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


It must be worrisome to be an illegal alien in Arizona right now. Whether you think that this is a good or a bad thing is a litmus test for whether you believe that immigration laws should be enforced. For years, any hint of immigration enforcement has triggered loud complaints from illegal-alien advocates about the stress that the mere possibility of detection places on illegal aliens’ peace of mind. For the illegal-alien lobby, there is a right not just to be in the country illegally, but also to be free from any nervousness that might be caused by one’s illegal status.

The Arizona law resoundingly rejects that assumption and announces: No, you shouldn’t be in the country illegally, and yes, we really mean it. The onus now falls on illegal-alien advocates to explain why deportation is not a valid consequence of immigration-law violations, for the main effect of SB 1070 is to marginally increase the still-slim chance that any given illegal alien will be apprehended and deported.

If the Obama administration continues to oppose SB 1070, Republicans should point out that the White House’s alleged commitment to enforcement as the quid pro quo for amnesty is a feint. Confining immigration enforcement to federal agents and the handful of local agencies that the administration sees fit to deputize under the 287g program cannot possibly elevate the risk of detection sufficiently to deter illegal entry and to induce those already here illegally to leave the country on their own — the real goal of enforcement. Only by allowing local law enforcement to act on immigration violations can the attrition strategy be given a real chance to work.

Charges that the Arizona bill is “near-fascist” because it requires aliens to produce proof of lawful status are overblown. The federal government already requires lawfully admitted aliens to carry their immigration documents. The charge that SB 1070 could open the door to racial profiling is less specious. Training and monitoring, however, can reduce the chance that someone might be asked for identification papers simply because he is Hispanic. The possibility that an otherwise valid law may be abused is not a sufficient argument against it.

SB 1070 demonstrates that Americans in states with high rates of illegal entry continue to reel under the health-care, education, and law-enforcement costs imposed by unrestricted entry from Mexico. Republicans can respond to that burden by calling for an immigration policy that puts a premium on skills and education, and by refusing to enact an amnesty. They will have to constantly counter the illegal-alien lobby’s strategy of conflating legal and illegal immigration.

Heather Mac Donald is a contributing editor to City Journal and a co-author of The Immigration Solution.


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