Being a very black and white person myself, one of the things I find most frustrating about politics is the fact that often both sides of a particular political conflict have valid perspectives that are mutually exclusive. Our two-party system, brilliant in so many ways, doesn’t always allow for much grey. However, for my part, I see little grey involved in the recent brew-ha-ha regarding Arizona’s new illegal immigration law.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the law makes it a crime under state law to be in the country illegally, requires police officers to make a reasonable attempt to determine someone’s immigration status if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that a person is in the country illegally, allows for lawsuits against local or state agencies who hinder the enforcement of immigration and law, and targets those who employ illegals as day workers. Now I am certainly no constitutional law scholar, but passing a law in order to prevent people from doing something that is already illegal seems pretty reasonable to me. So what has everyone’s panties in such a wad, especially since according to Arizona’s governor Jan Brewer the law mirrors that of the federal government? Here are some of the objections I have heard, along with my responses.
One of the most provocative complaints I have heard compares requiring people to carry proof of their immigration status to the Nazi requirement that Jews carry their “papers” with them. I haven’t heard people making the comparison to the Stars of David, but I am sure it is not far off. I would point out that those asked for this proof of status must have behaved in some manner requiring the intervention of law officers. Be it anything from speeding to breaking and entering, the person is already suspected of breaking the law before being questioned regarding their immigration status. I seriously doubt Arizona police have so much free time on their hands that they can go “cruising” for illegals. And even if they did have such an intention, the law specifically prohibits this. When I am pulled over by an officer, I am immediately asked for my driver’s license and registration. Why? Because it’s the law. So why is it any different for officers to request proof of immigration status?
Another common objection appeals to racial profiling. I was recently pulled over late at night near a college campus, and not only did the officer ask for my license and registration, he also dared to ask if I had been drinking. Was I being profiled? Did this officer have a prejudice against white women in their thirties? Was he implying that women fitting my profile are lushes? Given my location, the time of night, and even perhaps my limited driving skills, the question was a reasonable one. Now suppose a person is arrested. This implies that they are not a respecter of the law. According to the Arizona law, before the person is released they have to prove their status. Help me out here, folks. Where is the smoking gun of racism? As one leading sponsor of the law has stated, “‘Illegal’ is not a race; it’s a crime.”
For me, the issue seems simple: illegal immigration is illegal. Not only does it endanger the lives of our citizens by allowing unrestricted entrance into our country by those who might seek to do us harm; it allows for unspeakable abuse of those who come here seeking a better life for themselves and their dependents. This past year I read Enrique’s Journey, a horrifying account of the trials facing those who travel through Mexico, attempting to enter the U.S. Those who are “lucky” enough to reach the States are often taken advantage of once they are here. Being on the wrong side of the law, there is no one to turn to, no justice to be found.
Some would characterize those who favor the Arizona law as lacking compassion. I disagree, but what do I know? I’m just a speeding, middle-aged lush, right?