by Max Brantley
Can the Senate redeem itself in the closing hours of the legislative session? One way would be to beat, or at least ignore, HB 2778 2779 by Rep. Jon Woods of Springdale, an anti-Hispanic piece of legislative demagoguery that has cleared the House despite some strong opposition.
"Hispanic" doesn't appear in the bill, but be sure that brown immigrants are the motivating force for the bill to make a crime of harboring illegal aliens. Nobody will be turning in landlords for renting to people with thick Irish brogues.
The bill will invite racial profiling. It puts the state into the immigration enforcement business, which is the federal government's responsibility. It's useless for enforcement. How do you, or anyone, tell an illegal? How do you prove "knowing" harboring? Will landlords, people who shelter the homeless, Good Samaritans who help the sick and injured and people who pick up hitchhikers be required to demand photo ID and green cards before lending shelter or comfort to people who speak a foreign tongue and seem at sea in a strange land? Should that "foreignness" not be sufficient ground to suspect illegal status? You can bet Jon Woods knows one when he sees one.
The meanness of the backers was on display in the person of Rep. Billy Gaskill of Paragould, who replied to Rep. Will Bond's sound legal critique by saying, "I swear, if this boy had a skirt on I’d have called him Rita Sklar[the ACLU's leader].” He added, “Did I hear it right, that you’re term-limited out ? Well there’s a bright spot now.”
Give Gaskill a brain and heart and he'd be a reasonable facsimile of a human being.
Meanwhile, here's a roll call with 37 legislators of sound judgment, who voted against or didn't vote for this bill. (CORRECTION: Earlier today, I linked the wrong roll call, on the motion to send the bill back to committee. There were some small changes in the two votes.)
Can the Senate save us from an egregiously bad piece of legislation? It's sad that there's not much of an effective Hispanic lobby at the legislature yet. The ACLU carries a great deal of the weight. But that will change. In Springdale, nearly half the public school children are Hispanic. Some day they will be voting. They won't be voting for the likes of Jon Woods. See Orange County, California, for how things turn.