What do Arizona and France have in common? Is it their geographic size? Nope. France is a little more than twice the size of Arizona at roughly 260,000 square miles. Is it a viticulture that supplies the world with fine wines? Definitely, Non! Arizona does have a small wine industry but it is no rival to that of France.
Then, what is it?
While the names of both their capitals do begin with the letter "P", Arizona and France have revealed that they have much more in common - intolerant haters making law. Haters abound, and have never met a border they couldn't cross, which is why kindred spirits are currently peddling intolerance and Haterism in France and Arizona.
Intolerance, fear, and general ignorance must not be underestimated as central forces driving both the French government's push to outlaw the wearing of burqas in public, and Arizona's new state immigration law (SB 1070) requiring state law enforcement officers to investigate an individual's immigration status if they reasonably suspect that the person is in the country illegally. When xenophobia and willful ignorance combine forces they produce Haterism.
Speaking at the signing ceremony for Arizona's new law, Governor Janice Brewer was right when she said, "decades of federal inaction and misguided policy" concerning immigration have created a "dangerous and unacceptable situation." However, the "dangerous and unacceptable situation" that has been created is the one in which states like Arizona recklessly enact discriminatory legislation and attempt to usurp federal power. State law enforcement agencies along with other state organs will now be required by state law to enforce federal immigration laws.
Arizona's new law does some interesting things. Among them, it creates a private right of action against the state and its organs for failure to fully comply with the law. It also indemnifies law enforcement officers against lawsuits arising out of their enforcement of the law, unless they've acted in bad faith - like if they engaged in racial profiling.
Apparently unaware that the law she just signed will inherently create the conditions for abuses like racial profiling, the Governor said that she will "NOT" tolerate racial profiling in Arizona. To demonstrate her anti-racial profiling bona fides, Gov. Brewer has ordered the creation of a training course to instruct officers how to avoid racial profiling when enforcing the new law. Though, it really doesn't matter if you believe yourself to have been the victim of abusive police practices related to the law's enforcement. This is because the new law basically precludes you from seeking any real relief from state courts! Your best option is just don't be Brown.
Further, the law makes it a criminal misdemeanor (and in certain cases a felony) for a person to fail to carry their immigration documents while on any public or private land in the state. A bit of advice: If you happen to visit Arizona, make sure not to misplace your wallet or have your backpack stolen.
Moreover, it is now a misdemeanor for anyone in an automobile to pick up another person for the purpose of hiring them to do work in a different location. Presumably, this would apply to the following situation: You're driving down the street a few blocks from home, see your teenage neighbor whom you sometimes pay to do work around your yard, you remember that your grass is currently out of control, you pull over to the side of the street and pick up the neighbor, you then drive her home to get her lawnmower so she can mow your yard. Oh, if the teenage neighbor gets in the car, she too has committed a misdemeanor under the new law.
Despite comments to the contrary, it is undeniable that this law specifically targets Hispanic immigrants. In fact, Arizona's entire Hispanic community, roughly 2 million people, will now be under suspicion. The hope appears to be that undocumented immigrants will be so afraid that they will flee from Arizona - likely to another state. This is pure intimidation and does nothing to repair our immigration system. As President Obama said, Arizona's law "undermines basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans."
Similar notions of fairness and tolerance are also under assault across the Atlantic Ocean.
The French government appears ready to move ahead with a law to ban the wearing of burqas and niqabs in public places. Restrictions on religious dress are already in place in France, but the burqa ban would certainly be the most far reaching. Just as the constitutionality of Arizona's new law will be challenged, so will France's ban on burqas.
The French Council of State, which provides legal counsel to the executive and advises on the constitutionality of government actions, said that the burqa ban will likely be challenged both under the French constitution, and in the European Court of Human Rights as violative of the European Convention's protections for conscience and religion. French President Nicolas Sarkozy seems undeterred by the Council of State's findings, and nonetheless plans to move forward with the ban.
French officials have offered several justifications for the burqa ban. Chief among them are, public security, liberating women from oppression, and preserving France's identity as a secular society. In its review of the proposed law, the Council of State significantly undermined the public security justification by saying that,
"Public safety cannot be a basis for a general ban on only the full veil, since no specific inconvenience is associated with it as such. A limited ban on the full veil would be fragile in terms of the principle of non-discrimination, and probably difficult to impose."
They did however find that public security would be implicated under certain circumstances like airport security or the issuance of a photo identification.
As for liberating women from oppression and promoting gender equality... While gender equality is a cause that all nations should zealously pursue, the burqa ban may very well produce the opposite effect. Instead of liberating those women compelled to wear the burqa, the ban may instead effectively confine them to their homes. Without full civic participation, efforts to foster an environment that empowers women to freely make their own choices will fail.
Understandably, France prides itself on having a secular state. This is truly admirable. But, the Council of State also rejected secularism as a justification for the burqa ban, stating that secularism relates only to the relationship between the government's role in providing public services and religion. It is worth noting that secularism can cut both ways. It could also be interpreted to prohibit the government from interfering with religious practices through the imposition of laws that curtail religious freedoms in the same manner as the proposed burqa ban.
A wave of Haterism is enveloping several European nations. Soon, a similar ban on burqas will likely be enacted in Belgium. The Belgian law will impose a fine of up to 25 euros or seven days in jail for wearing a burqa in public. Additionally, late last year, Switzerland passed a constitutional amendment prohibiting the construction of minarets. The Swiss case is arguably the most egregious example of codifying intolerance. At the time the law went into effect, there were only four minarets in the entire country. The message was clear though, "we really don't want you here."
The unfortunate result of Arizona's new law and similar manifestations of intolerance in France, Belgium, and Switzerland will be further alienation and stigmatization of immigrant communities.
Ok, one last fun fact. Both France and Arizona have a Phoenix. For Arizona it is the state capital where xenophobia, animus, and Haterism have infected the executive and a majority of state legislators, retarding their ability to understand the U.S. Constitution. France's Phoenix on the other hand, is an awesome electronic band that comes to town to perform a concert when I am in the middle of final exams.
All this Haterism kinda gets me down a bit. But, If I Ever Feel Better . . .