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The Arizona immigration law has become the occasion for a sorry exercise in national self-abasement.
When Mexican president Felipe Calderón addressed a joint session of Congress last week, he rapped Arizonans — ignorantly and unfairly — for using “racial profiling as the basis for law enforcement.” If Democrats felt any residual reflex to stand up for their fellow Americans in Arizona, who are grappling with a hellish problem partly caused by the misgovernment of the country whose president stood before them, they swiftly repressed it.
They rose and applauded, and the president of Mexico and a majority of America’s Congress united in their disdain for Arizona’s handiwork. No one seemed to mind that they were cheering a man from a country where the kidnapping and abuse of migrants is “a human-rights crisis,” according to Amnesty International.
In his whirlwind anti-Arizona campaign, Calderón called the law “discriminatory” at a joint press conference with Pres. Barack Obama, eliciting not a peep of protest. Obama agreed that the law “has the potential of being applied in a discriminatory fashion.” He tried to soften the blow by shifting into Gunnar Myrdal mode and interpreting the strange customs of his compatriots, who cling to guns, religion, and a belief that the southern border should mean something.
The law is a “misdirected expression of frustration over our broken immigration system,” Obama explained in his best sociological diagnosis. In other words, those poor boobs have deluded themselves into thinking that checking the identification of suspected illegal immigrants makes sense. Pity them, and hope their fit of irrationality passes soon.
In his reference to a “fair reading” of the law, Obama at least implied he had read the ten-page text, a feat beyond his cabinet. His attorney general and secretary of homeland security blasted away at the law without pausing even to give it a good skim.
And why would they? It wouldn’t change their view of the law or its supporters. The country’s progressives believe that they are a lone oasis in a vast archipelago of racism and backwardness called the United States of America. If they apologize for their country, it’s only because they think they have so much for which to apologize.
By his own account, Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner repeatedly brought up Arizona in human-rights talks with the Chinese. He wanted the representatives of a state that jails, tortures, and kills dissidents to know we are grappling with this “troubling trend in our society.” Arizona governor Jan Brewer should be glad she hasn’t yet been referred to the International Criminal Court.
Obama says that Justice Department lawyers are reviewing the law — or, more accurately, looking for any possible excuse to challenge it. They’ll have to be creative. A Department of Justice memo from 2002 says that states have the “inherent power” to make arrests for violations of federal law, and drafters of the Arizona statute were careful not to exceed federal statutes.
There are other, more direct ways to vitiate the law. John Morton, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, says the government might “not necessarily process illegal immigrants referred to them by Arizona officials.” This is the nation’s top immigration cop flirting with civil disobedience against enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws. If Morton gets the vapors over asking suspected illegals for their IDs, he’s clearly in the wrong line of work.
Arizonans, are you feeling less frustrated yet? At bottom, the dispute over the state’s law is a conflict of visions. The law’s supporters believe we should take the border seriously and assert the country’s sovereign right to control who comes here and who doesn’t; its detractors believe any serious effort to make good on that sovereign right is exclusionary and tinged with racism because it’s primarily directed at Latinos.
In this struggle, the latter camp sees Felipe Calderón as an ally and thrills to his disparagement of their countrymen.
– Rich Lowry is editor of National Review. © 2010 by King Features Syndicate.