Friday, June 4, 2010

Deliberate Stupidity About the Arizona Immigration Law

There are a lot of people out there saying a lot of things about the new Arizona law on illegal aliens. The milder statements have been that it's clearly invalid (statements by Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano, and earlier statements by Barack Obama), and that it was "poorly conceived" (later Obama statement). Many have said it is obviously unconstitutional, requires racial profiling, and violates U.S. treaty obligations. Others have been calling it racist and immoral, and have accused Arizona of being filled with Nazis for having passed it.

Southern Arizona's Congressman Raúl Grijalva has called on President Obama to void the law, and has called for a boycott of his own state for having passed it. It looks like Los Angeles may join that boycott — which Arizona power plants may accommodate by sending to other states the large amount of electricity they currently supply to that city. Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, from southern California, has said white supremacist groups are behind the passage of this law.

Statements calling the Arizona law racist and xenophobic, and a brutal violation of human rights, have come from dictators Fidel Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

And on a visit to Washington, D.C., Mexican President Felipe Calderón attacked Arizona and its new law — both in a speech to the Congress (drawing a standing ovation from Congressional Democrats) and in a joint press conference with President Obama at the White House.

There is one common thread among all these views and statements: As best I can determine, not a single one of the people making these statements have actually read the Arizona law.

Here's part of why that's interesting: The Arizona law mirrors the corresponding federal law, though with prohibitions against racial profiling the federal law lacks. By that means, it makes violations of the federal immigration law also violations of state law, enabling the state and local authorities to enforce them.

All of which would be known to all these folks if they would just read the bill. It's not like the Arizona law is a 2700 page monstrosity — the law is just ten pages long. Is it really too much to ask that our most senior officials read the bill before pontificating about it? It might actually keep them from making incredibly ignorant public statements. (On the other hand, maybe they simply don't want to know what's actually in the new law.)

This whole situation has caused me three particular lines of thought:

  — Consider why Arizona has been pushed into passing a law like this. Phoenix has become the kidnapping capital of the world as the drug cartels have been pushing across our far-too-open border. Ranchers have been dealing with increasing amounds of theft and destruction, both of their property and of the region's Sonoran Desert. Attempts to stop the vandals and human traffickers have gotten area ranchers hauled into court or murdered by illegal aliens. Conditions have become intolerable. Something had to be done — has to be done — and the Obama Administration, like its predecessors for at least two decades, has completely abdicated its responsibility for border security.

  — Everything we hear from the press and media, and nearly everything we hear from our nation's political leadership, opposes this new Arizona law. To restate this, everything we hear from the elites opposes this law. Despite this, 70% of Arizonans and a significant majority of all Americans support this law. In fact, even a major portion of American politicians support it. That's why at least 18 other states are now considering passage of similar laws. And that's not counting the states like California who already have laws on the books with similar provisions.

  — Thinking about the people demonstrating against this law (for example here, I keep wondering where they were before. If this law is so onerous, so obviously racist, and so obviously unconstitutional, why weren't they protesting when the U.S. Congress passed (and the president signed) the same provisions? Where were they when California passed their similar law? My conclusion is that the selective outrage of the politicians and media and demonstrators isn't about this law or any of its provisions — it's really about the fact that, unlike other jurisdictions in the past, Arizona will probably actually enforce this law.

Under these circumstances, I guess I should revise my initial statement: There are a lot of people out there spouting really stupid stuff about the new Arizona law on illegal aliens. Their statements reflect either complete ignorance or deliberate stupidity about the law. The only alternative is that they (at least some of them) know what's actually in the law and are being deliberately dishonest about it for political purposes.

All that said, it may still be open for discussion whether this particular law is the best approach to the illegal aliens problems. After all, it doesn't secure the border to stop the illegal entries. (No city or state can accomplish that.) But as an absolute baseline, I like the policy now established in Albuquerque under which every individual processed into the detention center — every individual placed under arrest — is interviewed by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to determine his/her citizenship and residency status. And I don't see any problem with similar immigration inquiries under circumstances when the law enforcement officer has the discretion as to whether to detain the individual or not.

The Department of Justice is reviewing the Arizona law, and considering what action (if any) to recommend to Attorney General Eric Holder. ABC News has reported the draft DOJ conclusion to be that "the Arizona legislature exceeded its authority in crafting a law that could impede federal responsibility for enforcing immigration laws." This conclusion, draft or otherwise, is ludicrous — it is not logically possible to impede the federal government in performance of responsibilities it has conclusively demonstrated it has no intention of performing. This does, however, suggest an approach that might be taken either instead of, or in addition to, passage of a law like Arizona's: The border states, individually and/or collectively, could sue the Administration and the federal government (I would think both for specific performance and a trillion dollars or so in damages) over its dereliction of duty in abrogating its responsibilities in securing the borders and enforcing the immigration statutes. Maybe that would actually get their attention.

In the meantime, we'll all have to keep pressing this issue. Fortunately, we seem to have some good, strong voices with us.

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