On April 23, 2010, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law an immigration bill that has drawn both ire and support in the weeks following. Supporters say that it’s a proactive step toward stemming the tide of illegal immigrants crossing the border and sucking at the teet of America’s social services. Detractors say that it’s basically legalized police profiling that discriminates against one ethnic group.
They are both right.
I live in a border state as well. Illegal immigration is a problem, especially with the growing influence of Mexican gangs not only in the border states but throughout the country. Without a doubt, it’s a national security issue. I’ve long advocated that illegals be summarily deported (of course, with subsequent births of children on American soil, making them American citizens, the situation can be squirrelly). It’s how we go about identifying potentially illegal aliens that is the problem.
Governor Brewer issued a statement where she said, “My signature today represents my steadfast support for enforcing the law —both AGAINST illegal immigration AND against racial profiling.” She also adds, “The bill already required that it ‘shall be implemented in a manner consistent with federal laws regulating immigration, protecting the civil rights of all persons and respecting the privileges and immunities of United States citizens.’”
And herein lies the rub. Legal immigrants are required to present their papers. Citizens, being citizens, don’t. And the way you target the illegal ones who don’t have papers is…how, exactly? Since the governor and the Arizona legislature haven’t been railing against all those darned Canadian illegals, or that pesky flood of aliens from Cote d’Ivoire, one has to assume that the specific class of people they are going to look for will have tan/olive skin, probably have a more-or-less Spanish accent, likely have naturally dark hair, and so forth. It’s logical. It’s profiling, but it’s logical. So when the rhetoric says there will be “no profiling”, that’s very hard to swallow.
See, the only way to avoid that is to request the papers of random folk on the street in general: proportional to race, ethnicity, and social class. Oh, wait…we’re “respecting the privileges and immunities of United States citizens”, the ones that don’t have to carry papers, so that probably won’t work. Darn. Plus, that’s just the teeniest bit fascist, so probably not a popular strategy. (I”ve jokingly suggested that the other 49 states could help out Arizona by stopping every vehicle with an Arizona license plate, as often as necessary, and requesting to see the papers of everyone on board to make sure everyone is legal.)
And thus we’ve uncovered the problem–the reason why the federal government has been slow to enact immigration policies with teeth: it’s hard to do without violating both the assumed and stated rights of a citizen to not be questioned expect for due cause and with due process. The country has substantial borders, a lot of land, and a lot of people. It’s not too difficult to disappear…unless the government is looking specifically at your type of people.
This is an issue for me because I’m half Hispanos (not Hispanic…Hispanos). That means that the folk on that half of the family can trace ancestry to this land going back to New Spain. The U.S. came and acquired the land later–and some force was involved. So clearly, the U.S. government wanted us (and that includes the Arizona Hispanos as well). Now, since I’m half-Hispano and even that half was mostly Spanish, I look white. Many of my relatives…I could see them being hassled if they cross the border–the state border–into Arizona.
What’s the solution? Pretty much just what we’ve been doing: strengthening the border and enacting stronger (and swifter) procedures to ship confirmed illegals back from whence they came. The sticky situation of illegal parents with natural-born American children is one that needs to be clarified. It’s a loophole that constantly muddies the system.
I’m not a big fan of amnesty programs. It doesn’t seem fair that if you manage to stay under the radar you then get to circumvent the hoops that legal immigrants have to jump through. While I fully appreciate that many of these people are good citizens save for the method in which they arrived, and that they may have left very onerous situations for very valid reasons, the fact is that they did it in the wrong way.
Perhaps the best solution is to expand our immigration policies instead of black-(or brown)-and-whiting the issue and trying to restrict a policy that’s already failing. For instance you could try any number of things that might have the desired effect and still be legal:
- Temporary worker’s visas for specific jobs should be relatively simple to obtain and be GPS-enabled. One-strike: it’s separated from you for something other than an ID check, or you stray from where you should be, then you’ll be deported with no option of return. INS will need sufficient personnel for this to work.
- All money earned on U.S. soil will be taxed at a higher rate than U.S. citizens in the same pay grade, including paying FICA and any other social taxes. This compensates for money leaving the country as well as pays for the social services that vex some.
- Semi-resident status for cases of American children and foreign parents who are willing to travel between the two countries…each parent having to spend at least 187 days (one day over 1/2 year) outside the U.S. (with two parents, you can alternate so the child isn’t abandoned). Again, one-strike: violation without an exigent circumstance waver will bar you from ever again re-entering the U.S. legally.
Stuff like that.
Of course this wouldn’t apply to properly gotten visas for purposes such as: tourism, work, education, legal immigration, etc.–same as today.
I fully appreciate Arizona’s frustration. You can’t live in a border state and not. I’m not judging the intent of the law but the method in which it will be enacted in the real world. There’s also the potential constitutional issues of whether a state can unilaterally take on this sort of policy as well as whether the policy itself will stand judicial scrutiny from a personal rights aspect.
Yep…they’ve certainly opened a can of worms. It will be interesting to see what the repercussions will turn out to be.