Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Show Me Your Papers!

In January, 2009, I made a delightful trip to Arizona to watch my daughter run in the Phoenix marathon (she finished!) and to do my “grandpa thing” in the desert Southwest. As is my habit, on such adventures, I am alone and drive until I sense the approach of fatigue, find a spot and retire to my sleeping space in the back of the Explorer. Don’t waste any thought of concern for my comfort because I have fashioned a standard mattress with normal bedding which has proven satisfactory at temperatures below freezing.

On my way back to the Ozarks, I left late in the evening on I-10, made the northbound turn at Las Cruces, New Mexico to the junction with east bound US 70 toward Alamogordo across the White Sands Missile Range. Under the waxing gibbous moon, the mountains and the playa were exceptionally beautiful in that light. Traffic was near zero and the ride put me in an especially good mood.

As I approached White Sands National Monument, at about 3 AM, I remembered as I saw the unnatural warning lights that there was an immigration check station ahead. As I approached, it seemed deserted but I dutifully came to a stop. Two officers came out with a German Shepard on a leash. The beautiful animal jumped up on the side of the car and I instinctively started to pet her through the window. As it slowly dawned on the officers that my overtures to the animal were unexpected and her reaction was untoward, they ordered her to get down and she reluctantly complied. She had great difficulty matching the detached business-like manner of the officers.

At that point one officer asked me to produce the usual paperwork. My driver’s license, registration, and the insurance card appeared to satisfy their requirements. Meanwhile, the other one was using his flashlight to examine the contents of the back of the SUV through the near opaque rear windows. Due to the bedding, baggage, golf clubs and other miscellany in the mess in the back he apparently felt further inspection was necessary. He asked if I minded if the dog did a search. I replied it would be a pleasure and opened the passenger side door and the dog jumped in. After a thorough “get acquainted” face licking by my new friend, they requested I leave the car and she then went into the back to discover that nothing which she had been trained to recognize was there.

Once her inspection was over and I had passed muster, I departed with a lasting memory of my encounter with that marvelous dog. By current standards I should have had some great resentment of the intrusion upon my privacy that the request for “my papers” should have fomented. Instead, I had thanked them for their procedures and willingness to man such a forsaken post in the middle of the night. In all, I found it reasonable and proper.

Had I been an illegal immigrant, I doubt I would have welcomed the intrusion.

Our country has changed in so many different ways in the abridgement of our liberties that I have little patience with those who mis-understand this historical alteration of our life. It is, in part, a result of our exploding population. Since the census less than two years before my birth (1932), we have gone from 123 million to a projected 320 million this year. The areas mentioned above had only been states for twenty years when I was born. Two other states (AK and HI) have been added since that date as well. In itself, the population boom has only exacerbated the problems of border enforcement. It would seem a hopeless enterprise to attempt to keep track of such a burgeoning population. Therefore, we may expect to hear those golden words, “show me your papers” ever more often. This is even more likely when the federal government demonstrates the cavalier attitude which is normal for them to exhibit. White Sands check point notwithstanding, our border security is extremely lax and hopelessly outnumbered.

Be assured that the protests to the recent Arizona law represent enforcement far milder than that I experienced in New Mexico by the ICE (INS.) We have little objection to the detention of those who run stop lights and break into our homes. The same people who commit those offenses are no more or less criminal than those who do not respect our borders. My hearty applause to the legislature of Arizona and Governor Jan Brewer for being willing to do a job that other Americans are unwilling to do.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

No comments: