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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Criminalizing immigrants dehumanizes people

What it means to be a human being in the state of Arizona is being redefined in ways that are becoming incomprehensible. As basic as it sounds, being human here is difficult. Though you might easily resort to calling that claim dramatic, I assure you it is. It’s nothing less than a dramatic infringement on our political consciousnesses as students and for surrounding local communities.  

The legislators cut funding from our universities and public schools first before military spending, dismantling the right to an equitable education. Access to health care isn’t even an option to many, but the accessibility of firearms bumps Arizona up to the trendiest American-Dream preservationist.  

The ultimate taboo, though, always comes down to immigration. It either gets left out of conversation because there’s a Republican in the room who believes people choose to die crossing the border, or others who are unsure of how to discuss it. There just aren’t any transparent connections to an explanation that makes sense to both sides.

We have to learn to be critical thinkers before political advocates. Beyond the debates of immigration, there is a bigger machine that causes us all to blame each other before we blame the real trigger of disagreements. It’s here, right in Arizona. It’s called the private prison industry.

Back in October 2010 in a story covered by NPR reporter Laura Sullivan, two men showed up in Benson, Ariz., to sell private prisons to Glenn Nichols, the Benson city manager. In the article, “”Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law,”” these two men were there to sell a prison specifically for undocumented women and children.

“”They talk about how positive this was going to be for the community,”” Nichols said, “”the amount of money that we would realize from each prisoner on a daily rate.”” Heads became bounties for private prison companies while we blame the wrong people.

The minds of greedy private prison industry companies split apart any human connection to how absolutely insane the idea of making money off of criminalizing women and children really is.

It was no issue for these prison companies to find ways to use their new business model. All they had to do was call up their friends at the Arizona Legislature. Politicians discussed how they could profit by criminalizing human beings first.

According to In These Times, an independent newsmagazine, “”Over the past several years private-prison companies Corrections Corporations of America (CCA) and the Geo Group, through their work as members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and through their ties to the Arizona Legislature and the office of Gov. Jan Brewer, have had ample opportunities — and obvious intent — to ensure the passage of S.B. 1070.””

Remember S.B. 1070? It has become the staple of disparity in making money off of humans in Arizona. Being brown means something more in the times we’re in. Being brown in Arizona was the first provision of this bill. And it seems we’re still blaming a border wall.

It’s not about the crime of being undocumented in the U.S. It’s finding ways to ignore the internal issue of having that population already embedded in our country’s history and present. It’s about understanding the issue of immigration as something we have to actually invest intellectual thought in and not just utilizing the color of skin to make it easier to find the so-called criminals.

Even if you’re a conservative student who believes we should have laws like S.B. 1070, the lobbyists you support are still not looking out for your “”safety”” or “”benefit”” by having such a strict immigration bill. They’re looking out for the checkbooks. They put up the “”securing the border”” front to gain your votes so they can use private prison contractors to lock up people that look exactly like me even for a way to make profit.

Before you think Arizona politicians are actually out to help you, even as a student at the university, think twice. They’re not. And you have the right to know that, just as I have the right to be the color I am without being fearful of being identified as anything less than human.

We are all human, which is the common denominator we never include in our discussions. Make the discourse critical, and we will eventually find a real solution without criminalizing people.

— Elisa Meza is a junior studying English. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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