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).
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. ‘