Last August, Monica Alonzo examined labor shortages in the farm economy, where an estimated 80 percent of the workforce is undocumented.

She learned that efforts to recruit Americans to pick crops have failed abysmally.

In the late 1990s, Alonzo reported, "California launched a 'welfare to farmwork' program in the Central Valley at a time when regional unemployment was as high as 20 percent.... A massive campaign addressed training, transportation and other obstacles to getting workers in the fields. Though there were more than 100,000 potential workers, only three jobs were filled."

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signing SB 1070 into law.
Stephen Lemons
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signing SB 1070 into law.

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The U.S. Supreme Court will rule this month on legislation that forces police to scrutinize Latinos, both immigrants and citizens. President Barack Obama has deported 1.5 million people. And 41 states are attempting to limit the voting rights of young people and minorities. In this week's special feature, "Crossing the Line," Village Voice Media offers a selection of viewpoints and artwork to honor the passing of the American dream.

Days of Rage: Phoenix-based Village Voice Media columnist Stephen Lemons suggest that civil disobedience might provide the answer to the immigration debate.

Welcome Back, Jim Crow: From Miami, a report from Chuck Strouse about how new voting laws might well take out Obama this fall.

Love the Beans, Hate the Beaner: "Ask a Mexican" columnist Gustavo Arellano notes that Americans' love of south-of-the-border cuisine is at odds with our politics.

Things weren't any easier in Washington State. There, "a labor shortage for the 2006 cherry harvest prompted an advertising blitz to recruit about 1,700 needed workers, particularly for the much larger apple harvest that was just around the corner. Only 40 people took jobs."

According to Alonzo's research, things were even worse in the East. "The following year, in North Carolina," she wrote, "farm officials set up a statewide hotline to fill crop and livestock jobs. Two calls were received."

Things have only gotten worse with anti-immigrant legislation.

In 2007 more than 90,000 migrants fled Oklahoma, causing a loss of $1.9 billion to the state's economy. Since passage of SB 1070, Arizona has shed 200,000 migrants who fled to friendlier states.

Agriculture is the largest sector in Georgia's economy, yet lawmakers passed stiff anti-immigrant legislation projected to cost the state $391 million in lost crops. The governor suggested that farmers hire ex-cons to work the fields. The ex-cons refused. More than 70 percent of Georgia's restaurants had labor shortages and lost, on average, $21,000 per eating establishment.

Last year Alabama one-upped Arizona and passed a tougher, meaner anti-immigrant measure.

Research at the University of Alabama said the state could lose up to $10.8 billion and 140,000 jobs.

The governor demanded that the statehouse reconsider. Alabama legislators responded by making the law tougher.


Why, in the middle of a recession, would statehouses vote to cripple their economies by driving Mexicans to flee?

Why, with President Obama deporting more Latinos than at any time in the nation's history, would legislators demand local cops inspect citizenship papers?

The inescapable answer: race!

The guiding proponent of these statutes is Kris W. Kobach, a former law professor at University of Missouri–Kansas City, who helped author SB 1070.

At the time Kobach was also senior counsel to the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

In 1986, John Tanton, FAIR's founder, wrote: "As whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?"

Not surprisingly, the Southern Poverty Law Center called FAIR a racially driven organization.

Alabama's copycat legislation was penned by State Senator Scott Beason, who has called blacks "aborigines" and declared that, when it came to immigration, folks ought to "empty the clip."

In Arizona the bill drafted by Kobach was sponsored by then-State Senator Russell Pearce.

In 2006 Pearce forwarded to his followers a screed he'd read entitled "Who Rules America." The essay took exception to race mixing and a "world in which every voice proclaims the equality of races, the inerrant nature of the Jewish 'Holocaust' tale, the wickedness of attempting to halt the flood of non-White aliens pouring across our borders...."

The essay, which originated from a neo-Nazi newsletter, went on to ask: "And who are these all-powerful masters of the media?"

The answer was obvious: "As we shall see, to a very large extent they are Jews."

Eerily, the message Pearce forwarded to political supporters in 2006 foreshadowed coming bloodshed.

"On the other hand, a White racist — that is, any racially conscious White person who looks askance at miscegenation or at the rapidly darkening racial situation in America — is portrayed, at best, as a despicable bigot who is reviled by the other characters, or, at worst, as a dangerous psychopath who is fascinated by firearms and is a menace to all law abiding citizens...," read Pearce's send-along.

Last month Pearce acolyte J.T. Ready slaughtered his girlfriend, her daughter and boyfriend and a six-month-old infant before turning the gun on himself.

Ready was a neo-Nazi who was photographed at white-supremacist rallies in full National Socialist regalia. Following the passage of SB 1070, Ready formed an armed militia that hunted Mexicans in southern Arizona.

After the multiple homicides, Pearce tried to distance himself from Ready. This sleight of hand was complicated for Pearce: He'd endorsed Ready's failed run for the Mesa City Council and, in fact, had ordained Ready into the priesthood of the Mormon faith and attended his baptism.

These are the miscreants who have stirred this nation's darkest prejudices.

None of this was grist in the Supreme Court. The Obama administration opted to argue only the narrowest of issues: State immigration laws trampled federal domain. With an election looming, the president chose not to confront nativist anxiety.

Latino groups and civil-rights organizations have filed lawsuits that challenge what Obama ducked. These suits recount what happens on American streets when brown people are detained, when Mexicans and Central Americans are crowded into detention centers, when families are ripped apart.

When law enforcement cordons off brown communities, the law, as applied, is apartheid.

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