Sunday, May 16, 2010

Crazy In Arizona

I've had this post kicking around for over a week now, but just haven't had the time to post anything. I'm not going to link or get into any long explanations because unless you've been living in a news-less cave, you're well aware of the controversy over Arizona's new immigration law, requiring police officers to determine the immigration status, during lawful stops, of anyone whom there is reasonable suspicion about their immigration status.

Much of the reaction has been the expected. Many on the left and most civil libertarians have denounced the law, while anti-immigration folks of all stripes have rushed to it's defense. Surprising, perhaps, is the reaction from some segments of the right that don't typically tread into the messy area of immigration; That the Arizona law is perfectly acceptable because it mirrors federal law and because illegal immigrants, are, you know, illegal. I'll delve more into general theories of immigration law in a minute, but first allow me to address to really big, no questions about it problem with Arizona's new law: It is a defacto national ID requirement, circumventing Congressional authority in regards to immigration and threatening the Constitutional liberty of American citizens who travel without proof of citizenship.

Most of the laws defenders have focused on the laws impact on illegal immigrants, but let's talk about the effects on honest-to-goodness American citizens. If you are an American citizen, this law permits the police to detain you to conduct an immigration check. Most of the examples I've heard have been in regards to traffic stops, where, of course you should be carrying a drivers license that proves your citizenship. But carrying a drivers license is a requirement for driving a car, not for simply leaving your home. There is no national ID card and there is no law, federal, state, or local, that requires you to carry ID with you anytime you leave the house. What this law does is surreptitiously creates such an ID requirement. Can any of this laws defenders honestly say that American citizens of Latino descent in Arizona don't face illegal and unconstitutional detention if they fail to carry ID with them?

There's a larger issue here and that's about immigration policy in general. I've heard some reluctant defenders of the law make the point that this may force Congress to address immigration issues. I certainly have my doubts there, but the controversy surrounding this law illustrates some of the serious problems in regards to immigration issues. First off, why on earth should we spend precious law enforcement time and taxpayer dollars on illegal immigration. Yes, illegal immigration is illegal, but so is marijuana and plenty of other things that we don't make law enforcement priorities. Argument that illegal immigrants come and commit crimes or come and take advantage of American services are sort of besides the point. Illegally taking advantage of services not available to non-citizens is fraud and should be handled as fraud and I would hope law enforcement spends most of it's resources focusing on violent crime committed by both American citizens and illegals.

The focus on the illegal aspect of illegal immigration also ignores the problem of just what legal immigration is. Folks on the right have no problem critiquing the massively inefficient federal bureaucracy when it comes to say the EPA, or the Department of Education, but nary a word is said about the thousands upon thousands of immigration related regulations and a process that takes years to complete. Yes, most of my ancestors immigrated here legally, but they didn't need a lawyer and a small fortune to do it.

As I've pointed out in this blog since I first started five years ago, it's just plain dishonest to play the "I support legal immigration" card while not voicing any opinion on how the process actually works. It's like saying I support nuclear power while supporting regulations that make the creation of new nuclear power plants nearly impossible. Generally, folks on the right don't play those word games when it comes to nuclear power and they shouldn't when it comes to immigration. Our problem in this country isn't the individuals who want to come here to make a better life for themselves, our problem is government bureaucracy, bad laws, and over-regulation.


Blogger McMc said...

I'm not really in favor of what's going on in Arizona, but there are a few points I'd like to make:

For one, it's easy to sit in suburban Connecticut and say "why bother spending money on finding illegal immigrants", but I don't think this is one of those issues that people just blow out of proportion for no reason. I mean, obviously stuff gets blown out of proportion when it hits a national scale, but the people of Arizona, California, Texas, New Mexico...they deal with illegal immigration a lot more than we do.

Secondly, for all those who say immigrants should just go through the legal channels, there's another person rambling on about our ancestors immigrating to America. When I hear that argument, I'm usually listening to someone who has nothing real to say about the issue. After all, since when is it acceptable to compare society in 2010 to society in 1850? I'm sorry, but this isn't the same country as it used to be and it's just silly to suggest that because my ancestors came to a country yet to reach it's fullest potential, it's OK for people to flock into a land that is probably over-populated.

That's not to say all immigration should be illegal. And yes, maybe the legal processes should be easier. The point is, it probably is for the better that we take better stock in who is coming in.

Finally, isn't it in the immigrants better interest, to make sure immigration stays as regulated as possible. Illegal immigrants can very easily be exploited for labor and while it sounds like a win-win for the parties involved (business owner gets cheaper labor, immigrant makes money), it's also an unfair process that punishes those who practice business under the law and denies an immigrant from truly making what they can.

The problem is that immigration debates always boil down to "they took our jobs" and "your great grandfather was an immigrant" and obviously that's not going to get us anywhere. I also don't think it's totally fair for a local issue (because really, when we talk about illegal immigration in this country we're really talking about Mexican immigrants and we're generally talking about the southwest) to go national like this. What's wrong with certain states having their own regulations (obviously as long as a state like Arizona doesn't go too far)?

5:45 PM  
Blogger lonely libertarian said...

A couple things:

1- I didn't get into it in the post, but the problem with Arizona or any state setting immigration regulations is that it's unconstitutional. Immigration policy can only be set at the national level. Now, the argument in favor of Arizona's law is that it doesn't create new policy, it's just an enforcement of existing federal law. But here's the problem: States have no authority to arrest, try, or deport illegal immigrants. Any illegals found by Arizona authorities have to be turned over to federal authorities. Essentially, one state winds up dictating use of federal resources and tax dollars.

2- You bring up a good point about employers who take advantage of illegal immigrants and the unfair advantages this gives them. But in a way, this goes back to my point about enforcing laws against people who actually do bad things. You don't have to arrest and deport illegal immigrants to go after the employers who are violating tax and minimum wage laws by using illegal immigrant labor off the books. Again, why not focus resources on people doing wrong and not on the poorest of the poor who aren't harming anyone.

3- Finally, just in regards to immigration in general, I'd argue that it's wrong to assume illegal immigration is a problem in and of itself. Why? Because unless they're committing fraud, or committing acts of violence, who is actually harmed by illegal immigration? If your point is about the sheer number of immigrants, so be it, but that would be a problem whether they were here legally, or illegally.

10:24 AM  
Anonymous rose said...

Another case of DC elites moralizing on some issue where they don't bear any cost. I don't know enough to judge whether the law is constitutional, or whether there is a better way to restrict the flow of dangerous illegals. But the motivation for the law is completely understandable. And the idea of DC challening the law on constitutional grounds is pretty hilarious considering the passage of the individual health insurance mandate. Not to mention liberal districts like San Fran have a long history of actively undermining federal immigration law. Whether the Arizona law is moral or constitutional, I dunno, but its major critics are hypocrites.

Rand Paul in Kentucky over the establishment republican. Tea Party has very clearly nudged the republican party right on economic issues and left on social issues (or at the very least, more indifference on social issues and more emphasis on economic freedom).

10:55 AM  
Blogger 則其則其 said...


8:12 AM  

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