Perhaps the most absurd, but sadly predictable, attack on SB 1070 came several days ago in an op-ed published by Examiner.com-the city and the name of the author are unimportant-in which the new law was described as an attempt at “ethnic cleansing.” The loaded phrase is, no doubt, intended to conjure images of Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq, and other benighted locales where the drive for ethnic purity drove a nation or tribe to exterminate its political/religious rivals in a systematically brutal fashion.
The charge is reminiscent of accusations made by skeptics of Bill Clinton’s decision to relocate his post-presidential office to the nexus of Harlem. Whether or not that move proved beneficial to the broader Harlem community is not as important as the fact that the people who claimed it would lead to untrammeled gentrification, to the point where African-Americans would become a distinct minority in what for most of the 20th century had been an historically black neighborhood, were manifestly wrong in their timorous predictions.
But the assertion that former President Clinton opening an office in Harlem would lead to mass black flight wasn’t intended to be scrutinized for its plausibility. It was meant create a hysteria in which the actual costs and benefits of such a movie would be completely disregarded in a welter of emotion. I think much the same can be said of the patently absurd claims being thrown about in the wake of SB 1070’s passage.
Arizona is not going to be “ethnically cleansed” of Hispanics if people living here illegally abruptly leave the state. Many of the people who support this law are, in fact, Hispanics who don’t want to see the lawlessness that currently prevails in Mexico to become the norm in cities like Tucson, Phoenix and Flagstaff. They’re not going to relocate simply because of a law that does not impact them in any significant way. The only people being targeted in the wake of this new law’s passage, and who might be prompted to leave the state, are those who are not in this country legally. But this will not irrevocably alter the demographic balance of the state, nor will it prompt Latinos who are living here legally to avoid relocating to the state, which among many advantages can now offer prospective residents the promise of increased pubic safety, and more plentiful job opportunities.
The only thing SB 1070 cleanses is the stench of complacency that had governed the administration of immigration law prior to the actions of the Arizona state legislature and governor of the state.