Friday, April 23, 2010

Arizona's New Immigration Law and Immigration

Governor Jan Brewer (R-Arizona) signed into law a bill that requires anyone whom the police suspect to be illegally residing in Arizona to provide documentation proving they have authorization to live within the United States. Senate Bill 1070 - represents another tool for our state to use as we work to solve a crisis which we did not create and the federal government has refused to fix," the governor said as she announced her decision to sign the legislation. "Border-related violence and crime due to illegal immigration are critically important issues to the people of our state, to my administration and to me, as your Governor and as a citizen. ... We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act. But decades of federal inaction and misguided policy have created a dangerous and unacceptable situation."

Hispanic Americans criticized the governor for passing this law and vowed to fight it in the courts. Some fear it might stigmatize anyone of color, whether they are legally residing in the country or not, since police would, in all likelihood, consider the person's race or skin complexion as they ask for a suspect's papers.

This is a legitimate concern which the governor says will be addressed by the state's Peace Officers and Training Board when it issues guidelines that comply with her executive order to bar the police officers from relying exclusively on one's perceived ethnic or racial status. "Racial profiling is illegal. It will not be tolerated in America and it certainly will not be tolerated in Arizona," the governor said.

We'll have to see if the the Patrol officers and Training Board develops standards that could withstand the expected legal challenge filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Mexican-American Defense Fund and judgment of this law should be withheld until we see if and how this law can be implemented without unfairly targeting those who are entitled to live and work in the United States.

The board must develop guidelines that help the police avoid racial profiling accusations. Such activities would clearly call into question our commitment to the 14th Amendment's due process and equal protection clauses as well as this nation's unprecedented and welcomed commitment to religious, ethnic and racial pluralism.

This nation was founded by immigrants. The first crossed the Berng Strait in their search for food. European settlers fled from their homelands so they can worship as they saw fit. Others were looking for a fortune which they could not find in their homeland. Future waves of immigration followed. Some were English-speakers but many were not. Some had a darker skin complexion or they affiliated with religious beliefs which the white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants rejected. These cultural differences were not insurmountable. Eventually they found a way to fit in and we eventually accepted them as find, morally upstanding American citizens.

Regulations must be crafted to ensure that the police stigmatize the Mexican but not the Mexican-American, the Haitian but not the Haitian American, the Korean but not the Korean American, and the Russian and not the Russian-American. Those of us who support restrictive immigration policies must remind our opponents as well as those of us who are undecided that our problem lies with the illegal (as opposed to the legal) immigrants.

Some who oppose this legislation, however, alluded to their opposition to any enforcement mechanism. Mary Rose Wilcox, Maricopa County Supervisor, said Brewer acted as if she was "cold-hearted" by signing onto this legislation. "I'm extremely disappointed at the governor's actions, that a governor with a caring heart has allowed individuals like Russell Pearce and Joe Arpaio to make her a puppet governor whose strings are controlled by them," Phonix Mayor Phil Gordon said. Alfredo Gutierrez said he was astonished to find "acts of such overt hatred anywhere in this country" in this day and age.

Implicit in each of their statements is the flawed belief that the state (as in The United States) should not (even if it could) regulate our borders to determine who can and cannot enter the United States or that, at a minimum, the feelings of those who have violated our immigration laws takes precedence over our right to enforce those laws.

We are a nation of laws and as such are entitled to offer those who respect us enough to follow them preference over those who do not. Protecting our borders and determining who may and may not cross them is one of the most basic tasks of governing and our administration has an obligation to enforce our immigration statutes so that the terrorist who might plan an attack on a US. city, the disease-afflicted who might infect our country's citizens, or that the impoverished who might cost the Americans too much tax payer money by utilizing our social welfare programs, can not enter the United States. We are broke so it would seem reasonable to give preference to the skilled workers who can make it on their own with minimal support from the American taxpayer.

President Barack Obama said the law "threatened to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans." When he presses Congress to pass an inaccurately described "comprehensive immigration reform package" Americans should ask themselves whether it is fair to offer those who refused to follow our immigration law whether the United States a "pathway to American citizenship" when many who are still waiting for the prerequisite approval to live and work in the United States or any country that would respect their rights languishing in refugee camps (like those found in Turkey) or in their country they wish to leave behind.

Or if it is fair to offer the Haitian illegal refuge, Haitians that might have cheated death, when their compatriots died or languished in hospitals because they were waiting for our approval before they entered the United States. Or whether it is fair to expect the American people to be blackmailed into welcoming with open arms, those who flouted our immigration laws in return for the mere promise that the powers at be in Washington will enforce the laws they were already required by law to enforce, particularly when this grand bargain was made before to no avail.

Our president and our elected legislators on Capitol Hill should recall that the people who seek to "come out of the shadows" cheated by either coming into this country without the government's authorization or by overstaying their visas without the government's authorization. They are not the "law abiding" immigrants Representative Raul M. Grijalva claimed they were when he spoke to Chris Matthews on "Hardball." By coming here without the proper documentation or by overstaying their visas, these immigrants broke the law. They cut in front of the line while others who might have been in even more dire straights respectfully waited their turn.

And because they cheated and because they cut in front of the line, these illegal immigrants are entitled to nothing which this country has to offer them but a one-way ticket back to their country of origin and this nation's scorn as long as they continue to reside in this country illegally.

They are not entitled to send their children to our public schools. They are not entitled to in-state tuition. They are not entitled to drivers licenses. They are not entitled to enroll in our welfare programs and they are not entitled to live or work in the United States. The services which they seek from the United States are owed to them by the administration that governs their country of origin.

I would urge the American people to contact their elected representatives in order to tell them that they oppose any "comprehensive immigration reform" package that offers illegal immigrants a "pathway to American citizenship," or in-state college tuition rates offered to law abiding American citizens.

Arizona's Republicans in the state house and the governor's mansion may have signed onto a law that in application will unfairly target the innocent along with the guilty but the concerns that led them to pass and sign that bill into law are entirely justified.

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