The passage of the Arizona immigration law and recent May Day protests have been weighing heavily on my mind. As a “Latino,” the circumstances of my heritage have no effect on my opinions with respect to this new law, though this may make many liberals very angry. They expect me to vote my skin color and forgo careful analysis. I am glad to disappoint them. As an American, I find this law to be somewhat worrisome. To start, the continual influx of illegal immigrants and the exploitation of our broken borders by international criminal elements may eventually lead to the collapse of the United States as a sovereign nation. This is not fear-mongering, this is fact. If we allow for an indefinite multitude of people to cross our borders and reside illegally in the US, then our country will collapse under the weight of the social and economic strain of their presence (I will get into this more in depth some other time). It is of paramount import that we, as a nation, get a grip on this problem before it is too late. That said, I worry over the possible consequences of the Arizona immigration law.
I am not one of those who immediately dismiss this as a machination of the xenophobic far right since I am keenly aware of the ticking time-bomb that the immigration problem poses. What I offer here are my thoughts and/or suggestions as to how best this law can serve the citizens of Arizona and ultimately all Americans. If the Arizona law leads to widespread civil rights violations and requires all citizens to carry proof of citizenship everywhere, then this law cannot stand. This is what opponents of the law, ranging from liberal to libertarian, charge that will come to be. I am not so sure. On the first count, racial profiling, one needs only to look at the demographic make-up of Arizona to realize that it would be practically impossible to implement such a policy. Arizona’s population is more than 30% of Latino origin which means that if the authorities decided to detain people on the basis of race then they would flood their police departments, sheriffs’ offices, and prisons with legal and illegal Latino-looking people. Not to mention that this practice would be wrong and would lead to a total breakdown of trust between the community and the authorities. This would be a nightmare scenario. When people say that racial profiling will be the norm, they can rest assured that the countless lawsuits brought against a racist police force will put an end to this law exceedingly quickly. This is why I do not think that Arizona will opt for a race-based rationale for determining “suspicion.”
The second count is more possible, but from my reading of the law it seems that Arizona citizens are not explicitly expected to carry around proof of citizenship at all times. Federal law already requires that non-citizens carry around proof of their legal status, so this law simply allows state authorities to enforce this law. The problem is with regular US citizens who are not required to carry such documents and whether or not they will be unreasonably searched. This problem is trickier. The only solution to such a problem is to concretely define what constitutes “reasonable suspicion” and to carefully train law enforcement so that they follow such criteria very, very closely. No police department will want to have to suspend or fire officers that violate citizen’s rights, not the mention the inevitable lawsuits that would immediately follow such a violation. On another note, a government requirement that we carry identification documents everywhere we go would be outright unamerican.
But these are all big ifs that depend on how the law is enforced. While these are probably the biggest negatives, the positives are immediately clear: giving law enforcement more tools in helping rein in illegal immigration, penalizing companies that hire illegal immigrants, and filling in where the federal government refuses to do its job. Just last Friday, a suspected drug trafficker shot an Arizona deputy with an AK-47 assault rifle. How did they get into the country with these weapons? Why should we keep our borders unguarded if this is the threat that exists? With Mexico’s drug war raging south of the border, it makes no sense to continue our present “porous-borders” policy for two reasons: 1) we are the primary market for the Mexican drug cartels and 2) this violence could easily spill over into the United States. We already see some of the effects of the Mexican drug war on our own soil, with Phoenix becoming the city with the second highest number of people kidnapped in the world behind (surprise!) Mexico City. As of yet, the actual drug violence seems to have kept mostly to itself in Mexico, but leaving the door wide open for them is not making us any safer.
The liberal response to the Arizona law was the usual high-pitched shrieking about the law’s supporters being xenophobes, racists, Nazis, etc. Nothing out of the ordinary. Not surprisingly, the president had negative things to say about the law which is in itself ironic given that Arizona stood up specifically because Washington has repeatedly laid down when it comes to securing our borders. The reality is that everyone is hurt by illegal immigration, from the Hispanic communities that become havens for Latin American gangs to working people’s wages that are depressed by the large pool of unskilled laborers. We need a sane and orderly immigration policy so that when new, legal arrivals get here there will still exist an America where their dreams can come true.