Thoughts on the Arizona Immigration Bill

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May 5, 2010 by Daniel Stack

The recently passed Arizona Immigration Bill (SB1070 2010) has gotten a ton of coverage. Some feel it is a sign that the citizens of Arizona are all a bunch of racists who have lost their minds. Others feel it is necessary given the failure of the federal government to secure the border with Mexico.

My own bias is that the immigration policy of the United States is fatally flawed. An analogy I’ve seen is it would be like making an interstate highway passing through empty flat land have a speed limit of 10 MPH – there will be an awful lot of criminals on that highway. Similarly, the United States immigration policy is begging to be broken. You have people in Mexico and other nations living in poverty, sometimes in incredibly dangerous places, looking to make a better life for themselves and their families. You have a fairly open border and a visa system that is not well enforced. Obtaining employment-based permanent residence takes years – sometimes over a decade. You have employers liking the cheap labor of illegal immigrants. You have American citizens who like the fact that they are able to buy a cheap package of tube socks because the big box retailer subcontracted various functions to agencies which they are shocked to discover had illegal immigrants.

Given that, it is no surprise that there are illegal immigrants in the United States. The system is designed, whether intentionally or through incompetence, to produce such a result.

While everyone thinks something must be done, the Federal government, which is responsible for border security, has chosen inaction. This is largely due to the inaction of Congress. Former President Bush worked hard for immigration reform but that effort died in Congress. And President Obama is facing the same resistance currently. Congress needs to face certain unpleasant facts. Some form of enforcement of our immigration laws will be required. But at the same time, removing every illegal immigrant currently here would require a massive and draconian enforcement. It would seem that some form of transition to legal status, such as what was outlined by former President Bush is required.

Neither of the two parties in Congress seems to want to take action as they will offend someone. Which brings us to Arizona.

I can absolutely understand being frustrated by a Federal Government which has taken no major action on immigration reform. But I have to lean toward those concerned by the bill. In my mind, it seems to onerous a burden on people who have not broken the law – not in requiring the carrying of immigration papers – that is something federal law already requires. But it seems far too likely to allow both for racial profiling and for snagging in its net citizens who are not required to carry any papers, not even a driver’s license. There are some parts of the bill I like – for example, the attention given to those who employ illegal immigrants. And if it manages to get the Federal Government to take some action then it will have served a useful purpose.

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May 2010
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