Now that the health care issue has faded a bit, folks need a new focus for their righteous outrage. The matter of immigration seems set to take center stage once more.
Arizona currently is considering some of the toughest immigration laws in the country. The gist of the law is that immigrants “must carry their alien registration documents at all times and requires police to question people if there’s reason to suspect they’re in the United States illegally.” The bill also has provisions for people who hire illegal immigrants or provide them with transportation.
On one hand, the laws can be seen as quite reasonable. After all, being in the country illegally is (by definition) against the law. The police are tasked with enforcing laws and hence it makes sense that they should be directed to ensure that people are not breaking the law.
The aspect of the law that deal with people hiring illegal immigrants or transport them also seem sensible. After all, illegal immigrants are not here legally and hence businesses should not be hiring them to work. This, one might argue, would be on par with hiring known criminals and failing to report them to the police. The same would apply to people who transport illegal immigrants. If I knowingly give a criminal a ride and fail to report it, then I would seem to be aiding the person in his/her crime.
On the other hand, there are some serious concerns about the law.
One minor one is that the idea that people need to carry around identity papers at all times has sort of a totalitarian feel to it.
A much more serious concern is the requirement to question people who are suspected of being here illegally. The obvious concern is determining what would count as legitimate grounds for suspicion and what would not. Obviously enough, if an officer sees someone running across the border, then that would be reasonable grounds to ask questions. There are also other cases that would justify such questions as well, such as when the police raid an employer known for hiring illegals. However, there is a serious concern that the law will lead to American Hispanics being harassed and profiled. After all, some folks regard being Hispanic or not speaking English as grounds for being suspicious of a person being an illegal immigrant. I suspect that if I went to Arizona, I would never be asked to provide proof that I am here legally. However, I suspect that the same cannot be said for Americans with darker skin.
A practical concern is that, ironically enough, illegal immigrants apparently make significant contributions to Arizona’s economy. By driving out illegals and failing to handle the situation in a more reasonable manner through immigration reform Arizona might turn out to be hurting itself.
This is not to say that the state should simply do what many other states do and mainly just ignore the problem. Rather, what is needed is for the states and the federal government to seriously address the matter of illegal immigration and work out a solution that is both just and practical.