Thursday, April 29, 2010

Arizona's Doing More Harm Than Good

If I had any hair left, I’d be pulling it out right about now.

As you know, the state of Arizona has gone ahead and enacted SB 1070 which proponents say will help support law enforcement’s crime fighting efforts, and opponents say will open the floodgates for racial profiling of Hispanics.

I’ve read the new law, and while I’m no legal expert, it doesn’t seem as noxious as some people claim it to be. Mostly, it bolsters Federal laws regarding illegal aliens and clarifies the obligations local law enforcement organizations have regarding the handling of illegal aliens. It protects police officers who have reason to suspect that a person may be breaking the law by being here illegally. It also prevents people who have been incarcerated and cannot produce valid documentation from simply being released back into society.

In essence, SB 1070 reminds us all that illegal immigration is still a crime, and that law enforcement organizations don’t have the liberty to pick and choose what parts of the law they should enforce. Proponents say they’ve been forced to draft the new law in response to lax immigration law enforcement in Arizona. Opponents say immigration is a federal matter, not a state matter.

Would so many people be throwing a hissy fit over Arizona’s new law if it gave the police broad powers to suspect fundamentalist Arabs of being terrorists? I suspect not. As it is, in Arizona, the racial profiling that might – either intentionally or unintentionally – increase under SB 1070 will most likely disproportionately affect Hispanics, of which Arizona has many of both the legal and illegal varieties.

The Bill's Thorniest Issue

So to me, the question of whether the bill unfairly targets Hispanics is the crux of the issue.

Let’s face it: opponents who fear racial profiling most likely have a point. Hispanics appear to be the only target of this legislation. However, let’s clarify the concept of racial profiling. If a police officer running a speed trap intentionally looks for Hispanics to pull over and demand ID, that is racial profiling. If a police officer running a speed trap simply pulls over any offender, and that driver only speaks Spanish, and can’t produce a valid insurance card or driver’s license, then that officer has not committed racial profiling. The officer is just enforcing the law.

But how often will the former scenario occur in reality? How many cops will aggressively participate in racial profiling with the nation’s civil rights lawyers just waiting to pounce? How many cops will take cover under this new law to round up as many illegals as they can find? These are big unknowns at this point.

To complicate things, many illegal immigration advocates simply want our laws changed to allow illegal Hispanics free access to our country and its many welfare programs. They assume their sheer numbers justify their intentions (which brings up another curious point: Why aren’t there as many – and as vociferous – advocates for illegal immigration from Africa, or China?).

Prominent Hispanic activists bristle at the term “illegal immigrant.” They’re not illegal, they posit; most of this border land used to belong to Mexico anyway. What’s wrong with seeking a better life and providing food for one’s family? Isn’t that the story of America? Aren’t all Americans immigrants?

Sure, all of our ancestors were immigrants – even the “Native Americans” who came over the Bearing Strait. And yes, just about all of our ancestors came here looking for something better, whether it was better hunting grounds, better religious freedom, or better political freedom.

But the United States hasn’t been a lawless, non-chartered territory for centuries. Granted, you might not like all of the history that has unfolded in what is now the United States. But as our country has developed and matured, we have realized that in order to preserve the independence we enjoy as citizens and as a sovereign nation, controls need to be in place in order to protect and nurture the vital socioeconomic systems that help make our standard of living better than most other places in the world.

Does that mean we’ve rolled up the welcome mat and immigrants are no longer welcome in America? Of course not: thousands of people from across the globe apply for and legally become citizens of our great nation every year. But they obediently comply with quotas, jump through bureaucratic hoops, and provide the proper justifications for why they should be accepted by our country, just like anybody wanting to relocate to any other country in the world has to do.

Nobody complains about immigration quotas in England, Japan, China, or even Mexico and Guatemala. How many Hondurans would scream indignantly if hundreds of thousands of Americans decided to resettle there illegally?

If economic advancement is the sole justification for allowing people to move here illegally, why should legal Americans have to relinquish our sovereignty just by virtue of our closer proximity to Latin America than, say, Canada or Finland? By all accounts, Central American countries actually encourage migration to the United States because expatriates here can contribute significantly to their own GDP’s. That is, if you accept as valid such a warped justification for encouraging your citizens to break the laws of another country.

Which is the other problem, isn’t it? So many Latin American countries are such banana republics that their own governments are jokes. It’s easier for them to let industrious workers traipse up the continent to rich, spoiled America than to banish corruption, thwart dictatorships, and properly educate their citizenry so that they can enjoy at least a measure of the economic success America has achieved.

But, I digress. We’re talking about Arizona’s new law, right? And how after all I’ve said about how bad illegal immigration is, I need to come out and say that SB 1070 is misguided.

Acts of Frustration Aren't Always Logical

Yep – you heard right. As much as it pains me to say it, and as good as the intentions of the legislation appear to be, the possibility that what Arizona has enacted may in fact create a double-standard between legal Hispanics and other ethnicities and races holds too great a civil liberties risk. SB 1070 hurts the cause it purports to help.

Now, before you tune me out as just another ACLU hack, consider this: One of the great virtues of the United States is that citizens of all races and ethnicities are equal under the law. What do you think the civil rights movement was all about?

How many American Hispanics will be improperly detained or suspected by SB 1070? As American citizens, they have a right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. If whites and blacks were going to be vetted based on their ethnic or racial profile to initially determine their legal status in Arizona, how many of us would be indignant and canceling our conventions in Phoenix?

Just because we know we have a severe problem with illegal immigrants from Latin America doesn’t mean we can accept the inclusion of legal Hispanic Americans into the witch-hunt for illegals. It’s just not morally right.

Of course, it’s not morally right for Hispanic activists to pool legal and illegal Hispanics under the same protectionist umbrella, or allege that SB 1070 proponents are simply anti-immigration (dropping the “illegal” part of immigration). Actually, I’ve read where many legal Hispanic Americans have become as angry with the illegal Hispanics as whites and blacks have. But how much legitimacy will SB 1070 unintentionally give illegal immigration activists if they can prove US citizens are also being targeted by law enforcement?

Let’s face it: the crisis of illegal aliens defies well-meaning legislation like SB 1070:
  • We have many businesses and individuals who like hiring illegals because they’re cheap, exploitable labor.
  • Cheap, exploitable labor distorts the employment market, creating the perception that low-skilled Americans won't work jobs illegal Hispanics will. The deceit in that claim is that American workers know their rights - illegal aliens generally don't. True, we have lazy Americans, but undercutting minimum wage laws only incentivizes employers.
  • We have misguided human rights advocates who view our immigration laws as more of an inconvenience than an economic development tool or even a means to ensure the rights of citizens of a sovereign nation.
  • We have politicians who misinterpret “majority rule” to mean being subservient to whomever squawks the loudest – in this case, the pro-illegal Hispanic communities.
  • We have a legacy of poorly-enforced immigration laws that have allowed these pro-illegal Hispanic communities to swell in size and influence.
  • We have diluted the significance of birthright citizenship by allowing so many illegals to cross the border and give birth.
  • And we now have generations of children born to illegal Hispanics who present heart-tugging conundrums to the deportation of illegal parents of legal children.
Both Democrats and Republicans have contributed to the atrocious complexity of the illegal alien situation; Democrats by waffling on the enforcement of sovereignty laws, and Republicans by profiting from the exploitable labor of illegal workers.

Until we as a nation get serious about border protection, national sovereignty, and the Biblical mandate that a worker is worthy of his hire, laws like Arizona’s SB 1070 will only exacerbate the crisis of illegal immigration. Good efforts at curbing illegal immigration may suffer irreparable harm by the good intentions but bad execution of legislation such as this that cannot strike at the root of the problem.

I want to support it, but I can’t.
PS - In the suburban Dallas town of Farmer's Branch, Texas, the city council is waging it's own small-scale war against illegal aliens by trying to defend its embattled ordinance requiring apartment renters to furnish proof of legal US residency. I support this ordinance in Farmer's Branch because it applies equally to everyone wanting to rent. Proof of legal residency is just one more document you need to provide if you want to rent an apartment. I don't see anything wrong with that.

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