Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Arizona's New Law

Someone on Facebook asked me if I was upset just because Arizona just wrote a law that is "almost the same as Federal law."  Yes, I am upset about it, because the "almost" is the problem. The exact issue is that the local police are now essentially ordered to enforce immigration law.

Many people don't understand what a local police department does and how it does it. I've been working with the Oakland, CA PD for several years, volunteering in the local Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council, attending the Citizens Police Academy, and now spending an afternoon a week answering phones and filing papers in the Recruiting division. So I'm not just talking through my hat.  I've been out on a ride-along with an Oakland cop.
The job of a local police dept. is to KEEP THE PEACE - to prevent crime if possible, solve crime if necessary, and gather evidence to convict the criminals they need to catch.

A critical piece of this job is having the trust of the community they work in. Oakland has major problems with this. Large sections of the community don't trust the police, and it's one of the reasons we are one of the five most dangerous cities in the country. Is that what Arizona wants? Because if the entire Latino population of the state suddenly feels they can't trust their local police, it's what Arizona will get.

Arizona has just passed a law that tells their local police departments, it's more important for you to find and arrest illegal immigrants than it is for you to keep the peace. Good luck with that.
And they claim it isn't racist, but it is, because in Arizona, the odds are very high that any illegal immigrant will be Mexican.  That's why this is being called the "Breathing while Mexican" law.   The annoying thing is, the entire Southwest is sprinkled with Hispanic American citizens, absolutely native-born, whose families have been here since the Spaniards came in the 1770s.  Those people will be pulled over too, and they have every right to be angry about it.
Consider trying to enforce this law in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The police would have to stop everyone and check papers, even blonds and redheads - the Bay Area has illegal immigrants from Ireland, from the Netherlands, from England, from all over Europe.  I haven't even begun to count the Asian countries from which we probably have illegals.  Now, that wouldn't be racist; but it wouldn't be possible, either.

Actually, I hope that this law won't stand.  The courts have repeatedly ruled that enforcing immigration law is a Federal, not a state, prerogative.  Arizona seems to think their law is different; we'll see.


  1. Anonymous10:34 AM

    Glad you took the time to write this. I am with you.
    Also, the U.S. economy needs the workers who are here without papers, there are few citizens willing to work so hard for so little - And we collectively benefit economically from their presence - all of us get to live at a higher standard of living thanks to them. Where is our gratitude?

  2. Part I


    I've written about this issue several times on my blog.

    I'm not sure what drives this "sympathy" business for Central Americans, but people seem to want to show how empathetic and decent they are by siding with the illegals. Mostly, these are people who are far enough away from the problem--literally, they live in states where this isn't an issue--or they simply insist on remaining uninformed about the consequences of illegal immigration.

    When you and I grew up in California, Mexican immigration was a relatively small problem. Farm workers, who'd been coming north for generations to labor in the fields of the Central Valley, would spend a few months here, and then usually return to Mexico to live.

    But that was a long time ago. Over the last 30 years, this "worker program" has morphed into a major diaspora or refugee movement in which millions of people are flowing north to avoid economic hardship, hoping to break off a piece of the "American dream" for themselves and their children. The U.S. has a reasonable legal immigration limit with Mexico, which falls far short of the number of Mexicans who want to come. The Mexican government takes a corrupt position with respect to our mutual border--they actually encourage illegal immigration, handing out leaflets and counseling groups prior to their run across the desert. In other words, Mexico won't cooperate in controlling their own scofflaws. The Mexican government's attitude is "tough luck, America, take our poor and desperate, try to stop them!"

    Mexican immigrants are a serious drain on American resources. They expect and demand free medical and legal services; they flaunt our residence and employment laws; they have high crime rates; most of them refuse to learn English; most of them are uneducated; many of them carry diseases such as TB; most of them don't pay taxes, both because they are usually paid in cash (under the table), to avoid detection, or are "self-employed" or simply hiding from the authorities; most of them don't have driver's licenses, even from Mexico; they send their children to public schools, where they're expected to be instructed in Spanish at public expense; they send hundreds of millions of American dollars away at a time when our balance of payments are at historic highs. The bottom line is that Mexico's poor want to live in America, and share in its (rapidly shrinking) prosperity, but they aren't willing to play by the rules.

    End Part I

  3. Part II

    One could hardly blame them for wanting to do this, which is why it's so galling to be accused continually of racism, when the root issues have nothing whatever to do with race. The Mexicans I know and see are perfectly agreeable people, many of them hard-working and modestly optimistic. But large, uncontrolled de-fact refugee movements are not healthy for any society.

    This isn't an issue of race, or tolerance, or selfishness, or multi-cultural diversity, or any of that nonsense. It's about economic stability and protecting what prosperity we still enjoy in America. We can't "save" Mexico from its problems by "accepting" more and more refugees into our midst. And our willingness to do so isn't a measure of our common humanity or decency. It's just naivete.

    Since Mexico won't control its people, or its economic woes, we have no choice but to put our own house in order. If that means fences, and deportations, and identification cards, so be it. Europe has had strict controls for a long time--sooner or later, these safeguards will be adopted here.

    We are still a family of nations, and sovereignty still matters. We can't let Mexico, or its hoards of illegals camping in America, dictate what we can or can't do within our own borders.

    If the Federal Government won't deal with the problems illegal immigration creates, it would appear the states have no choice but to address those problems themselves. How much support do you suppose Mexicans cost the State of Arizona each year? There are estimates, and the numbers aren't pretty. Why should Arizonans pay for Mexican livelihood? It's an outrage!

    The Arizona statute regarding detention and arrest is specifically designed to curtail street solicitation by scab laborers. This has become an epidemic in our communities, as hundreds of Mexicans stand around on corners trying to snag drivers who pass by to hire them for "pick-up" jobs or contracting jobs. This has become the unofficial, shadow labor-pool in many communities in the Southwest. Go down to the lumber yards by the railroad tracks and check this out for yourself. These people should be rounded up in paddy-wagons, given a bag lunch and a bottle of drinking water, photographed and finger-printed, and bussed straight back to Mexico.

  4. Curtis, we're talking past each other. I actually agree with a lot of what you say, including the fact that Mexico isn't doing anything like enough to build an economy where its people can make a decent living.

    But that wasn't my point. My point was, mandating immigration enforcement as the top priority of local police and sheriff departments will have impacts on local law enforcement, and local government, in Arizona that I don't think the Arizona legislature thought all the way through. And when the law allows any citizen to sue any police department that they feel is "not enforcing the law enough," it really has made this the Number One Priority. If they'd take out that idiotic provision, it wouldn't be nearly as harmful.

  5. I understand completely.

    When I worked for the government, we were handed a prisoner follow-up "assist" program to implement. Some of my colleagues questioned whether this was even legal--a Federal agency being required/requested to track prisoners involved in the state criminal detention system. Many of these prisoners would head straight to the welfare office when they got parole or were released. The business of "adding on new duties" not included in the job description is one of the banes of governmental bureaucracies. The DMV now gets stuck with tracking illegals, I understand. That's not their job!

    Update: We now see young Mexican kids hawking strawberries and watermelons on street corners in our neighborhood. Where does this fruit come from--Mexico?

  6. Tamara Berdofe6:30 AM

    Hi Karen,
    Thanks to Steve I was given your blog address.
    I went to a rally yesterday in New Haven, Ct.
    Hoping to stand in Solidarity to support as best I can every and all(every non Native American) immigrant. I was deeply disturbed by such a small turn out of an extremely well designed March & Rally. These laws and more exposure to the affects need to be seen! NOW; Escucha Estamos en la Lucha!

    estamos en la lucha

  7. Tamara: I do believe that you misconstrue both the spirit and the letter of the Arizona law in question.

    One of the chief difficulties of law enforcement along the border is having a reliable pretext for detaining illegals. Once a scofflaw has managed infiltrate an urban context, it's extremely difficult to track them down. But when they enter the "scab labor" pool by loitering on sidewalks, they're vulnerable to identification and arrest. This is what the Arizona law targets. Defenders of illegals don't want this law put into effect, because they want to continue to exploit the American day- and contractor labor market.

    It may come as a surprise to you, but local police already have the authority in most communities in America, to detain anyone without any obvious excuse whatever. Is this a good thing? Perhaps not, but the Arizona law isn't intended to encourage "ordinary citizens" going about their business to be detained or stopped by authorities. It's specifically designed to intercept the illegal employment system that's developed along the Southwest border states.

    I think many in the North don't understand the magnitude of the problem, since they have no direct experience of it. They regard the immigration problem in an idealistic manner, without being aware either of its potent consequences, or of the difficulties in addressing it first-hand.