Arizona Immigration Law – EO Symposium

The recently passed Arizona Immigration law has stirred up great controversy.  Even within our elite contingency of writers at Evangelical Outpost there is controversy about the law.  On the Left, Lindsay Stallones argues that this law is unconstitutional and will inevitably lead to racial profiling.  On the Right, Rachel Motte likewise believes this law a bad idea and encourages us to re-examine our application of social justice programs.  However, several of us are glad to see this law passed and hope it leads to a more serious examination of our immigration policies.

Given the diversity of opinion on the law, we opened up a symposium on the matter for other writers at the EO to weigh in.  Here was the prompt:  SHOULD WE CARE ABOUT THE ARIZONA IMMIGRATION LAW?


Law Is Uninteresting, Anger Is Shocking

By: Dustin R. Steeve

Most shocking about Arizona’s new immigration law is the outrage and attention coming from politicians and the press.  On its own, the law is fodder for stimulating conversation only if you are a political nerd: “I wonder if this new law will be struck down per Davidowitz v. Hines?  Does Federal preemption apply?  What right does the state have to enforce immigration policy?”  Would that everyone found all such conversations about states rights as sexy and stimulating!  The Arizona immigration law, or S.B. 1070, can be summarized as follows: federal immigration laws will be enforced in the state of Arizona and anyone caught breaking said laws will also be charged with breaking Arizona law.

What this boring law has done is it has brought to light the utter irrationality powering the pro-illegal alien arguments made by the Democrat party and people courting the Hispanic vote.

Illegal immigration is good for nobody.  If the Left thinks conservatives are double minded in their pro-life, pro-just-warfare philosophy, then the Left is certainly double minded on their pro-social justice, pro-illegal immigration positioning.  Illegal immigration hurts immigrants because it exposes them to abusive working conditions and forces them to live in the shadows outside the sight of law and justice.  It hurts honest farmers who cannot compete with dishonest farmers harvesting their lands cheaply via illegal alien workers.  It hurts consumers by artificially driving prices down while simultaneously driving the tax burden up.  It hurts local governments who have to bear the added burden of funding schools, police and fire departments, hospitals, and social programs for people who are not registered tax payers and do not pay in to our system.

The nonsense and hysteria on this issue ought to deflate people who believe in the power of government and government programs to make the world a better place.  Read the rhetoric of San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom or any number of politicians on this issue.  You’ll read charges of racism, you’ll hear vile comparison’s to Nazism, you’ll hear full throated calls for boycott of Arizona products and tourism – this during a time of a great recession when jobs are a precious commodity!

And why the hysteria?  Because it makes good political theater.

Think I’m being cynical; I challenge you to read the bill for yourself.  It’s a short 17 pages, but it’s a shocking 17 pages.  Why is it shocking?  It’s shocking because it’s easy to read, it’s easy to understand and will make fools of those who have spoken against this bill hastily out of anger and ignorance.  If you and I can easily understand this bill, why couldn’t our elected officials have taken the time to read and reflect on the bill before remarking against it?  For example, charges of racism in the bill are unfounded; at best one can lamely claim that the bill forces racial profiling because police would have no other way of enforcing the law otherwise.  That’s an argument with more holes than a colander – an argument so bad that even the Daily Kos recognizes its faultiness.  If political discourse in this country is to carry any serious weight and meaning, the kind of rhetoric we have seen against this bill must end.

It’s Legal! …So Long As I’m Right

By: Robin Dembroff

I am, like many Americans, torn about Arizona’s new immigration law. On the one hand, illegal things should be illegal—a civil society’s laws should have weight behind them. But the objections—such as concerns of racial profiling, or the effect on community trust—are also legitimate. In the end, I come down against Arizona’s decision.

I support expanding legal immigration, but I also think government should enact laws that are necessary for the fundamental protection of American citizens. But that puts two questions at play: What is fundamental protection? and is this law necessary for it?

The American legal system has always worked off the principle that a government should assume a person innocent until proven guilty. Accusations based on assumed guilt have never been considered necessary for our society’s protection.

Here are a couple likely objections to my connecting that principle to Arizona’s law:

1) Look again, Dembroff. The law stipulates that police must have ‘reasonable suspicion’.

True. It does. But what is ‘reasonable’ is not based on hard evidence, or even testimony. If a police officer claims that she ‘reasonably suspected’ someone to be an immigrant, she needs nothing further to demand they reveal identification. People—citizens and immigrants—are not protected from unwarranted police interrogation by concrete limitations. Through the law may claim that police will not ‘assume’ guilt, but have warrant for it, the actual stipulations of the law cannot guarantee that.

Our police are there to protect citizens—and legal immigrants—but not in ways that will make us feel like we need protection from them. And let’s be honest, I know that if I were a recent legal immigrant, I would walk on the other side of the street from an Arizona police officer.

(Also, and ironically, Arizona police are only to detain someone ‘when practicable’, when, let’s be honest, remembering to carry your wallet around, much less immigration papers, is hardly ‘practicable’.)

2) Asking someone for papers isn’t an accusation of guilt.

We need to make up our minds.

To demand immigration papers on grounds of  ‘reasonable suspicion’ is an accusation. But oh, I know! Just get rid of the ‘suspicion’ bit, and it won’t be accusation any longer! Yeah…that sounds like a great idea.

3) Yes, but that is a right afforded only to citizens and legal immigrants.

Sure, if police catch an immigrant, they could say of that immigrant, “We didn’t violate his rights: he’s not a citizen.” But post-facto justification doesn’t fly with me. The first time Arizona police detain a citizen or legal immigrant, the law will have been used in violation of that person’s rights. Police are made to play a kind of ‘Russian roulette’ by having to risk violating rights every time they detain a person based on unofficial, ‘reasonable suspicion’.

Conclusion: Enforcing immigration laws with illegal immigrants, yes. Enforcing immigration laws with those who are ‘reasonably suspected’ of being illegal immigrants, no.


A Lot of Fuss over Practically Nothing

By: Renee Bolinger

In a word: no, we shouldn’t care much about Arizona’s new law.

It’s a political football, but that’s about it.  The law grants remarkably few new powers to the AZ police, has already been challenged, and is (unfortunately) unlikely to solve the State’s illegal immigration troubles. See for yourself: read full text of the new law (SB1070).
1.  Few New Powers.

  • a) Asking about immigration status

First, several AZ counties already have this authority, as trained deputy enforcers of Federal immigration law under provision 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.  SB1070 simply extends this training and power to the rest of the State police forces.

Secondly, police may only ask about immigration status if, during the course of “any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official” a “reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States.” ‘Lawful contact’ in this context means interaction with police caused by something other than curiosity about immigration status, so any immigrant heckling would be a clear violation of this provision.  Can this power be abused? Sure, all power can.  But I’m not convinced it’s much to worry about (see point c, below).

  • b) Probable Cause

Arizona has taken steps to ensure that the probable cause provision will not be abused.  When she signed SB1070, governor Janice Brewer also issued Executive Order 2010-09, creating a training program reasserting the bill’s prohibition of “race, color, or national origin alone” from providing grounds for reasonable suspicion.  Suggested probable causes include inability to produce a license or any form of ID during a traffic stop, illegal overcrowding of a vehicle, high-speed flight from a checkpoint, etc.

  • c) Requiring immigrants to carry paperwork

Arizona’s law only reasserts pre-existing federal law on this point, which already requires non-citizen immigrants to carry documentation at all times. (8 USC 1304(e) and 8 USC 1306(a)).  If you can produce a driver’s license, that’s enough: because AZ only grants licenses to persons with legal immigration status, it is considered proof of legal residence.  You needn’t start toting your passport.

2. Constitutional Challenge
If you want to test the constitutionality of a law, the best thing to do is have someone challenge it.  Tuscon police officer Martin Escobar has done just that, claiming the law will force him to detain “every Hispanic found within the limits of Tuscon”, and thus “seriously impede” the crime fighting functions of the police force, while violating everyone’s civil rights.  (Full text here).

The law has also been challenged on a possible conflict with Federal laws, but these charges are weak. SB1070 explicitly prohibits any interference with Federal law, updating Title 11, Chapter 7, Article 8 of the State’s immigration code to read:

No Official or Agency of this State or a County, City, Town, or other Political Subdivision of this State may adopt a policy that limits or restricts the enforcement of Federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law.
Furthermore, while the law extends existing federal powers to state agencies, it doesn’t create any new or contradictory ones, so there’s really nothing to challenge.

3.  Ain’t Gonna Fix Nothin’
The law cannot address one of the biggest weak points of US immigration policy: deportation.  Federal law mandates that States turn detained aliens over to federal custody for deportation, but due to facility constraints, many persons thus detained are released again, or deported without any care to keep them from re-entering.  Arizona’s best hope is a clause that allows them to imprison illegal aliens whom they have previously deported, but that will create quite a fiscal burden for their prison system. ‘

Published by

Dustin R. Steeve

Dustin Steeve is a blogger and web enthusiast. Dustin's passion is to see his generation of Christians rise up as thought leaders, doing remarkable, good work Christianly. Dustin is interested in the rise of web media and increasingly prominent use of computer technology as a tool to aid people. Dustin worked for three years as the director of GodblogCon and is an adviser for the Christian Web Conference. Dustin graduated summa cum laude and received his B.A. in History from Biola University where he also graduated from Torrey Honors Institute. Dustin has completed some post-graduate work at the Stanford Graduate School of Business where he was appointed to the Dean's List and received a certificate of completion from the Summer Institute for General Management.

  • Benito

    I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience about this and other related incidents. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened. All of us ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated, but this is not the case.

    I know the proponents of this law say that the majority approves of this law, but the majority is not always right. Would women or non-whites have the vote if we listen to the majority of the day, would the non-whites have equal rights (and equal access to churches, restaurants, hotels, retail stores, schools, colleges and yes water fountains) if we listen to the majority of the day? We all know the answer, a resounding, NO!

    Today we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. In a time of domestic crisis men of good will and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics and do what is right, not what is just popular with the majority. Some men comprehend discrimination by never have experiencing it in their lives, but the majority will only understand after it happens to them.

  • drsteeve


    You said: “This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”

    That is only somewhat true. First, the majority of the men (and women) who founded this nation came from a European country – many from England – and these men and women had a strong sense of duty to one another and duty to country. Yes, even those men who signed the Declaration of Independence had a strong sense of duty to country, they simply felt the king had committed a long enough train of abuses and usurpation to justify removing the crown as overseer of their 13 colonies of men.

    The problem with illegal immigration is twofold: first, it establishes a class of people outside the rule of law who are open to abuses without legal protection and who haven't assumed the duty (through citizenship) to assume responsibility for the well-being of their fellow-countrymen in the United States. They don't file taxes, they use our community resources yet do not fully share the burden of funding them, and they often commute back and forth between their nation of citizenship and this nation thereby failing to establish roots and contribute to the well-being and growth of their local communities.

    Everyone believes they ought be treated humanely and that they have basic human rights, but these rights do not entitle them to automatic citizenship simply because they can walk across an imaginary line in the Arizona sand.

    “I know the proponents of this law say that the majority approves of this law, but the majority is not always right.”

    That is correct, proponents of this law believe the majority of Americans approve of and understand why Arizona passed the law. However, majority approval is not the justification for passing the law and so your whole point here falls apart. Would that the majority didn't approve the AZ law, proponents of the law (such as myself) still believe it justified on a number of grounds – namely, it's justified because it enforces pre-existing laws important for the defense and security of this nation. It is politically savvy because it calls attention to the utter failure of our current President and his Congress to make meaningful steps to focus on national security.

    “would the non-whites have equal rights (and equal access to churches, restaurants, hotels, retail stores, schools, colleges and yes water fountains) if we listen to the majority of the day? We all know the answer, a resounding, NO!”

    I challenge you to re-examine your history. Most political matters are not black and white (pardon the pun), many people reside in some grey area and are persuaded to one opinion or another. You challenge that, if we were to listen to the majority opinion, slaves would never have been free. However, the majority was always changing their opinion. For example, look at the 3/5ths compromise in the Constitution. That compromise was made at the behest of the abolitionists who wanted to make sure that slave weren't fully “counted” for shame representation; it worked. The slave states weren't able to overpower Congress and momentum (which had been steadily building in the abolitionists favor) eventually lead us to civil war and the freeing of the slaves.

    Today the majority opinion believe non-whites ought have equal rights and that women ought to vote; are they now wrong because they are in the majority? Do they lack all other possible justification for their opinion because they are in the majority?

  • LindsayStallones

    Dustin, I'm a bit confused. It seems as though you advocate the will of the majority in any case because eventually, it'll choose what's right. That can't possibly be your stance, can it?

  • drsteeve

    I'm confused how you came to that conclusion about my position.

    My position is two-fold. First, a thing is not right or wrong simply because the majority supports it. Second, when talking about “the majority,” one ought to recognize that within that body there exists a diversity of opinion and opportunity to persuade people of the merits of the minority position.

  • KC

    I used to follow this site, but don't much these days, maybe because it feels too much like the insular environment I was raised in. This article exemplifies this for me: there are real people who have real concerns about how this bill will affect themselves and others. However, the viewpoints here dismiss the issue as abstract and impersonal, like a discussion of the finer rules of a board game. I don't believe that if you personally find a topic boring that means the emotions of other people are fake or constructed.

    I think I can speak for many that we do want real discussion with you; we want an evangelical outpost in the broader culture. But I think part of having that conversation means not accusing us of being “hysterical” over “practically nothing”. I believe that kind of talk is better suited to venting with your friends after a hard day, not for engaging opponents. It's probably something worth addressing if a goal of this site is still to reach out to people like me.

  • Matthew Lee Anderson


    Thanks for the interesting feedback. It's much appreciated. What did you make of Lindsay's post on it yesterday?



  • drsteeve


    You should probably read Matt's remark first – he's much more generous than I am.

    I must admit that I'm amused by your remark. I'm amused because you're saying the very same thing that I say to my philosophically trained friends all the time. However, when I read this post, I have a very difficult time seeing where we have failed to seriously interact with the positions of our opponents vis-a-vis this law.

    As a fourth generation San Diego guy, please allow me to be very frank: illegal immigration is a big problem about which few people have a damn clue the true nature of it or any ideas about how to solve it. My mom is a public school secretary, my grandparents were farmers, one of my good friends (the guy who helps run our farm today) was made legal by the Reagan administration. For me, the problem is no abstract philosophical debate – I can put faces and real life stories to the issue.

    The fact of the matter is, every time the debate is raised, the usual suspects on the left march out their race baiting, their hysteria, their ire, and they utterly decapitate honest to God efforts to solve a problem. If this nation is to continue as a Democracy whereby honest conversation informed by the truth persuades people as they make laws – then this sort of nonsense has got to come to an end.

    If you're an elected official holding a prominent office (or even a not so prominent office) and you charge that this bill is racist, then you sure as hell better be able to point to a clause in that text or raise some sort of evidence to prove the point. Racism is a serious thing; serious people ought use that term with extreme caution. On this issue, where racism has been charged, my opponents on the Left have utterly failed to prove their point about racism because, frankly, it's not in the bill. It is to this failure that I am pointing – it is to this failure that I am calling foul!

    You think we have a sheltered opinion? Fine, tell us where and how. Link to the counter argument that devastates our position or, better yet, make the counter argument yourself. Each of us has linked to and demonstrated our familiarity with our opponent's position. Each of us has given a push back. Now the ball's in our opponent's court. I'm tired of the emotive blathering that has clouded our minds and prevented serious people from having a serious conversation about how to solve this serious problem.

  • Benito

    “All Men are created equal”! The founders had it right, when attempting to form a perfect union and they also knew that they were not there yet but knew we one day would get there. Lincoln moved us forward as did JFK and LBJ. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.

    It is my contention that this AZ law is not constitutional and will fail when challenged (unless they add more amendments), pretty funny for the perfect law. Why hitch your wagon to this dead white elephant. See you in court.

  • LindsayStallones

    Have to agree with you there, Benito! Though I wrote a whole article about it already, so I guess that goes without saying. :)

  • LindsayStallones


    I'm interested to know what you think of my article on the subject. I agree with you – I'm often discouraged by the political views expressed here. I worry that we are too wedded to a political ideology that is antithetical to our faith. (and to be fair, many of my friends who post here worry the same of me!)

    But I find that it is only in continuing the discussion that we're likely to discover what God would have us do here on earth. I hope that when they think I'm wrong, my friends here will continue to argue with me. I certainly do the same for them!

    And in this case… I agree with you that Dustin is wrong, both in his interpretation of the law and his dismissal of others' concern for it. But how is he to know if you and I don't bother him about it? And how are we to decide if we are right if we don't engage in discussion of it with him?

    Stay, KC! If only so I have one more commenter I don't have to fight! :)

  • drsteeve

    Haha – I love it. The last part of your comment has absolutely nothing to do with the first.

    “Why hitch your wagon to this dead white elephant.”

    What do you mean by that?

  • Benito

    “All Men are created equal”! The founders had it right, when attempting to form a perfect union and they also knew that they were not there yet but knew we one day would get there. Lincoln moved us forward as did JFK and LBJ. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.

    It is my contention that this AZ law is not constitutional and will fail when challenged (unless they add more amendments), pretty funny for this so called perfect law.

  • Rachel Motte

    Do you guys have any thoughts on today's LA Times piece on the guy who wrote the law?

    I still don't like the law, (see the piece I wrote about it here at EO) but it was interesting to hear about the authors' intent.

  • drsteeve

    The most controversial thing he was quoted as saying in this piece was:

    “Kobach stood in front of an American flag and told a crowd gathered for the Republican town hall meeting that Arizona had long been under siege by kidnappers, drug dealers and human smugglers from other countries and that something had to be done. When he described the gun battle that resulted in the recent shooting of a sheriff's deputy, the audience gasped. When he talked about the state's efforts to make life miserable for illegal immigrants so they will return to their native countries, they applauded.

    'It's not rocket science,' he said. 'You ratchet up the level of enforcement so people leave on their own.'”

    By and large, I agree with the tactic and, frankly, the tactic is more than sensible. Ready, here it is: Enforce the law! Like I said in my post above, liberal Democrats are shockingly double minded on this issue. They claim to be compassionate, they claim to champion social justice, yet the overwhelmingly resist legal efforts to break down a system which is perpetuating great injustice; nobody with integrity can claim that it is appropriate and good to fuel our economy on the backs of people outside the protection of the law.

    Aside from POSSIBLE constitutional difficulty (a matter far from certain), I've not heard one good argument against the law and certainly not one good argument that supports the kind of rash, stupid boycotting that we're seeing up and down the state of California. Utterly absurd.

    I'm surprised Rachel – what did you read in this piece that you found interesting? The author's motivation is straight-forward – stop illegal immigration. That's it. This isn't the Obama administration, there's no double-speak here that you have to read past. What did this piece really tell you?