Appraising Arizona
The experts examine the state's new immigration law.


Arizona epitomizes what every Republican — indeed, every American — should embrace: attrition through enforcement. For years, the open-borders crowd has claimed that the only two responses to illegal immigration are amnesty or mass roundups. That is nonsense. Attrition through enforcement presents an effective third option that respects the rule of law. By stepping up the enforcement of immigration laws through state-level action, Arizona has induced thousands of illegal aliens to self-deport. Need proof? In early 2008, after Arizona’s E-Verify law went into effect, the neighboring Mexican state of Sonora sent a delegation to the Arizona legislature to protest that Arizona was causing too many Mexican nationals to return to Mexico too quickly, overwhelming the housing stock and public infrastructure of Sonora.

Polls show that 70 percent of Arizonans support the new law. The overwhelming majority of Americans in the other 49 states share Arizonans’ basic point of view: enforce immigration laws more vigorously, protect American workers against illegal competition in the workplace, and don’t even think about amnesty. Republicans have largely gotten the message. Let’s hope they don’t forget it.

Kris Kobach is a professor of law at the University of Missouri (Kansas City) School of Law and former counsel to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The new Arizona law is a Rorschach test on immigration. Supporters of sovereign borders see a commonsense measure made necessary by the failure of federal will, while supporters of illegal immigration see a boot stamping on a human face forever.

I confess to being in the first camp. The law is an important but modest step toward restoring order at the border. What drives public angst over amnesty and related issues is the government’s complete lack of credibility on immigration enforcement; even many supporters of amnesty understand that restoring that credibility is an essential prerequisite to any immigration changes.

Despite the loud protests staged by opponents, the law is broadly popular, with the public in Arizona and nationwide supporting it by wide margins. That said, Republicans would be right to acknowledge the profiling concerns of our fellow citizens of Latin origin — concerns that have no foundation in the new law but that have been falsely raised by advocacy groups.

The main lesson for federal policymakers is that they need to do their job so states don’t have to. The explosion of illegal immigration in Arizona — where fully one-third of the uninsured are illegals and the state spends nearly $2 billion a year educating the children of families headed by illegals — demanded a response. The federal government’s unwillingness to build real fencing and turn off the magnet of jobs means states have to take care of themselves.

Mark Krikorian is executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, an NRO contributor, and author of The New Case Against Immigration, Both Legal and Illegal.