Photo Credit: C-Span
If you want to make a point these days, invoke Justin Bieber and you’ll likely have a lot of people listening. That was the approach of pro-immigration-reform Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois when he showed a picture of the Canadian pop star alongside one of Bieber’s girlfriend, Selena Gomez, while speaking on the house floor.
The stunt was part of a pop-quiz in which Gutierrez showed side-by-side photos of pairs of celebrities, athletes, and other personalities—including Supreme Court justices—to demonstrate the implausibility of determining who might be in this country illegally and who might not. He was making a point about the portion of Arizona’s SB 1070 that instructs police to ask for documentation when they have “reasonable suspicion” about a person’s immigration status. That portion remains on the table after the Supreme Court declared last week that some other parts of the law are unconstitutional.
As part of the quiz, Gutierrez showed photos of the young famous couple and said: “These young people have overcome their very different national origins and became apparently a happy couple. I’m sure Justin helped Gomez learn all about American customs and feel more at home in her adopted country.”
He continued: "Oh wait a minute, I’m sorry. Because I’m not a trained Arizona official, I somehow got that backwards. Actually, Ms. Gomez, of Texas, has helped Mr. Bieber, of Canada, learn about his adopted country. Justin, when you perform in Phoenix, remember to bring your papers."
Controversial Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said the law won’t lead to racial profiling, but indeed racial profiling seems utterly essential to the process officers in Arizona would be asked to carry out.
“Yes, Arizona politicians will tell you with a straight face that they can apply this law without using racial profiling, without assuming that someone named Gutierrez isn’t less likely to be in this country legally than someone named Smith. That’s an amazing skill. Maybe with practice we can all become like Arizona politicians and police officers who are able to telepathically determine who to accuse of not belonging in America,” said Gutierrez.
Kudos to the congressman: The Bieber/Gomez example was a compelling argument opposing the law. But the people I really feel for are the ordinary Americans with “reasonably suspicious” last names or skin tones who don’t have the Biebs’ fame—or his money—to help them out of the legal scrapes in which they could find themselves just for simply leaving the house.
Alesandra Dubin is iVote's chief election news blogger and a Los Angeles-based writer. Follow her on Twitter: @alicedubin.