That said, there are three key points that I think we need to reinforce in the discussion. First, illegal immigrants in Arizona are overwhelmingly Hispanic, so when Arizona's new law says that you can't use race or ethnicity as the sole factor to establish "reasonable suspicion" that someone is here illegally, I have to ask what other basis will local cops use unless they always ask EVERY Latino they encounter for papers. We're already in a quasi-police state where our very phone conversations (and this blog and all your emails) can be read by the federal government without a warrant if the THINK you MIGHT be talking to a "terrorist."
Why does that matter? Well, to my second point, Arizonans have targeted a law at 29.4% of their population. Yes, you read that right - Arizona, a state that is 59.6% white has passed a law essentially requiring local police to stop and question nearly 1/3rd of their population in hopes of locating, detaining and ultimately deporting about 400,000 illegal immigrants a year. How this is not racially motivated is beyond me, especially when you consider that the Hispanic birth rate in Arizona is around 45% annually, and the non-Hispanic birthrate is 41%. That puts Arizona on the clear glide to being a white minority state sometime between 2015 and 2020 - i.e. within the next ten years.
Third, as Mike has pointed out over at Ames' place,
So then, again, why not put the pressure on employers? If they have immigrants working for them they should have papers. Period. Show up to a job site and make them produce. That will nab the majority of the illegals. I certainly don’t want them driving down the street and stoping Jose on his bike. That becomes harassment.
Unfortunately, this law does not address the economic issue. While this might well be the single most effective "reform" that could be made to deal with illegal immigration, Arizona has not added this power to its local police forces. No sir, employer raids are still the sole purview of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and ICE shows no signs of stepping them up any time soon. Thus, we're back to enforcement at the lowest level, leading to harassment of legitimate immigrants, increased distrust in law enforcement, and displacement of the problem back to Texas, New Mexico and California. None of this is a win for the people of Arizona (whose legitimate complaints about federal inaction will be drowned out by the laughter at this law); none of this is a win for immigration into the U.S. and none of this will stop those crossing vast deserts, at great peril to themselves, to enter a land whose most famous statue cries out:
"Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
UPDATE (2:46 PM EST)
The Washington Post's George Will - the supposed voice of reasoned Conservatives everywhere - has weighed in, and as always he tries so hard, and falls so flat:
Non-Hispanic Arizonans of all sorts live congenially with all sorts of persons of Hispanic descent. These include some whose ancestors got to Arizona before statehood -- some even before it was a territory. They were in America before most Americans' ancestors arrived. Arizonans should not be judged disdainfully and from a distance by people whose closest contacts with Hispanics are with fine men and women who trim their lawns and put plates in front of them at restaurants, not with illegal immigrants passing through their back yards at 3 a.m.
Where Will goes off the rails is assuming that the Hispanics he referrences here are two distinct groups - and that because Arizonans encounter them in one setting Arizonans get to treat them differently. Here in the DC area, there are scores of Hispanics, and they do indeed trim the lawns, serve the food, care for the children, build the houses, build the roads, go to church, buy stuff at Target, and drive a thriving segment of the local economy. If I had to guess, I'd guess some are illegal, but I have no way to tell, even if they are cutting through my yard at 3AM. Neither does Mr. Will, unless he assumes they all are. So too, the local cops in Arizona will have no other way to develop this elusive "reasonable suspician." And that is why liberals object to Arizona's Go It Alone Approach.
UPDATE 28 April 2010:
Unlike his Post colleague George Will, former Bush Administration speech writer and Jack Kemp Staffer Michael Gerson, writing in today's Washington Post, gets it, and makes Justin's point from the Comments below:
This law creates a suspect class, based in part on ethnicity, considered guilty until they prove themselves innocent. It makes it harder for illegal immigrants to live without scrutiny -- but it also makes it harder for some American citizens to live without suspicion and humiliation. Americans are not accustomed to the command "Your papers, please," however politely delivered. The distinctly American response to such a request would be "Go to hell," and then "See you in court."