Thursday, April 29, 2010

A line in the sand

Pundits and loudmouths from coast to coast, liberal and conservative alike, are having a field day now that Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law legislation giving the state's law enforcement officers greater powers when it comes to fighting illegal immigration.

"Governor Brewer has to be held responsible for signing what is now an international shame on the state of Arizona," said Jennifer Allen, executive-director of Border Action Network, an immigrant rights group in an MSNBC story. My favorite part of the story is in the lede graf: "...opponents used refried beans to smear swastikas on the state Capitol."

Apparently, anyone who has not vowed to fight this law with Adamantium resolve is a racist Nazi (is that redundant?), and those protesting against it are bleeding-heart liberal day laborers out to ruin America. And me? What do I think? Well...

I'd first like to point out the opponents have already violated Godwin's Law so make of that what you will.

I'm in favor of the law. I ask you this: What is so wrong about asking cops to enforce all of the laws? If you're breaking the law, you're breaking the law and you can be arrested. If that law happens to be an immigration law, hey, guess what? You're going back home.

The big argument folks have against this is they say immigration is a federal matter and states aren't allowed to interfere with that prerogative. I call bullshit on that for a couple of reasons. National security is also a federal matter, but do you think local cops are going to stop investigating that strange fellow getting shipments of fertilizer and diesel fuel? Controlling illegal immigration is a national security matter too. How hard do you think it will be for some of those groups around the world who hate America and Americans (it doesn't matter what color you are or whether you're a Republican, Democrat or Tea bagger, they hate you just the same) to send a couple of their disciples across the Mexico-Arizona border? Probably not that hard.

Also, seeing as how we in D.C. live far, far away from that line in the hot, dry desert sand, we probably don't realize there is an actual war going on in northern Mexico that often ends up in Arizona, California, Texas and New Mexico. Mexican cops and soldiers south of the border are getting killed by drug gangs faster than our troops are in Iraq and Afghanistan. This drug war, a real war unlike the one our government has been unsuccessfully waging for decades, is a real shooting war and it's spilling over into the U.S.

Since I'm not going to go into the objections point-by-point, you can read a really good explanation by Kris Kobach, who helped write Arizona's law, on the NYT's op-ed page here. Here's some more good coverage and analysis from the NYT, and the local POV from AZCentral.

Couple more points: The Supremes have ruled in the past that police are not violating the Fourth Amendment by asking you for ID when they suspect you're violating the law. Also, despite the Border Action Network's intent (love the acronym: BAN, think they might want to rethink that?) to sign up voters against the law to vote the governor out in November, 70 percent of likely Arizona voters support the law. Finally, try walking around Mexico or any other country without your passport. See what happens if you get stopped by the police

What do you think? Tell me I'm right or tell me I'm a racist in the comments. But I leave you with this thought: What part of illegal immigration is so difficult to understand?


J said...

How do police estimate who "is violating [this] law"? Say the police stop a woman walking down the street if they suspect her of being in the country illegally.

How do they arrive at that conclusion? Were they informed by a random or not-so-random citizen? Is it because she's speaking a foreign language? An accent?

What happens when they stop someone who is absolutely in this country legally (say, you or I) and doesn't have the paperwork on them to prove it? An inconvenience the first time. How many times would it take you to get fed up? Should we just start carrying proof of citizenship at all times when we go into Arizona?

Pauline said...

I disagree with this policy, it will lead to racial profiling and targetting by the police. (As well as by others) Immigration needs to be moderated somewhat, but this just seems to me like it will turn into rednecks "hunting" for Mexicans.(Or anyone not-white)

Yes, immigration has to be regulated, particularly when it comes to preventing serious criminals from entering the country. But many of these immigrants are just trying to survive. You said yourself that Mexico is having major problems. If there was a choice between dying in a dangerous area vs starting over in a richer country, wouldn't you try to give yourself and your family the best chance for survival?

FoggyDew said...

J - This law, like many immigration and gun and drug and hate speech laws, is pretty much just a cherry on top of everything else. Police officers are pretty good at their job of identifying people who are up to no good. The best examples I've heard described so far are traffic stops in known smuggling areas where no one in the car has ID.

And you already do carry proof of citizenship everywhere, it's called your driver's license.

Pauline - Cops profile people every day in every arrest. Is it racial profiling in Arizona, where they estimate 10 percent of the population is illegal, if you suspect someone of wrongdoing to also suspect them of being in the country illegally? One in 10 is betting odds. If they couldn't profile they'd never be able to arrest anyone.

I don't begrudge someone the chance you describe, I just want them to do it legally and follow our laws. They have every right to do so, just as the country they go to has the right to deport them if they're caught.

lacochran said...

First, I've been to Mexico five times. I've walked around without my passport on multiple occasions. You know what happened? Nothing. Why would you think differently? I've always been treated very well in Mexico. Often better there than here.

Second, I agree with the previous comments. It's all in how it gets played out. How do you tell someone who's legal from someone who's illegal? There's the rub.

Consider, too, that there are plenty of legal Mexicans that visit Arizona and support the local economy due to it's proximity. Well, there WERE. Not any more. The President of Mexico has called for a boycott. That, plus Americans boycotting Arizona and Arizona businesses may just get them to come up with a better approach.

FoggyDew said...

lacochran - Mexican's, and everyone else who's not from here, who are in this country legally are required to carry proof of said state. That's part of the federal immigration law. That's one way to tell legal from illegal.

And if there were 10 million illegal American immigrants in Mexico I'm guessing you'd have been asked for ID once or twice during your visits. Also, that sentence got truncated and I'm going to fix it. What it should have said is "see what happens if you get stopped by the police."

Gilahi said...

So say I'm a U.S. citizen of Mexican descent. Say that my grandparents were legally in Arizona before it was a state. Suppose I don't have my driver's license on me because I've just hoofed down to the local convenience mart. Suppose some cop thinks he has a "reasonable suspicion", whatever the heck that means, that I'm an illegal. What happens? Would it happen if I was white? What if I'm really tan and just "look" Mexican, whatever the heck that means? Fact is, as a white U.S. citizen, I'm allowed to go wherever I want to go without any papers on me. As a Mexican U.S. citizen (or somebody who's got the bad luck to be perceived as Mexican by a cop) in Arizona, that's simply not true.

FoggyDew said...

Gilahi - That is an unreasonable situation. Let me quote the NYT, "Criticism: 'Reasonable suspicion' is a meaningless term that will permit police misconduct." Answer, "Over the past four decades, federal courts have issued hundreds of opinions defining those two words (this would be the "whatever the heck that means"). The Arizona law didn’t invent the concept: Precedents list the factors that can contribute to reasonable suspicion; when several are combined, the "totality of circumstances" that results may create reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed."

Walking to the store is not a crime. Walking to the store naked without your license, well, that probably is (except maybe in Austin). And, I'm sure, just like getting caught driving without a license you'd get a chance to prove your grandfather crossed the Rio Grande and not you. This isn't a felony crime folks, it's a misdemeanor. It's the cherry on top of everything else.

Brando said...

I think that the problem is that "reasonable suspicion" when you're talking about immigration law (particularly in the southwest) will necessarily mean "looks Hispanic and poor" and will require racial profiling. Plus, I'm not so sure a drivers' license qualifies as proof of citizenship, particularly since many states don't require you to be a citizen to get one. I don't think racism is the motivation behind this law, and the idiots behind the swastika are shameful for invoking Nazism so casually. Seriously, if the worst thing the Nazis did was round up illegal immigrants and deposit them across the border, 12 million people would have been thrilled. So knock it off, nutjobs!

However, I'm actually glad this law passed because now it's going to force the Feds (who have been feckless retards on this issue, constantly punting every time it comes up) to actually address the fact that (a) our borders are porous and (b) we have millions of people in this country illegally and unaccounted for. That's a national security issue if nothing else. I'm all for increased legal immigration, and making it easier to do so, and even allowing a partial amnesty to those who will pay their taxes and whatever fine is appropriate and etc. But if with a trillion dollars blown on that lovely "stimulus" those morons in Congress passed, we can't afford to manage our border and round up the actual serious criminals among the illegals (by which I mean the smugglers, drug gangs, etc.) then this country is sadly broken.

By the state of Arizona doing this, at least it's going to make the Feds act. I would have preferred if they could have stripped out the parts that require racial profiling though.

FoggyDew said...

Brando - point of fact: most states' drivers licenses are proof of citizenship because they require either a passport or birth certificate per federal law. Arizona's in fact is proof of citizenship.

And ICE busting in on a meat packing plant and checking everyone's IDs isn't profiling? The very root of immigration enforcement is profiling, so if you're not going to profile you're never going to enforce your immigration laws.

magnolia said...

see, my problem with this is the part of the law that allows people to sue police forces if they don't think the cops are doing enough to carry out this whole regime. that's what's going to lead to the harassment, especially in broker counties where the police can't afford to defend themselves against a lawsuit. that's a concern a few rural arizona sheriffs have already raised.

further, my problem with this is the fact that, while god knows something needs to be done, this is probably the worst thing to have done, because it drives these folks further underground.

i think about immigration the way i think about steroids in baseball: you have to just stop here, admit that there was a debacle going backward, and bring a wall down. going forward, tough laws, tough enforcement. going backward, though, i really do think you have to set up some kind of fine/penalty/make them legal regime. it's our fault as a country that the system's this broken. it's time to call it even and fix it the RIGHT way.

firecracker! said...

1. i think this was very well put. in addition, the NYT article is cogent, well-written, and authoritative. very wise to link to.

2. my concern with the media whirlwind around the new law is that people don't have a freakin' clue how big the problem is. as you say, DC is far, far away. it is an enormous problem, the magnitude of which is simply unknown by most outside of the border states. federal law enforcement is not doing an adequate job and something needs to change.

3. personally, i do not support restrictionist immigration policy. but policy is vastly different than law. i'm moderately concerned with the amount of discretion this law gives to the police, but reasonable suspicion is something for which there are guidelines and is a concept they've been using for decades. pulling the race card here is inappropriate. to chalk it up to "supporters are racist" is to cheapen the debate and demean those involved. there are legitimate arguments to each side and i am interested in what the judge who hears the forthcoming suit will say.

4. i'd like to reiterated: i thoroughly enjoyed this post and mental exercise. :)

Shannon said...

I get that Arizona has an illegal immigration issue, crime issues, and a crashing real estate market, and people are angry. I feel for them. I really do.

But the notion of suing police departments is just plain stupid. It's a bad law. Basically, it's so broadly written that if your police force dedicates resources to drunk driving checkpoints, you can sue them because they should have immigration checkpoints instead. If you sue them for not enforcing the law, it diverts funds away from, y'know, actually enforcing the law. So I guess they'd get sued all over again? And then again? There's a disconnect in the logic here.

XPAT said...

I think it is getting eerily close to Germany in the 1930s – where Jews were required to carry paperwork at all times and it was the onus of German citizens to prove they weren’t Jewish. Then eventually all Jews had to wear a yellow star to identify themselves. I know we are a long way off from comparing this situation to Nazi Germany but if I were of Mexican descent and living in Arizona, I would be feeling a little persecuted right now. What happened to the presumption of innocence – being considered innocent unless proven guilty? Why should Mexicans have to carry around proper identification at all times?
As a visitor to this country and many others (including Mexico) I am not in the habit of carrying my passport with me unless I am at the airport. Why should I have to be “paranoid” about carrying around my identification at all times, I did not think that was what America was all about. What happened to the land of the free? Or is it only the land of the free, if you have proper identification with you at all times.

Joaquin said...

Ask any F1 Visa person in the US how many times they have to show ID.
How do they respond?
They provide the paperwork and go on with life. Are the being persecuted? NO!

Anonymous said...

Is it bad that I'm just glad (as a person who lives in TEXAS) that someone else is getting called out for this crap, and I get a break from hearing how bad Texas is (which it is, but still...).

Also, please note that Arizona also just made it a class 6 felony to attempt to create a human-animal hybrid. Apparently that's a big issue. Good to know they have their law-making priorities in check! (Louisiana passed a similar law in 2009, so I'm really going to have to watch out for centaurs and the like.)