Sanctuary Cities, Maricopa’s county sheriff, and hospitality

For the past two years, I’ve had my students read Derrida’s essay On Cosmopolitanism in learning about multi-cultural cities, set along with assorted material from immigration opponents on “sanctuary cities.”

My planning students, for the most part, are good liberals, and tend to side with Derrida, but are shocked when they discover his argument does not allow for permanence; Derrida grants rights to sanctuary, but he was not prepared to extend rights to permanent residency. You would think that such a position would have made him more popular with those on the political right, but no.

I’m thinking about these issues this morning as I read through the Yahoo news story about the Maricopa County sheriff’s legal troubles in Federal court. Beyond his wild-west appeals to conservatives, the guy is having documents shredded. There’s a little hint: if you have to have destroy evidence, you’re probably not a worthy custodian of due process or the rule of law.

Every year, I’m consistently surprised that so few of my students develop consequentialist arguments against the criticisms of sanctuary cities, and Maricopa County’s sheriff rather embodies the consequentialist argument. You can, indeed, make chasing down immigrants who are here illegally your priority, but there are opportunity costs of your department’s staff time. For places like Los Angeles or New York, our police forces would do nothing else if catching immigrants were the priority–because the only practical way to do that is to conduct yourself the way Arpaio appears to have done: start checking everybody who looks brown to you. Even if you believe strongly that those who have entered the US illegally have committed a crime and are a threat to communitarian US identity and values, that’s a pretty stark deviation from constitutional practice.

But to the consequentialist point: to be so active in places like Los Angeles or New York would leave the police time to do little else. I already live in a world where somebody breaking in had better have a gun if I want the police to care and where calling 911 means you are going to be put on hold, and you’re going to stay on hold a lot longer than anybody who might have occasion to call 911 wants to be on hold. Forget about ever seeing a policeman over things like bike theft or property damage like graffiti. They just don’t have the time or the staff.

There are some small cities on Bill O’Reilly’s list of sanctuary cities, but not that many, and some that look small, like Cicero, IL, are part of much bigger regions like Chicago.

So the question becomes why, exactly, O’Reilly and some conservatives think that municipal police forces even have the wherewithal to prevent cities becoming sanctuary cities even if they wanted to, or whether people like O’Reilly simply make these assertions about cities for political gain and to appeal to conservative rural constituencies, who may view places like LA and New York as antithetical to American identity and values in the first place.

Living in North Mexico City and liking it

Last night we went to Dodgers stadium to watch the Dodgers, who lost to Atlanta. Now my friend Casey is a fan of the Braves, having grown up in Atlanta and all, and he is by far one of the most genial, gracious, and decent men I have ever met. However, this woman behind us was a Braves fan, and she was obnoxious. Fine, cheer on your team, but not if God gave you a voice that sounds like a constipated muppet. She was entertaining visitors from out of town, so she was explaining her views on living in Los Angeles. At one point, she said in a loud voice, “LA is ****hole. I can’t imagine staying here because it’s just so…Mexican.”

Hellloooooooo racism!

Now there are million things that I would change about Los Angeles. The rats. The air. The hockey team. We need Trader Joe’s south of the 10 and east of the Harbor. But I wouldn’t change a thing about the people who live here. Not a thing. If I could move wealth around, I would, because I have always been a pinko, but Los Angeles is real cosmopolitanism. We fail at it again and again, but it’s not like we’re a metro area with a few little safe ethnic enclaves mixed in a reassuring way so we can give lip service to cosmopolitanism. It’s a place where people of color outnumber white people but where power is still inverted. LA burns, regularly, both physically and ideologically, and because it burns it requires us to take a hard look at ourselves and how we treat each other. It is a significant place because of these realities.

I, for one, like having my dogs blessed by priests with all my Mexican, south, and central American neighbors and their dogs, some dressed in little sombreros. I like the beautiful girls clacking up Broadway in their heels, all of whom look like they just got done filming something for Univision. I like the handsome old gentlemen in cowboy hats and ostrich-skin cowboy boots who try, with courtly grace, to give me their seat on the subway. I like the little old ladies that sell coconuts and tamales on the street corners.

I can only hope that she will, in fact, go away and grace somewhere else with her retch-inspiring presence. I generally don’t tell people how wonderful Los Angeles/North Mexico City is because I’d rather that people just stay away and indulge whatever biases they have based on whatever Mike Davis book they’ve skimmed or tv show they watch. There are enough people here already; I’m never going to be able to afford a house as it is, and the water situation–egads. But you shouldn’t stay away because it is “too Mexican.” That’s one of the best things about this place, along with it being “too Black” and “too Thai” and “too Korean” and “too Ethiopian” and “too Indian” and “too gay.” Suckitup if you don’t like the Other because the Other is in your face here–and should be.

Latin American and Caribbean players have completely transformed baseball in a magnificent way, btw, and it irks me that she can enjoy that aspect of heterogeniety without recognizing it. Her $#@#! team wouldn’t have won last night without a surprise shot from the slumping Diory Hernandez, brilliant relief from Rafeal Soriano, and good calls from Bobby Cox who had the sense not to give Manny Ramirez a chance to end his slump off his ace reliever (whom Manny has hit reasonably well in the past).