Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Arizona and Immigration

Photo by Wing-Chi Poon
I was reading in The New York Times today that a judge has blocked several controversial parts of Arizona Immigration Law SB 1070.

Among other things, SB 1070 authorizes police officers to detain individuals whom they suspect may be illegal immigrants. It also makes the act of not carrying immigration papers a criminal misdemeanor.

Federal Judge Susan Bolton ruled that such actions allow state laws to supersede federal law and thus must not be enforced, which I feel is a weak argument.

I sympathize with the Arizona state government. Immigration is a huge issue (and potentially a problem) for the state as well as several other states along the Southern border. Federal reform is needed but never seems to come, so Arizona took action because it felt something needed to be done.

Though I sympathize, I certainly don't agree. I think Arizona acted rashly in creating a law that causes a considerable inconvenience to legal residents by mandating racial profiling on an unprecedented scale.

Regardless of your feelings about the law or Arizona's actions, I think you'd be hard pressed to defend SB 1070 as a practical solution. It's impossible to enforce a law of that magnitude; the number of suspects is simply too large. It's a massive drain on the law enforcement officials who could spend their time in more productive ways.

Consider Governor Jan Brewer's response to the ruling: "This fight is far from over. In fact, it is just the beginning, and at the end of what is certain to be a long legal struggle, Arizona will prevail in its right to protect our citizens."

I respect the desire to protect the citizenry, but how much does deporting illegal immigrants protect citizens -- especially when you compare the cost of doing so to a decrease in manpower to combat more serious crime?

To me the solution would be to check the legal status of anyone arrested by the police. If you are in this country illegally and are causing a great enough disturbance to merit an arrest, then a quick paperwork check is merited. If you are here illegally simply going about your day and causing no harm to anyone, why not just leave well enough alone? I just don't believe the problem is of such great magnitude.