Friday, October 19, 2007

Targeting Latinos...
and Rednecks

I read LA Parker's story about Juan Martinez the other day, and found myself more or less agreeing with Martinez's sentiments (that the new vehicle registration legislation targets Latinos). It made me crazy a bit, to agree with something that LA Parker wrote, because I'd bet that he agrees with Martinez, too. I haven't been able to stop thinking about LA's article since I read it, and I don't think I'm alone: I know that Martinez's sentiments are getting discussed by at least one local civic association here on the east side.

I am not quite sure that the new vehicle legislation specifically targets Latinos, but given the (sometimes subtle) anti-Latino sentiment by certain non-Latinos in Trenton, I can certainly see why someone of Latino ancestry would be suspicious. I'm suspicious — if not convinced — and I'm not even Latina.

This new "if you live in NJ, get your car inspected and registered in NJ within 60 days or else" law brings up, for me, three specific issues:

First: Pennsylvania is a shitty neighbor to New Jersey.
Second: If you live in NJ, it's a good idea to get your car registered and inspected within two months, and I think that was already a law before Shirley Turner and Stephen Sweeney started talking about it recently, and don't know why we need new laws reiterating old ones, when all we need is simple enforcement.
Third: It DRIVES ME CRAZY to listen to people bitch about immigrants, legal, illegal, Hispanic, southeast Asian or otherwise, because, generally — good try, but — it isn't really about homeland security. It is about racism.

So, first. Pennsylvania sucks, for those of us who are decent citizens living in New Jersey. If PA was located next to Alabama, Pennsylvania would be awesome: they'd sell their guns and fireworks and offer cheap registration to the Alabamans, people who — dare I even think this? — are probably far more responsible with guns and fireworks, and even out-of-state registration than anyone in New Jersey ever could be. Guns and fireworks and illegal registration is just the way in Alabama; there are just too many of us in New Jersey for guns or fireworks or out-of-state registration to be fun here, you know? The bonus would be, every four years, Pennsylvania would still have the numbers to lean toward the democrats; not that it matters THAT much, since we have the electoral college to bungle things up. And not that the dems are a whole lot different than republicans anymore these days anyway. But it always tickles me to see Pennsylvania, so full-up of guns and fireworks and the ability to offer out-of-state residents registration — you know, typically redneck luxuries — turn blue on the maps during key elections. Pennsylvania is an enigma, an enigma that would just be better off located in another part of the country. But since that's not a possibility, maybe we should just erect a giant fence or a wall along our shared border?

Second: I think this speaks for itself. I don't feel like looking it up right now, but I KNOW there was already legislation on the books mandating that new NJ residents get themselves to a NJ Motor Vehicle Agency with haste, or else. It's also worth mentioning that yes, a lot of rednecky people have taken advantage of whatever stupid loopholes there are that allowed them to register their vehicles in PA while living in NJ. Remember, I am a Trenton Johnny-Come-Lately. I do not hail from these parts. I know some rednecks living in NJ who have PA (or sometimes South Carolina) plates, and I'm sure they're all pissed off about the new legislation, too, which is why I have a hard time completely agreeing with Juan Martinez: the new law targets rednecks, too.

Lastly, I am married to an immigrant, an immigrant who is not a US citizen. I know a lot of immigrant-bashing IS motivated by racism, because my immigrant husband speaks English as a first language and is white, and the immigrant-bashers who pass through these parts think nothing about spouting off their anti-immigrant blather to us; they forget that maybe my husband has a lot of the same concerns and motivations and sympathies as other (and sometimes non-anglo) immigrants. Related to this "but if you're white and speak English, and an immigrant, it's okay" sentiment, I knew a Canadian, who was trying a bit of a cultural experiment, and decided to not be legal. And he was extremely successful. He started his own business, and never got bothered by the INS or racists or immigrant-bashers because he was white, spoke English, and well, lived off the grid a bit. It's an oddball case, but I think it's a good illustration of the motivation of the people who claim they're worried about "Homeland Security."

I've always appreciated immigrants, which is probably part of the reason I'm married to one. I respect how extremely difficult the decision is to give up one's home, one's comfort, and come to a new country. It's SCARY. It's even scarier for those newcomers who don't speak English as a first language. We have other immigrants in our lives, and not all of them are pale and speak English as a first language. We know several Germans and Guatemalans and Mexicans and Ecuadorians and Indians (from India) and Vietnamese, and even a Palestinian. My life is so much richer for knowing these brave individuals who gave up everything to come here, some of whom are now US citizens, and some are not.

I'm not saying that all immigrants are wonderful, brave people (some are motivated by the pursuit of social/cultural study, after all). There are some immigrant dirtbags, just like there are plenty of non-immigrant dirtbags. I happen to know more of the "good" kind of immigrant, and I believe that is a true representation of society as a whole: most of us ARE good. I just try to remember that these people are coming here for a reason, one simple reason: they want to make their lives better. That's why my husband came here. Everyone whose US citizenship goes back for more than a generation or two has ancestors who wanted the same exact thing that this new immigration wave wants, and many of those ancestors did not speak English, and lived 15 to a home, and shared their wheels. Their legacy: most of their descendants moved to Hamilton and are bitching about the new immigrants in Trenton.

Anyway, I don't think the new legislation was entirely necessary, given that there is already a law on the book about new residents with vehicles. But I hope the new registration legislation wasn't motivated by racism. And I wouldn't mind seeing the state and the city enforce more of its existing laws, including the vehicle registration one, but I don't think it will be enforced — or at least, it won't be enforced for more than a few weeks. But I could be wrong, and all of this might make it harder on immigrants, who are struggling so hard to make a go of life in this country, and I hate to see that happen. So, I'd be glad to help new residents (affected by the redundant legislation or not), to get to and from work, or the store, or wherever. I welcome Mr. Martinez to contact me and we can set something up.

1 comment:

Miss Karen said...

Doesn't this remind you a little bit of how they eventually arrested Al Capone for tax evasion, because that was what they could get him on? Never mind all that pesky gangster stuff.

I find it hard to believe that people really care that much about where people register their cars. So clearly there's something else going on. Unless I just don't have the proper capacity to feel wounded when other people get away with something.

Anyway, nice analysis!