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Arizona and America Join Joe Arpaio in Rushing to Inquire: Are Your Papers in Order? 

Wednesday, Jul 28 2010

Editor's note: Following publication of this article, U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton enjoined the state of Arizona from enacting key provisions of state Senate Bill 1070. Though the law’s most dangerous sections were put on pause, pending the outcome of litigation, the remainder of the law goes into effect, as scheduled, Thursday, July 29. See the full story on Bolton’s ruling, and read her entire decision, here.

We in the Grand Canyon state salute, by statute, the howler monkeys in jingo trees.

Unable to regulate our border, unwilling to create a reasonable path to citizenship for the immigrants who labor in our place, Arizona law enforcement officially now undertakes to rid us of Mexicans.

Because of infamous Arizona Senate Bill 1070, which is scheduled to take effect on Thursday, July 29, the pretext of traffic stops will now initiate a search for residency papers, a practice at once abhorrent and also under consideration by as many as 20 other states.

The national terror of reconquista will now flood the streets and courts of Arizona.

The ACLU and the United States Justice Department are seeking an injunction to put SB 1070 on hold until the seven lawsuits pending can be addressed.

While lawyers cosseted in leathered briefs discuss the depth of the anti-Mexican deluge, the boots on the ground of this immigrant monsoon wear badges and guns.

If police officers were supermen, there would still be the matter of kryptonite; lawmen, however, like the rest of us, are human: The alarm doesn't go off, but the spouse does; calls get dropped, coffee gets spilled. And, every so often, officers' problems are the stuff of television drama.

Now, like Noah with his ark, the police will sort the brown in the automobile: "You two remain; you two go to Nogales."

Daniel Magos, once an immigrant, now a United States citizen, is one man who understands the divide in a cop's life.

Once, when one of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's men had a flat tire, Daniel stopped to help.

On another occasion, a deputy was adrift in a conversation with a Spanish-speaking immigrant in south Phoenix. The officer had trouble understanding or being understood. Daniel stepped forward and translated for Arpaio's man.

Nor has Magos hesitated in the face of danger.

In 2000, he saw a group of men attacking what he believed was a mojado, a wetback. Magos summoned a deputy. The lawman grabbed one of the belligerents, and as his compadres attempted to flee in a car, they tried to run over the deputy. The officer gave his prisoner to Daniel.

"You hold him for me," Magos recalled the deputy telling him.

The deputy then gave chase in his vehicle, and the pursuit ended only when those fleeing crashed their car. In the ensuing chaos, Daniel was left to his own devices. "I called the sheriff's department and asked: 'What will I do?'"

What Daniel Magos would do today, 10 years later, is walk away.

What changed?

Only this: Daniel and his wife, Eva, were recent victims of racial profiling.

Daniel and Eva were, if you will, ahead of their time, ahead of SB 1070. And herein lies a small story about what happens when we hunt Mexicans and Mexican Americans and Central Americans in our national hysteria over the brown-skinned people among us.

We hear so often that Senate Bill 1070, which demands that police — in the course of their enforcement responsibilities — question people about their citizenship, will frighten Latinos away from speaking up in domestic-abuse calls or in drug investigations or in gang probes.

Critics of SB 1070 characterize the victims of this racial profiling bill as a population caught up in some low-rent episode of Law & Order.

The caution that SB 1070 will make witnesses silent is true, as far as it goes.

But SB 1070 has a more insidious side.

The victims of racial profiling sacrificed to the nativist fears that spawned SB 1070 are just as likely to be upstanding American citizens, even Good Samaritans like Daniel Magos .

Keep this in mind as America rushes to inquire: Are your papers in order?

Born in 1945, Daniel Magos is soft-spoken, reserved, firm. Despite the run-in with a sheriff's deputy he and his wife suffered, his manner is dignified, not put-upon. He presents the sort of serenity you see upon the faces of victims portrayed on holy cards. Not to suggest Daniel is a saint — he's simply a good man and a better neighbor.

He met Eva in 1965, as a 20-year-old, at the American Legion, Post 41, in Phoenix. "I was sitting at a table by myself when she and another lady came over and asked if they could sit down. It was her friend's idea."

When he met Eva's family, he had one vivid impression: "Her father was quite strict . . . If you went out to dinner, you had to be back by 8 p.m."

Dances offered a little more leeway on time, so Eva and Daniel would visit the Calderone Ballroom on 16th Street and Buckeye Road. "Actually we went next door, to Nano's. The music and the people were different. There was a higher social status at Nano's."

They married November 25, 1967.

Over the years, Daniel Magos had traveled mile upon agricultural mile by way of Muleshoe, Texas, and Pinon, Colorado, to arrive at that Thanksgiving week nuptial in Phoenix. And he reached those exotic locales only after leaving Chihuahua, Mexico.

He attended classes and worked with gardeners in Mexico until the sixth grade, when he joined his father in America. "My father worked here in the U.S. as part of the Bracero program. On April 1, 1958, we became legal residents," said Magos. His family followed the crops, and with three brothers and three sisters, there were plenty of hands for the fields.

"We moved to get away from the snow in Colorado," said Magos. "You could starve."

He eventually attended Pecos Junior High in Texas. "People in school were pretty decent. They accepted us in school, but society was different than school," remembers Magos.

About The Author

Michael Lacey


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