Should Obama Back The AZ Law?

The modern “conservative” movement and the Republican Party seem to oppose anything Obama supports. Any increase in government power is treated as further evidence we’re becoming the new Soviet Union. Any chance Obama coming out in favor of Arizona’s new immigration law, which The Economist calls “Hysterical Nativism”, would get the Right to repeal this illiberal state-power swelling abomination?  For anyone unfamiliar the new law compels AZ state authorities to check the immigration status of anyone the police “reasonably suspect” of being in the US illegally. The problem of course is that it basically creates a police state where you’re guilty until proven innocent.  Here’s is Andrew Sullivan countering some dissents from his strong criticism and language.

A police state is one where any cop can pull you aside for any reason and demand papers. If you don’t have them, you’re guilty till proven innocent. The overwhelming majority of those “reasonably suspected” of being illegal immigrants will be Mexican. What we have here, regardless of how it came about (and I agree the Feds have a terrible record in policing the Southern border), this is a police state directed at a minority, innocent and guilty. That’s the reality.

Steve Chapman at reminds the nativists the results of their past efforts.

Turning the border into a 2,000-mile replica of the Berlin Wall may sound like a simple cure for the problem. But besides being hugely expensive, it would have effects the advocates would not relish.

How so? Massey says the number of people coming illegally has not risen appreciably in the last couple of decades. But the number staying has climbed, because anyone who leaves faces a harder task returning.

I’m for increasing access to legal immigration, but anti-illegal-immigration crusaders should realize fencing illegal aliens in and pushing them further in the shadows of the law makes any problems worse. 

  1. May 3, 2010 at 4:25 am

    I don't disagree with you, but I think that the concept of innocent until proven guilty applies to the justice system and the courts. The cops can pull over any one they want. Admittedly there have been abuses, but I think calling this act the creation of a police state is a little extreme. What we should be discussing is (1) what problems, if any, are created by illegal immigrants and (2) what steps should be taken to fix those problems.

  2. May 3, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    The cops can pull over anyone they want in practice but I think technically they are supposed to have a good reason. Our society has just become so lax about state power that it doesn't bother enough people that cops can "pull over any one they want." I certainly do think this law is characteristic of a police state. I'm not going to say it is a law fitting of the Nazis or Soviet Communists like some commentators have written – that is definitely too extreme. But a law that empowers the police to check the papers of even legal citizens because of their suspicion seems almost definitionally part of a police state. Sullivan's quotation sums it up nicely.Almost all the problems associated with illegal immigration would be solved by opening a channel to legal immigration that fits better with the US job market's demand. This law does nothing to fix those problems. Let's face it, it just makes minorities feel like they aren't really free. Cops aren't going to be asking white businessmen to produce proof of their citizenship. Does anyone really think this will solve the illegal immigration problems in Arizona? As long as the wage disparity between the US and Mexico is as high as it is there will be immigrants willing to come here even if it means breaking the law. Given the amount of undocumented aliens in Arizona, do you think this law will eliminate or even hugely reduce that number? With that number in mind, how much of police officers' time and resources are you willing to direct toward this issue when they could be spent on other law and order problems? I predict this won't "solve" AZ's illegal immigration problems – if you agree, how much freedom should their citizens be willing to sacrifice to that quixotic undertaking?

  3. May 4, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Well, I wrote the piece in The Economist to which you link, and boy did I get a bag of mail. But I'm now writing another, for Friday's issue. I think this topic has moved on. 1) Nobody I've talked to actually thinks it will become a law, so that 2) the effects will political, and not at all what the drafter intended. (more to come in The Economist)

  4. May 4, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    I'll be sure to read the piece. I can't remember who wrote it but some cheeky commentator thanked Arizona's politicians for putting immigration back on the table for Democrats. Getting immigration more in line with our market's demand would do wonders for our economy and the lives of many hardworking poor immigrants. Removing any cap on H1-B Visas also seems like an obvious part of any successful immigration reform package. The political effects of Arizona's law are probably beneficial in the short term for Republicans (aside from Florida maybe) and hugely damaging in the long term. Although, Obama's healthcare political success surprised me, I still have my doubts about being able to pass a good immigration bill while the economy is so weak.Andreas, have you read Philippe Legrain's "Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them"? It lays out a convincing and coherent case for further opening nations' borders.

  5. May 5, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    I've read some of it. Philippe is a great guy. He and I started at The Economist in 1997 within a week of each other. he then left, but his views of immigration are also mine.

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