We’ve pretty much had it with the attacks on Arizona and the self-debasement of our country by the president. We are the United States and Arizona is our soil, part of our country. Lately, however, there’s been too much denigration of Arizona from the White House, and too much tearing down of Arizona for a law that is — if anything — more liberal than the federal law.
Yesterday, we saw it again when Mexican president Felipe Calderón and the president spoke jointly, and jointly critically, at the White House. The New York Times headline sums it up: “Obama & Calderón Decry Ariz. Immigration Law.”
Here’s the president yesterday, with Calderón at his side:
We also discussed the new law in Arizona, which is a misdirected effort — a misdirected expression of frustration over our broken immigration system, and which has raised concerns in both our countries. . . . And I want everyone, American and Mexican, to know my administration is taking a very close look at the Arizona law. We’re examining any implications, especially for civil rights. Because in the United States of America, no law-abiding person — be they an American citizen, a legal immigrant, or a visitor or tourist from Mexico — should ever be subject to suspicion simply because of what they look like.
For his part, Calderón then said this, standing next to the president:
In Mexico, we are and will continue being respectful of the internal policies of the United States and its legitimate right to establish in accordance to its Constitution whatever laws it approves. But we will retain our firm rejection to criminalize migration so that people that work and provide things to this nation will be treated as criminals. And we oppose firmly the S.B. 1070 Arizona law given its principles that are partial and discriminatory.
There is a lot to say about this — and we shall say it now. Allowing the running down of a part of the United States by the head of a foreign government, at the White House, standing next to the president — who not only didn’t challenge him, but encouraged him — is a foreign- and domestic-policy catastrophe. And in any catastrophe, one has to ask what were the conditions or causes that led to such a thing. Did the president tell Mr. Calderón ahead of time it would be okay to blast away at Arizona, which is to blast away at the United States? Or, less likely, was nothing said ahead of time and Mr. Calderón simply took note of the administration’s statements about Arizona thus far? Or, had Mr. Calderón simply observed over the past year not only President Obama and his administration’s take-down of Arizona but President Obama’s other attitudes about America, such as his bowing to foreign leaders and his calling America “arrogant,” “dismissive,” and “derisive” of our allies?
It took us twelve years of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush to overcome the low opinion of and in America that Jimmy Carter wrought in four years. As Jeanne Kirkpatrick said when Reagan came into office, the time of American being kicked around is over. Well, it’s back. So let’s take a scalpel to all of this, starting with Mexico.
Felipe Calderón has simply no business lecturing us, lecturing America, about our immigration policies. How does Mexico treat illegal immigrants? See Article 67 of Mexico’s General Population Law: “Authorities, whether federal, state or municipal . . . are required to demand that foreigners prove their legal presence in the country, before attending to any issues.” Now, the Arizona law, which we’ll get to in a moment, doesn’t even say this; there is no such language as “demand,” in Arizona.
But, first, here’s an Amnesty International press release from last month: “The Mexican authorities must act to halt the continuing abuse of migrants who are preyed on by criminal gangs while public officials turn a blind eye or even play an active part in kidnappings, rapes and murders.” Public officials — the government of Mexico — turns a blind eye. The AI report continues: “Migrants in Mexico are facing a major human rights crisis leaving them with virtually no access to justice, fearing reprisals and deportation if they complain of abuses. . . . Persistent failure by the authorities to tackle abuses carried out against irregular migrants has made their journey through Mexico one of the most dangerous in the world.”
So, illegal immigrants in Mexico face some of the most dangerous abuses in the world and they face reprisal and deportation if they complain. Further, there is “persistent failure” by the government of Mexico in stopping this. Felipe Calderón should be schooled on this, and until he is schooled on this, he should simply shut up about Arizona, about the United States — one of the safest places in the world for illegal immigrants and one of the most welcoming places in the world for legal immigrants.
Now, on to Arizona’s law. It cannot and will not operate the way President Obama has said; one will not be stopped because he may be calmly eating ice cream while looking different than the rest of America. Here’s what the law says:
FOR ANY LAWFUL STOP, DETENTION OR ARREST MADE BY A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL OR A LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY OF THIS STATE OR A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL OR A LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY OF A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE WHERE REASONABLE SUSPICION EXISTS THAT THE PERSON IS AN ALIEN WHO IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES, A REASONABLE ATTEMPT SHALL BE MADE, WHEN PRACTICABLE, TO DETERMINE THE IMMIGRATION STATUS OF THE PERSON.
What this means is that one simply cannot be stopped or inquired of, regarding their immigration status, based on any kind of suspicion whatsoever, not without a condition precedent, not without being stopped for an illegal act antecedent. For example, one will not be inquired of unless first stopped for violating some other law, like speeding or running a red light. Status and looks are not in play. And then, if inquired about, all inquiry stops if proof such as a driver’s license or green card is shown.
Second, the law continues:
A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL OR AGENCY OF THIS STATE OR A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE MAY NOT CONSIDER RACE, COLOR OR NATIONAL ORIGIN IN IMPLEMENTING THE REQUIREMENTS OF THIS SUBSECTION.
It is written into the law: race, color, and national origin cannot be the basis for reasonable suspicion to inquire of someone’s status. It is against the law.
Now, let’s look at the federal law that has been on the books for over 50 years: Not only is it a federal offense to be in this country illegally, but the federal law states, “Every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him.”
And the federal law adopts no standard for such enforcement, not even the standard of reasonable suspicion. And it requires no lawful stop precedent to such inquiry. Furthermore, Department of Justice guidelines state: “State police officers have ‘inherent power’ to arrest undocumented immigrants for violating federal law.”
So just what exactly has Arizona done to bring down the wrath of city councils, the president, the attorney general, the secretary of Homeland Security, and the president of Mexico? What exactly has Arizona done that could serve as the basis for an assistant secretary of state to tell the Chinese that we, too, have our human-rights problems, citing Arizona’s new law? The answer is nothing.
Now, a new argument came up yesterday from the president. He said: “I think a fair reading of the language of the statute indicates that it gives the possibility of individuals who are deemed suspicious of being illegal immigrants from being harassed or arrested.”
We first ask if he’s read the law, because the AG and the Secretary of HLS have said they have not read it. But what of the “possibility of being harassed or arrested” unfairly? Sure, it’s there, but the state law is more protective on this score than the federal law. And, moreover: All laws are potentially discriminatory or have the potential to be abused. As Andy McCarthy put it, not just laws, but policing:
All policing is potentially discriminatory. Police make arrests without judicial arrest-warrants all the time if they believe they have witnessed a violation of law. They conduct searches all the time without judicial search-warrants if, in their judgment, the facts they observe amount to one of the recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement. And, as we’ve pointed out repeated, they do not have to have any reason at all to ask questions — including to ask a person for identification or immigration status.
It makes no sense, except as an exercise in pandering, to criticize a law because it can potentially be abused. Should we, for example, shut down the legislative process because Congress could potentially abuse its power by, say, hiding the occasional hundred billion or two in spending?
Final point, why did Arizona pass this law? Last year, as Abby Wisse Schachter put it, “the Border Patrol apprehended 241,453 people and confiscated a record 1.3 million pounds of marijuana — in the Tucson, Ariz., sector alone. Nearly a fifth of all those apprehended already had a U.S. criminal record.”
There are nearly half a million illegal immigrants in Arizona. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, while illegal immigrants make up 9 percent of the Arizona population, they are responsible for 22 percent of the felonies in Arizona and they constitute 11 percent of the state prison population. Arizona is now the kidnapping capital of the United States, and Phoenix has the second-largest kidnapping problem in the world (second to Mexico City).
According to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, kidnapping in Arizona increased 402 percent between 2004 and 2008, with almost 70 percent of the kidnapping cases submitted for prosecution involving illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants account for 16.5 percent of those sentenced for violent crimes; 18.5 percent of those sentenced for property crimes; 33.5 percent of those sentenced for the manufacture, sale, or transport of drugs; and 44.4 percent of those sentenced or forgery and fraud in the Phoenix area. And, according to DOJ statistics, three Border Patrol agents are assaulted on the average day at or near the U.S. border. Someone is kidnapped every 35 hours in Phoenix, Ariz. — mostly by agents of alien-smuggling organizations. And one in five American teenagers last year used some type of illegal drug, many of which were imported across the unsecured U.S.-Mexico border. For example, most of the cocaine and meth consumed in America comes in from Mexico, and in some states, over 90 percent of the marijuana consumed is from Mexico.
Was there a compelling interest for this law? Yes. Was there a rational basis for this law? Yes. Is there any rationality in beating up on Arizona, or in the president’s allowing — even welcoming — leaders of foreign countries to do so? None, and it is a moral shame that he persists in this ugly business.
– William J. Bennett is the author of the recently published A Century Turns. He and Seth Leibsohn are fellows of the Claremont Institute.