Is the Arizona immigration bill a step in the right direction? Are there lessons from it that can inform the national debate about federal legislation? What must Republicans bear in mind walking back into this national debate? National Review Online asked a group of experts to weigh in.
It’s hard to take Washington Democrats seriously on immigration. Their sudden interest in the issue suggests other motives. As such, Republicans should treat the Obama/Pelosi/Reid/Schumer efforts to move comprehensive reform this year for what it is: a desperate political gambit.
#ad#Democrats see the midterm elections — possibly even their majority status — slipping away. Independent voters don’t trust the party’s big spending and “Washington fixes everything with a new law” approach. So who’s left? Only their base voters. Painting Republicans as obstructionists or even racists is their preferred strategy to mobilize a lethargic party core.
The GOP shouldn’t take the bait. Instead, they should go into this recognizing it’s purely a political exercise, not a genuine attempt to fix immigration problems. Democrats rigged the match so solutions are not possible. So don’t even go there. If Republicans acknowledge the real game, they can make progress toward fixing immigration problems early next year with greater numbers and a less politicized environment. Here are some reminders for the short term.
First, remember the importance of tone and “messengers.” Fight every day to ensure the mainstream media doesn’t choose both. Second, after health care, everyone except self-identified Democrats will recoil from another party-line vote on a major issue. Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid have signaled that’s where they’re headed. Remind voters that fixing immigration requires national consensus. Third, this is a national issue, but states need flexibility. Immigration problems in Arizona and New Mexico are different than those in Kentucky and Kansas. President Obama and the Democrats will try to fix everything from Washington with a centralized, one-size-fits-all approach. Yet states require the tools and flexibility to address their own specific problems. Finally, remind voters that Republicans are serious about finding real solutions to immigration, even if Democrats are not.
– Gary Andres is vice chairman of research for Dutko Worldwide.
LEO W. BANKS
Even the hysterical, foot-stomping lefties denouncing Arizona’s new immigration bill know it won’t do much. But what an opportunity it presents to hammer their narrative that the border issue is all about civil rights and anyone who talks of security and sovereignty is a by-God redneck and racial profiler.
I’m dreaming, I know, but it’d be nice if the national media stepped in and provided some context. We have a crisis in southern Arizona, especially along the Chiricahua corridor. American citizens are living under siege — burglaries, home invasions, intimidation, and recently a cold-blooded murder — from illegal aliens and drug smugglers.
Seventeen percent of the crossers arrested in the area have criminal records in the U.S. Most of the groups entering Arizona now have a gun behind them, because the drug cartels have taken over the people-smuggling operations.
#ad#Residents have been screaming for years. The feds’ response? Amnesty.
Criminals regularly go back and forth across our border, and Arizona’s new law might help police get some of them off the streets. Hispanic neighborhoods here are especially hard hit by crime. Republicans should talk about the right of these folks, and all Americans, to live in peace and safety.
– Leo W. Banks writes from Tuscon.
No self-respecting conservative should support a law that allows the government to harass its own citizens, and that is exactly what the Arizona law does. Contrary to the claims by my friends at Fox News and some conservative commentators, the law does not merely allow individuals who have been stopped for suspicion of committing other crimes to be asked to prove their legal status; the law plainly says that government officials may in the course of “any lawful contact” require anyone to produce papers “where a reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present.”
If a group of Mexican-American men who happen to be speaking Spanish are looking at drywall at the local Home Depot and a cop walks down the aisle, this law entitles him to approach the men and ask for their legal documents. How many of you normally carry your birth certificate or passport with you when you go shopping? If you look Mexican and are in Arizona, you should be prepared to do so from now on.
Finally, the law makes it legal for the police to pull over “any person who is operating a motor vehicle if the officer has reasonable suspicion to believe the person is in violation of any civil traffic law and this section.” Notice, the law doesn’t require the person to have violated a traffic law, it merely requires the police to have “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in violation of any civil traffic law or is illegally present in the U.S. So if you look like you might not have an Arizona driver’s license, or even if you simply look to this particular police officer like you might be in the country illegally, you can be pulled over and required to produce proof of citizenship or legal resident status.
If this isn’t Big Brother run amok, I don’t know what is. I am at a loss to understand why my fellow conservatives think this is a good idea. The incident that gave impetus to the law was the killing of a rancher, presumably by a Mexican drug dealer who had crossed illegally into Arizona. But we don’t know that; we only suspect it. Furthermore, crime in Arizona has gone down consistently from 1990 to the present — at the very time that illegal immigration was going up dramatically — and the violent crime rate in the state is lower than the national average, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Moreover, the flow of illegals into the U.S. generally and into Arizona specifically has also gone down dramatically over the last two years, partly as result of better enforcement and partly because of the weak economy. We need to secure our borders and ensure a more reasonable legal-immigration policy, one that makes it possible for American employers to have access to labor when they need it. But states’ usurping the constitutional role of the federal government in these efforts is not the right approach.
– Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity.
Without consistent laws, society deteriorates into anarchy, as William Golding powerfully described in Lord of the Flies, a story of boys stranded without adult supervision. In the absence of a sensible federal immigration policy, states have no choice but to take matters into their own hands. Arizona does not have the power to issue visas and green cards and to give them to immigrants whose work would benefit Arizona’s economy. This is the role of the federal government, and our government has failed.
It’s worth noting that just as Arizona passed its restrictive new immigration law, Princeton University Press published The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World, by Ben Wildavsky. He meticulously demonstrates how competition for academic talent is international, with top universities all over the world chasing the brightest students.
America can attract the best global minds as students, but in order to keep them here and reap the benefits of our investment, we need to issue more green cards.
Undocumented workers in Arizona will now be detained, imprisoned, and deported; after foreign students receive their degrees from elite American universities, they are shown the door and sent back home, albeit in a kinder, gentler manner. We need more visas and green cards to allow more high- and low-skill workers to stay in America.
– Diana Furchtgott-Roth is senior fellow and director of the Center for Employment Policy at the Hudson Institute.
#page#JAMES G. GIMPEL
The Arizona law may seem ham-handed to those of us living in the rest of the country, but perhaps this is the extreme to which a state must go in order to call the federal government’s attention to the serious problem of illegal immigration and its costs. States have passed resolution after resolution calling for federal attention, but to little avail. One might view this latest development less as an effort to change Arizona law and more as an attempt to catch national attention and force some kind of action.
As for the charges of racism, this is the familiar canard leveled at anyone who questions the value of unrestricted immigration. The fact is that, if the vast majority of the Arizonans who support this law were racist, something like it would have been passed 30 or 40 years ago, before illegal immigration became associated with rising crime and fiscal and economic problems. Did Arizonans wake up last month and suddenly notice that some Mexicans have a different skin tone? I don’t think so.
#ad#The fact is that Arizonans have been incredibly gracious and tolerant for a very long time now. It is only with the rising drug trade along the border, mixed with the state’s present economic strain, that they have begun to question the warm welcome they have customarily extended our southern neighbors.
A major catalyst for the present legislation appears to have been the murder of a rancher last month in southern Arizona — killed by Mexican drug smugglers. The long-standing problem of undocumented workers has been replaced by the much more alarming rise of drug gangs in Arizona’s cities and towns. The new law sounds extreme, but it is the kind of measure that sounds reasonable in a climate of great fear. Arizona’s welcome mat will be out again, but not until our national government takes some serious steps to ensure the security and prosperity of the Copper State’s citizens.
– James G. Gimpel is a professor of government at the University of Maryland, College Park.
GEORGE W. GRAYSON
Mexico’s governors and state legislators have turned hypocrisy from an art form into an exact science by lambasting their Arizona counterparts’ gambit to curb illegal immigration — a move supported by 70 percent of the Grand Canyon State’s citizens. Rather than devoting resources to creating jobs in Mexico for expatriates unlawfully residing in Arizona and other U.S. states, they have been squandering state funds on themselves and their sidekicks.
For instance, the venal state executive of impoverished Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz, has purchased 164 vehicles for the enjoyment of his cronies with federal funds earmarked for the construction and equipping of a specialized hospital in San Bartolo Coyotepec. At the same time, Zeferino Torreblanca, governor of dirt-poor Guerrero state, used taxpayer pesos to fly 37 state officials to an International Tourism Fair in Madrid, Spain. Not to be outdone, the Guadalajara-based Jalisco legislature gave 500 of its staff members a 75.5 percent pay increase during the first quarter of this year. In preparation for Mexico’s bicentennial, Guanajuato governor Juan Manuel Oliva will dole out $3.25 million for a celebratory statue. Meanwhile, Francisco Garrido Patrón, who recently left the Querétaro statehouse, lavished $75,000 on each of his eleven outgoing cabinet secretaries.
And these outlays pale in comparison with princely expenditures by Mexico’s federal lawmakers. While these rampant abuses persist, Mexican lawmakers have no right to complain about the U.S.’s enforcement of its immigration laws.
– George W. Grayson teaches at the College of William & Mary and is author of Mexico: Narco-Violence and a Failed State?
The Arizona law is a divisive waste of resources. It is demagoguery to blame illegal-immigrant workers for a crime wave or high unemployment. Arizona’s crime rate in 2008 was the lowest is has been in 40 years. Violent crime fell 23 percent in the past decade, a time when the number of illegal immigrants was rising rapidly. The unemployment rate was below 4 percent in 2007, when there were about 100,000 more illegal immigrants in the state than there are today.
The only cost-effective way to curb illegal immigration is to offer a legal alternative. That means creating a robust temporary-worker program that will allow low-skilled immigrants to enter the United States legally through regular ports of entry, rather than tempting them to sneak across the desert. When we increased visas under the Bracero program in the 1950s, apprehensions at the border dropped 95 percent.
#ad#This harsh law and the harsher rhetoric of its supporters will only accelerate the migration of Hispanic voters to the Democratic party. Whipping up fears about immigration did not help GOP candidates in recent election cycles, and it won’t help this time around, either.
– Daniel Griswold is director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute.
The Arizona immigration bill is a big step in the right direction. As someone who helped Senator Pearce draft it, I am admittedly biased. But I can say with certainty that it was drafted to withstand legal challenge. We fully expected the ACLU and their fellow travelers to bring suit, and the law is crafted accordingly.
Arizona has led the way in enacting laws that discourage illegal immigration at the state level. In 2005 the Arizona legislature enacted the Arizona Human Smuggling Act. I assisted Maricopa County in successfully defending it in state court in 2006, and now it is being used by Sheriff Joe Arpaio to make a huge dent in the human smuggling that affects all 50 states. Indeed, it is accurate to say that the law-enforcement efforts of Maricopa County alone have accomplished more than the efforts of a dozen ICE district offices combined. In 2007, Arizona became the first state to require all employers to use E-Verify when hiring workers. I assisted the Arizona attorney general’s office in successfully defending that law in the Ninth Circuit, and now Mississippi and South Carolina have followed suit. Arizona’s most recent law will likely see the same success in court and in the country.
Contrary to misstatements by the critics of Arizona’s law, it is a measured and reasonable law that simply makes a state violation out of what has been a federal crime for 70 years — the failure of an alien to carry required registration documents. It does not conflict with federal law in any way. For that reason, it will withstand a preemption challenge. Charges of racial profiling are also off base. In fact, the law expressly prohibits racial profiling in its enforcement. And the Fourth Amendment standards of what constitutes reasonable suspicion remain firmly in place. But don’t expect the law’s critics to concede those points — that would involve actually reading the text of the statute.
It should also be noted that the liberal critics who are declaring that this law is unconstitutional said the same thing about Arizona’s E-Verify law in 2007. Arizona’s record is 2–0 in court, and I don’t expect a loss this time around .
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.
#ad#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.
HEATHER MAC DONALD
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.
#ad#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.
Obama, Reid, and Pelosi thought that attacking Republicans for opposing the “stimulus” spending bill would be their ticket to winning in 2010. Then they thought that attacking the GOP for opposing health care brought to you by the Post Office would guarantee Democratic enthusiasm and win independent votes. For the past 16 months, likely voters have shifted from preferring Democrats by nine points on the generic ballot to preferring Republicans by ten points. This remains in landslide territory.
Now Democrats hope that Republicans in Arizona have passed a law that can be portrayed as sufficiently anti-Hispanic to drive Hispanic voters and women (as happened in 2008) towards the Democrats.
#ad#The legislation, among other things, makes it illegal to stand on the side of the road looking for work. Or to stop your car to pick up someone looking for work. Since this is now a crime in Arizona, the cops can then demand to see your papers. I am not sure that putting folks in jail for getting up early in the morning and offering to work is a very Republican idea. I wish more Americans had that get up and go.
Laws that punish businessmen for hiring the wrong people will not simply drive away Hispanics, Asians, Irish, Poles, and others but begins to break the previously strong bonds between small-business men and the Republican party.
The “Republican” legislature and governor who passed this “immigration” bill have placed a $3 billion tax hike on the May 18 ballot. Their time might have been better spent cutting spending and opposing this tax hike than giving Democrats a possible opening to avoid a repeat of 1994.
– Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform.
Immigration is one of the least understood issues in the country today. The political class thinks the major question is how to legalize the status of undocumented workers already in the country. However, most voters say those already in the country are a secondary issue. The real issue is how to stop or reduce illegal immigration.
And that’s the next point of misunderstanding. To the political class, the distinction between legal and illegal matters little. To most voters, it matters a lot. In fact, while seven voters out of ten say border enforcement is a higher priority than legalizing undocumented workers, most also favor a welcoming immigration policy. Nearly six out of ten say we should allow anyone in except criminals, national-security threats, and those who want to take advantage of the welfare system. By the way, Republicans are a bit more supportive than Democrats of a welcoming immigration system.
In Arizona, most voters favor a welcoming immigration policy and also favor the new law signed by Governor Brewer. And, as is the case all across the country, those who are angry about immigration are not angry at immigrants. By a margin of 85 percent to 10 percent, they are angry at the federal government.
While Arizona’s new law is a step of some kind, it is not clear in which direction. It has many commendable features, particularly the stiffening of penalties for those convicted of trafficking in human beings. In fact, Congress should probably enact legislation that makes the “ultimate penalty” an option for those found to be trafficking kingpins.
There should also be hearings, GOP-only if necessary, to investigate how the federal government failed to prevent the near-total breakdown of the integrity of the U.S. border with Mexico. This would do a lot to explain to the nation why states such as Arizona have been forced to act in their own interests.
Going back into this debate, the Republicans must understand that the liberals in charge in Washington want the issue but not the answers. They want to divide the GOP coalition, which is firing on all cylinders at the moment, before the 2010 elections. Eschew the so-called “comprehensive approach to immigration reform.” Avoid being sucked into any kind of compromise that includes a de facto amnesty, which the Democrats will surely propose in order to expand their voter base. Focus instead on the real problem: a porous border that threatens national security and the public safety, the protection of which is the primary responsibility of government.
– Peter Roff is a senior fellow at the Institute for Liberty and contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report.