(Photo: An anti-Immigration activist talks to immigrant rights protesters along Mt. Lemmon Road in anticipation of buses carrying illegal immigrants in Oracle, Arizona. SANDY HUFFAKER/GETTY IMAGES)
Let's recap. The kneejerk anti-immigration movement was insane enough already when a spelling-impaired vandal spray-painted a message on the wall of an Army facility reading, "NO ILLEAGLES [sic] HERE." Then there was Sean Hannity and Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) who gathered on the deck of a border patrol gun-boat for a photo-op with a ridiculously huge machine gun, locked, loaded and aimed in the direction any unaccompanied Honduran children who might stumble helplessly into Texas. The insanity grew a little more when protesters in Michigan gathered to voice their opposition to offering shelter to migrant children in their town -- a message they reinforced with a handgun and an AR-15, the Sandy Hook weapon.
And the other day in Crazy Arizona, a group of around 80 protesters including a Republican state senator gathered in the town of Oracle, near Tucson, after being tipped off by its sheriff that a school bus fill with migrant children was reportedly on its way. The event didn't necessarily lead to violence, but some decidedly obnoxious behavior led to a hilarious fail.
Sheriff Paul Babeu tipped off an activist via social media that the bus was on its way to transport the children to the Sycamore Canyon Academy, and so word spread quickly. Unlike Michigan, an estimated 50 counter-protesters turned out as well, including a mariachi band. Babeu reportedly advised the crowd to remain civil and, specifically, to not block the bus when it arrived.
Before long, a school bus arrived and in spite of the sheriff's warning, the mariachi band was shoved out of the way and the anti-immigration protesters blocked the road, preventing the bus filled with children from passing. From inside the rally, "conservative Republican" Arizona State Senator Adam Kwasman tweeted:
"Bus coming in. This is not compassion. This is the abrogation of the rule of law."
Later, Kwasman said to the Arizona Republic: "I was able to actually to see some of the children in the buses. And the fear on their faces." Of course, Kwasman deleted his tweet because the bus didn't contain migrant children at all. They were local kids on their way to the YMCA. When the reporter corrected Kwasman, the state senator replied, "They were sad, too."
Who could blame them for having "fear on their faces?" They weren't doing anything wrong, just riding the bus to a YMCA camp when they were suddenly blocked by screaming white yokels standing in the road, waving threatening signs like "Return to Sender," as well as the predictable "Don't Tread On Me" flags. They were confronted by nothing less than the slack-jawed townspeople from The Simpsons -- a gaggle of easily-incited rage-aholics gathered together to satisfy their collective white nationalism in the face of, you know, a bus full of kids.
But guess what? The kids weren't frightened at all. Reporters on the scene described them as laughing and taking cellphone pictures.
Here's Kwasman caught red-handed lying about the kids. This is classic.
Kwasman tweeted a correction:
So not only were they not the migrant children, but the state senator clearly lied about it on TV. And frankly, it doesn't surprise me that the kids were taking cellphone pictures: it's not often bigots are observed in their native habitat.
Even if the bus had actually been carrying migrant children to a government shelter, the protest would've been seriously misguided. Again, we're talking about children here, not marauding bands of drug kingpins summarily beheading anyone who dares to look at them askance. The fact that the protesters were so horribly wrong about the bus (Kwasman was one of many), coupled with the fact that they deliberately ignored the sheriff's (perhaps insincere) request to stay out of the road, speaks volumes about this movement's ignorance-fueled zeal.
Sure, there is indeed a tremendous influx of children and families entering the U.S. to escape violence in their home nations, but I always considered America to be a refuge from the uglier parts of the world. Then again, in spite of our collective immigrant status, Americans have never particularly liked new immigrants. Best case, I suppose they could attempt to enter the country via legal means, but that's easier said than done when you're a refugee on the run from danger with small children who have immediate needs, the most important of which is protection from bloodshed.
There are many lessons in this Arizona fiasco, but one of the most salient is this: if you're planning to flaunt your bigotry and intolerance in full view of the news media, at least make sure you're intimidating the correct group of children.