similar measures.

Regardless of the constitutionality or source of the Arizona Anti-Immigration Law, the effect has been the same: to generate fear and intimidation towards the majority of the Hispanic community, much in the way the staunchly militaristic policies of Sheriff Joe Arpaio have done.

Think Progress reports that, “a new study from BBVA Bancomer Research, using data collected by the U.S. Current Population Survey, finds that as many as 100,000 Latinos may have left the state in the time period between when the law was enacted and October of this year.”

Let me repeat: 100,000 Latinos have left Arizona between July 29th and October 2010, a span of only 3 months.

Over 23,000 Mexican immigrants returned to Mexico around this time frame. Where the others have gone is only speculation at this point, but the point is: they are gone.

Ethnic cleansing is something that has occurred various times over history. Although it is recently being more globally recognized and condemned it is in no way a new concept. The actual term “Ethnic Cleansing” started being widely used in the 1990’s. One of the main causes of Ethnic Cleansing over history is nationalism. Nationalistic feelings spark ideas in people to want to “clean” or “purify” the area that they are living in from “aliens” or other undesired people. Over the years there has been a few different forms of Ethnic Cleansing.

There has been a consistent and pervasive pattern at play here that has contributed to this effect, as reflected by hateful ultra-conservative rhetoric towards these undocumented migrants, painting a very clear picture. Many on the extreme right seem to rationalize their hatred with various rationales (most of which are either not true or exaggerations), but the intent is clear: to dehumanize those who are in the country without proper documentation in order to justify a brutal crackdown. Even the term “illegal alien” does this, and it is no surprise to hear many on the extreme right use the term “rats” or “invasion.”

That being said, the deliberate clearing of Latinos from Arizona has not been done with many of the most brutal methods seen in other parts of the world. There are no rape camps like in Bosnia. There are not machete wielding mobs killing indiscriminately like in Rwanda. There are no security forces evicting people from their homes on the scale that took place in Kosovo (where 300,000 people were chased out in one week). This is a kinder, gentler form of ethnic cleansing.

Of course with the internal military policing that is being pushed for, the security apparatus could be in place in America to conduct large-scale deportations, should the situation escalate. Remember that in Kosovo there were coordinated attacks by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) on security, political, and civilian targets in what was termed terrorism by the State Department. Imagine how quickly the reprisals could escalate if police stations began to be overrun, if helicopters began to get shot down, or if crowds in coffee shops began to get massacred.

The forced expulsions from the US are being targeted predominantly at undocumented Latinos. Regardless of the legality of their presence, they are human beings with inalienable human rights. They are protected by the Constitution of the United States of America. If this was happening in the former Yugoslavia, there is no doubt that the Pentagon would be calling it ethnic cleansing.



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