My friend Tunku Varadarajan has a piece on the Arizona immigration law at the Daily Beast that appears to have been drafted, alas, in a fit of anger. He says the law is “bordering on fascist.” Here is the key provision: “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or agency 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.”
This means that two conditions apply: 1) a lawful contact; 2) a reasonable suspicion. What this is likely to mean effectively is that if in the course of a traffic stop, a cop asks you for a driver’s license, and you don’t have one, and he asks you for other identification, and you have none, and he calls ICE and they have no record of you as a legal immigrant, you’re in trouble. This is near-fascism?
Tunku makes no mention of the fact that it is already a federal offense for an alien not to have documents demonstrating his legality on his person. Is that so terrible? The rest of us carry ID everywhere, and are asked for ID all the time. Arizona is only making what is already a federal offense a state offense.
Tunku says that Arizona is the victim of enforcement, which is bizarre given that what happened is that enforcement on the rest of the border and the lack of it on the Arizona portion have made Arizona a magnet. The state is a victim of incomplete enforcement.
Tunku insists that the law will be tossed out, perhaps on grounds “that the regulation of immigration is in the federal — not state — domain.” The critics of the law almost always say this, but it’s not necessarily so. If it were, Arizona’s 2007 law cracking down on employers hiring illegals would have been struck down. Instead, the notoriously liberal 9th circuit upheld it. And the Supreme Court has upheld the ability of states to undertake steps on their own to discourage illegal immigration.
Tunku is right that most illegal immigrants are hard-working. But they have no right to be in this country. Arizonans did not vote to have an open border with Mexico that floods them with poor, low-skilled immigrants who cost taxpayers untold millions a year in additional costs. All they want — the goal of the employer crack-down, the goal of this law — is the sovereign border of the United States to have some meaning. That’s not the stuff of budding totalitarianism.