The Arizona Immigration Law: A Mistake?
By Steve Gillman
Yes, the 2010 Arizona immigration law is a mistake. I am writing
this the day after passage of the legislation. Perhaps by the
time you are reading it the law will have been found to be unconstitutional.
If not, perhaps the law will be rescinded due to wiser ideas
There are numerous problems with the law, some of which are
not getting coverage in the press. To begin with, let's do a
quick review of the highlights of the law, as best as I can decipher
from reports online and in the news elsewhere. The police now
have the right and the duty to stop anyone they suspect
of being here illegally, to check for their immigration status.
It is said that they will not racially profile. Hmm... How
are they supposed to suspect that the immigration status of a
person is not legal? Do we really think they'll look at brown-skinned
people in working clothes in the same way as a white man in a
suit? Not likely.
It should be noted here that it is not a crime to be in the
United States without proper documentation, contrary to what
most people think. It is a civil matter. By the way, if it was
a crime, deportation would not be so simple as it is now. We
could be facing 12 million criminal cases with all the expense
and trouble that entails - a virtual impossibility for our already
Making merely being here a crime, as the Arizona law apparently
does (fines and up to six months in jail), will result in an
overloading of the judicial system if enforcement is to happen.
Every illegal immigrant who is charged will have the right to
a jury trial and most will be entitled to a court-appointed attorney.
One particularly awful consequence of the law will be less
safety for all. It is assumed by some that deporting enough illegals
will make Arizona safer - despite evidence that these residents
commit crime at a lower rate than those who are here legally.
In reality, the Arizona immigration law will make everyone less
safe, for one crucial reason: Those who are not legal residents
will no longer want to cooperate with law enforcement.
Think about a simple example. A man sees his neighbor assaulted,
and the police come to interview him. Previously the police dealt
only with crime, and had no interest in the immigration status
of the people they dealt with. But now it is their duty to get
this witness deported. How often do you think illegals will cooperate
with police under these circumstances.
The law may stipulate that in these circumstances the police
are not to enforce immigration policy, or they may make that
the rule internally - but honestly, given the climate now created,
would you want to have any involvement with the police if you
were an undocumented resident?
Even worse, many immigrants will stop reporting crimes against
themselves. Do we want to create a climate where a woman doesn't
report a rapist because she fears deportation?
In addition to the problems of racial profiling and less cooperation
with law enforcement, the general attitude indicated in such
immigration laws is hurtful, to say the least. Most who read
this and live in the United States have ancestors who came here
without asking permission of those who resided here previously.
Do you think of your great grandparents in the same way as you
think of illegal aliens? If not, you might want to consider the
subtle racism that plays a part in these debates.
Have we seriously asked the questions that all such laws are
based on? In other words, how do we come to "own" a
country and decide who gets to live in a given area and who doesn't?
How do we know that we have a right to be here, but others do
not? On what basis do we decide such things.
There are a lot of unexamined assumptions that went into the
new Arizona immigration law, along with some unintended consequences
that are not trivial.