On the Spot: Feds Can't Ignore Arizona's Immigration Vote
The new state immigration law signed last week by Gov. Jan Brewer is going to unleash a national discussion that politicians have been trying to avoid for years.
Arizona has something approaching 500,000 illegal aliens in the state — nobody knows for sure. It is the main highway for drug traffic from Mexico, as well as the primary corridor for illegals to enter the United States.
Phoenix is known as the kidnapping capital of the country, as drug lords decimate each other’s families. Lots of peaceful citizens are, at the low end, harassed, and, at the high end, killed, by all this activity. Hospitals and schools are overwhelmed with people they cannot afford to treat and educate.
It should not surprise anyone that, finally, in the face of the perpetually apathetic federal government, which will not even enforce the immigration laws presently on the books, the heirs of the Wild West decided to take matters into their own hands.
Their new law apparently permits, or requires, officers to request, or demand, immigration or citizenship papers, with, or without, probable cause or reasonable suspicion, depending on whom you ask. There seem to be some loose ends in interpreting this thing.
The new law came under fire immediately from the Hispanic community and ACLU types, who were beaten to the television cameras only by the Rev. Al Sharpton, well known for his close ties to Arizona. Most of the pundits, even the conservative ones, have already opined that this law in unconstitutional. As someone who believes the Constitution should be taken seriously, I agree with them. That darned Bill of Rights keeps getting in the way.
Still, it’s hard not to be sympathetic with Arizonans, and, until it works its way through the courts, the law is in effect in the state. There will be many consequences.
The first will be lawsuits. It will take about two traffic stops for them to begin. A U.S. citizen of Hispanic descent will be asked for his papers. What papers? Do you carry papers around with you? There will be added pressure on the other states bordering Mexico. Illegal activities will migrate there.
California will go on doing nothing, but New Mexico, and especially Texas, may feel compelled to take actions similar to Arizona’s. Texas, after all, has shown something of an independent streak over the years. At a minimum, there will be mounting pressure on Congress to meet its obligation to control immigration.
Congress does not want to do this, especially in an election year. Republicans fear that an actual crackdown on illegals will alienate the growing Hispanic voting bloc. Democrats fear that failure to do anything will motivate those tired, old, apathetic white voters into going Republican.
Then there’s the question of what to do with the 10-12 million illegals already here. Many of them hold jobs while the unemployment rate remains high. They have children who were born here and are therefore citizens. It is a very thorny problem. Congress doesn’t like thorny problems.
It may be that the Arizona legislature passed this law simply to goad Congress into action. If so, it’s going to work. The media and Reverend Al are not going to leave this alone until there is some definitive resolution of our immigration problem, and the Democrats in Congress will want to get something passed, however reluctantly, before November, while they still control Congress.
During his campaign, President Obama promised immigration reform during the first 100 days of his presidency. After his inauguration, he backed off to a year.
Both deadlines have now passed, and there has been a conspicuous avoidance of any discussion of the subject from the White House. This is about to change.
Whatever the judicial fate of its law, we owe Arizona a vote of thanks for bringing the federal government face-to-face with its responsibilities. For once.
Fred Wolferman lives in Southern Pines. Contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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