Transcript: Thom Hartmann asks Greg Palast, is the Immigration issue in Arizona a smoke screen for Republican suppression tactics? 26 Apr '10.

Thom Hartmann: I want to start out, though, with Greg Palast. Old friend of the show,, one of America’s best investigative journalists, and actually one of Britain’s best investigative journalists as most of his work that makes its way to television is published by the BBC. He also writes for the Observer, the British newspaper. his website. Greg welcome to the show.

Greg Palast: Hey glad to be with you, Thom.

Thom Hartmann: Glad to have you Greg. Greg, the, this whole immigration reform is just absolutely blowing up right now, and particularly since the signing by governor Jan Brewer of Arizona of this bizarre law in Arizona. And 99 and 44/100ths percent of the media are treating it as a “we hate brown people” kind of thing, you know, or as a racial discrimination or jobs or it’s the economy or whatever.

Your investigation, you and Bobby Kennedy did an investigation of this, though, the BBC is reporting, and that you are reporting, which indicates that there is an entirely different agenda behind this. One that governor Brewer has been up to for several years, back when she was the state attorney, attorney general or Secretary of State?

Greg Palast: Secretary of State.

Thom Hartmann: Secretary of State. And you know, lay this out for us, Greg Palast.

Greg Palast: Okay. Well you know the media line is that there’s some kind of tea bagger uprising and they want to stop brown people at the borders, yeah, that’s the excuse. But, you know, fear of brown people coming over the Rio Grande has been part of Arizona politics since the Conquistadors, so this is nothing new. But what is new, what’s motivating Brewer now, is the election, okay.

This woman, remember by the way, she was never elected; when Janet Napolitano was appointed by Barack Obama to his cabinet, she popped up from Secretary of State. She knows the Republicans don’t stand a chance with the new demographic wave in Arizona. You’ve got massive new registrations by legal Hispanic voters.

And Jan Brewer has been part of a campaign for years as Secretary of State to block and purge Hispanic voters and I’ve got to tell you, I mean Katherine Harris would blush at her message. She blocked 100 thousand voters from registering. It’s just stunning.

Thom Hartmann: Right. These and these are legal US citizens who happened to have committed the crime of trying to vote while brown. The other thing that is worth noting here, Greg Palast, is that for the state of Arizona, this is nothing new or unique.

William Rehnquist, the recently deceased former chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, in the 1960s, in the early ‘60s, made his mark in republican politics and began his ascent to what ultimately led to his being chief justice of the United States Supreme Court by standing at the polls and challenging Spanish looking or Native American looking voters and basically getting them bounced out of the polling stations in the ‘60s.

Greg Palast: In fact what they do is they threaten people. In fact this law will go to the old Rehnquist method of threats.

Thom Hartmann: Right.

Greg Palast: Which is they go to people in line and they say if you vote and you’re not a citizen, you can’t prove you’re a citizen, we’ll arrest you.

Thom Hartmann: That’s right, and this is what Rehnquist was doing in Arizona by the way.

Greg Palast: And he was doing it in Arizona. But now, now they’re making it the law which is going to empower the cops, the Republican Party hacks, to get into, to basically continue to intimidate and harass the Hispanic voting community.

Thom Hartmann: Oh absolutely and they don’t even need to use the police. All the Republican Party has to do now is hire a rent-a-cop in a uniform that looks like it’s a police uniform and have them stand in the voting lines and say do you have your birth certificate, if not, I might take you to jail.

Greg Palast: Well in fact, of course they can use their rent-a-cop is their cop which is Joe Arpaio. Now he is the sheriff in Phoenix which is Maricopa county. This guy is already facing, literally, a federal, possible federal indictment. He’s being investigated by a grand jury for his racially biased practices.

This is the guy that they are empowering to enforce a law where any cop under his command can stop anyone who he thinks is an illegal immigrant. And by the way, I went into his jail with no illegal immigrant signs, I was there, you’ll see pictures of me if you go to, and his jail. He didn’t stop me, the white guy, even though my grandmother snuck in illegally. I’m from an illegal family.

Thom Hartmann: Right. Nobody asked you for your birth certificate.

Greg Palast: No, no one asked for my birth certificate, so you know what this is about. And like I say when Jan Brewer was Secretary of State, she knocked off one out of three registrants, attempted registrants in Phoenix.

Thom Hartmann: A democratic city.

Greg Palast: Now, a democratic city, almost all democrats, almost all new Hispanic voters, on the grounds that they couldn’t prove that they were citizens. Now I have to tell you that voting, if you’re registering to vote, if you’re not a citizen, is a jail time crime. So I went to Brewer, and her office, in Arizona, and I said, wow give me these fellows, we’ll arrest them on camera, because it’s a crime and it should be easy to find them, because when they register, Thom…

Thom Hartmann: They give their address.

Greg Palast: They give their names and addresses, exactly! So give me the names! She didn’t have one. Then I went to senator Russell Pierce. He’s the sponsor of the current law, this new stop and show me your papers, soviet style, Gestapo style show me your papers stuff. OK, I went to Pierce. He said that there are 5 million illegally registered voters in the US. 5 million illegal aliens registered by the Democratic Party. I said okay I don’t need 5 million, give me 5. Again, they give their names and addresses, he couldn’t give me 5.

But then I went to Joe Arpaio’s prison and I see what they’ve got in mind here. Which is that it’s not the crime of voting illegally or being here illegally, it’s the crime of not having the papers. And they know who doesn’t walk around with papers.

Proof of citizenship, only one in six Americans even has a passport. How do you prove you’re a citizen? Could you prove you were a citizen right now if someone stopped you, Thom? I couldn’t.

Thom Hartmann: Well and this is where it gets into bizarre land, Greg Palast, is the for example, the original birth certificate that the birthers are demanding of President Obama. I know, you know, one of my kids needed to renew her passport recently, and Louise and I had given her her birth certificate back when she was in her early 20s, she’s still in her 20s, but back 5, 6 years ago and she’s lost it somehow. She had to reapply to the state where she was born to get it, she’s got a copy just like the copy that Obama has given to NBC news and they’ve posted from the state of Hawaii.

I would guess Greg that probably 10, 20, 30 maybe even as much as 40 or 50% of actual American citizens don’t have their original birth certificate. And then you’ve got birth certificates issued by different counties, different legislation, you know, different places all over the country.

And if somebody is in line and the rent-a-cop comes up and says you know, to vote, and the rent-a-cop says show me your birth certificate and they pull something out and he looks at it and says I don’t think this is acceptable I’m still going to challenge you. I mean even that might not be enough.

Greg, we have about 30 seconds here for you to wrap this up. This is about voter suppression more than anything else.

Greg Palast: Right. It’s the color of the voters that are going to be stopped. That is democratic blue. Thom Hartmann and Greg Palast, the white guys, aren’t going to be stopped, you know who’s going to be stopped, and that’s the history in Arizona.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah.

Greg Palast: Check out the stories.

Thom Hartmann: And that’s what Jan Brewer is doing and that’s what she was doing before and what was Obama thinking when he made her governor? I guess he really wanted Janet Napolitano at the Head of Homeland Security.

Greg Palast: Rahm Emanuel’s the devil that can only tell us.

Thom Hartmann: Yeah there you go. Greg Palast. You can read all about it over at, Greg, great work, thanks so much for being with us.

Greg Palast: Thanks Thom.

Thom Hartmann: Good having you on.

Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.

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