Posted by Brad @ 2:04 pm on April 15th 2010

Arizona’s Crappy New Immigration Law

I passed on posting about it this morning, despite the blog-bait potential headline: “Illegal immigration now illegal in Arizona”. But this Gawker post does a pretty good job of getting at the gist of it.

It’s officially illegal to be an illegal immigrant in Arizona. Now any cop in Arizona can ask anyone to prove their immigration status, and every cop in Arizona is compelled, under threat of lawsuit, to enforce federal immigration laws.

I really can’t imagine any negative consequences that will result from giving local police the authority to stop literally anyone on the “reasonable suspicion” that they just might be an illegal immigrant. This will give police an important new tool in their crime-fighting arsenal: the ability to detain and possibly deport people without bothering obtain warrants or “prove” that they’ve committed a crime.

It’s also now illegal in Arizona to pick someone up in your car if you “know or recklessly disregard the fact” that they are an illegal immigrant. Thankfully, the Arizona House added “a prosecution exemption for people who drive illegal immigrants to church”

Vigilance against illegal immigration, like attempting to de-incentivize abortion, is something that both A. has a kernel that is a perfectly reasonable moral judgment, and B. in practice, leads to such un-reasonable idiocy and overkill as to totally negate the moral value of said original kernel.


  1. “Are those illegal immigrants in your back seat?”

    “S’ok, officer. We’re all on our way to the mosque to convert to Islam.”

    Comment by Rojas — 4/15/2010 @ 4:13 pm

  2. Also: another F You to Senator John McCain, once a great hero of mine, now one of the more sniveling and transplant opportunists around. It’s a constant fire sale on one previously good political soul over at Goldwater’s old seat.

    Comment by Brad — 4/20/2010 @ 10:21 am

  3. The anti-immigration bill is bad, but that was not the cornerstone of McCain’s remarks. McCain’s primary shift on the issue has been to this position:

    McCain said the plan did not need to move in tandem with a potential federal immigration reform bill.

    “The lesson is clear: First we have to secure the border,” McCain said. “If you want to enact some other reforms, how can that be effective when you have a porous border?”

    “So we have to secure the border first,” he said.

    You’re an advocate of the rule of law, Brad. Do you disagree with the above?

    Comment by Rojas — 4/20/2010 @ 4:02 pm

  4. Yes. I do.

    The position is we can’t affect legislation dealing with immigrants in this country until we “secure the border”?

    Well, I guess we’ll just wait for that then. Hopefully it’ll happen right around the time we “defeat terror”.

    Comment by Brad — 4/20/2010 @ 4:11 pm

  5. “The lesson is clear: First we have to secure the border,” McCain said. “If you want to enact some other reforms.”

    With the corollary point, which I also disagree with, that apparently even stupid attempts to do the former are preferable to smart attempts to do the latter.

    Comment by Brad — 4/20/2010 @ 4:17 pm

  6. Or about the same time that administration officials are held accountable for war crimes? Or for anything else?

    I think that the politically responsible position is to ensure that actual enforcement of the law is a component part of any meaningful immigration reform. That is not what McCain is calling for, regrettably. Being enmeshed in a nasty primary fight, he is choosing to emphasize the aspects of his overall immigration stance that appeal to the primary electorate.

    But the Arizona law did not arise in a vacuum; it was the result of the populace objecting to the complete unwillingness of federal and state authorities to actually put into effect the laws they had passed restricting immigration. A cheap labor force is another one of those things that the government prefers to the rule of law. So Arizonans, like yourself, have voiced their objection to the abandonment of that principle. They have done it in a stupid way, but they seem to see it as the only option available to them in light of a government that simply doesn’t take the issue seriously. I guess it’s sort of akin to seeing a badly designed extension of health insurance as preferable to no action at all.

    If a coalition is going to be built around the issue of “rule of law”, it’s going to have to based on taking ALL the laws seriously, not just the ones that matter to us. You don’t care about illegal immigration. Fine; they don’t care about the treatment of terror suspects. Perhaps if you all care about the concept of “rule of law,” you can find time to recognize the valid aspects of each others’ agenda.

    Comment by Rojas — 4/20/2010 @ 4:24 pm

  7. Now I’m wandering well off the trail, but: can a “rule of law coalition” possibly support drug decriminalization? LEGALIZATION, yes, but decriminalization as broadly understood is the process of turning a blind eye to technical violations of drug laws in order to avert the more catastrophic effects of enforcement.

    Maybe what we really want isn’t enforcement of the law at all; maybe we want to use non-enforcement as a lever towards the enaction of a libertarian agenda. “If you’re not going to hold the government legally accountable for massive violations of the Geneva conventions, don’t come crying to us when that same government doesn’t enforce the laws you care about, such as those restricting immigration or punishing pot owners. You can’t ignore the law selectively and then expect everyone else to enforce it rigorously on your behalf.”

    Comment by Rojas — 4/20/2010 @ 4:29 pm

  8. In this case, the “rule of law” takes the form of legislation that paints an amorphous category (“suspected of being illegal immigrants”) as being worthy of preemptively revoking 4th amendment protections?

    I get what you’re saying, and I can appreciate the spirit of this in exactly the way you’re describing it, as I can also appreciate, for instance, the desire to keep America safe by painting an amorphous category (“suspected of being a terrorist”) as being worthy of preemptively revoking 4th amendment protections.

    But this isn’t a “rule of law” issue, this is a “secure the border” issue—I am not convinced, at all, that it is a failure of will so much as a practical limitation.

    Comment by Brad — 4/20/2010 @ 4:33 pm

  9. I think I’m starting to change my mind on this.

    I was previously unaware of the fact that it has been federal law for legal immigrants to carry documentation of their status–this has, reportedly, been the case since 1952. Legally speaking, so far as I can tell, Arizona is doing nothing that has not been federal law for fifty years.

    I am also trying to envision a mechanism by which laws against illegal immigration could be enforced without review of documents in this manner. I can’t figure out what that mechanism would be. Can someone enlighten me? Once they’re across the border, do we just not permit document requests?

    I support the expansion of legal immigration channels. I also support, in general, the enforcement of US laws. If we think those laws are bad–for instance, if we think the practice of racial profiling is so repugnant as to be a greater risk than border insecurity–we ought to repeal them.

    So, if we are going to repeal the existing law on this matter, fine; but if not, we had better enforce it. And if we’re going to enforce it, I don’t know why Arizona ought to be penalized for employing concurrent jurisdiction.

    Feel free to change my mind back if you like.

    Comment by Rojas — 4/28/2010 @ 10:23 pm

  10. I’m actually wavering a bit myself; it’s gotten hard to figure out what is and is not at issue here. Your argument reads identical to Ramesh Ponnuru’s.

    National Review, for once, is doing a symposium on the issue, which you can read through here. Of course, I trust National Review to be thoughtful and reasonable on immigration issues about as much as I trust it of Tom Tancredo, but still, having caught bits and pieces of the debate, it’s worth a look.

    Question though: wouldn’t “reasonable suspicion” already cover this? Presumably that’s what you’re talking about when you say legal immigrants already have to show papers (just as we are required to produce drivers licenses when reasonable suspicion allows the officer to ask it of us). Or is there some lower bar as it pertains to ethnics that I’m not aware of?

    Comment by Brad — 4/29/2010 @ 9:14 am

  11. I didn’t know that, Rojas. Has local law enforcement always been required to check for the papers if someone looks like they could be illegal? What are the standards for looking like being illegal – I think that’s the problem most people have. The most interesting thing (to me) is the clause that allows Arizonans to sue the government if they feel like the law isn’t being enforced hard enough (or something). How does that work exactly and who decides what is acceptable enforcement?

    Interestingly, Pima County Sheriff has said that it’s a disgusting law and he won’t be enforcing it. I guess that means people can sue him since he’s being pretty clear about it.

    Comment by Liz — 4/29/2010 @ 9:24 am

  12. Well, the being able to sue the government clause is why all the police chiefs and orders and departments in AZ were against the law. The clause you’re talking about, btw, is bizarre. It allows Arizona citizens to file suit against any government entity that “adopts or implements a policy or practice that limits or restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law.”. (Here is the text of the bill, by the way). How that plays is entirely unclear to me, but it in essence entirely takes the discretion away from the AZ attorney general and, theoretically, would be enormously dicey. If they don’t spend, say, 99% of their state law enforcement budget on illegal immigration, one could make the argument that they are enforcing the law to less than the full extent permitted. More discussion of that here.

    I would like some clarification on the point that “federal law for legal immigrants to carry documentation of their status”. That strikes me as probably true, but a little misleading. It just says that people who are not American citizens have to have papers, which is true for tourists, students on visas, legal immigrants, etc. The question is what burden of proof do you have to require them to show those papers? As I understand it, that burden is “reasonable suspicion”, and that is true for both citizens and non-citizens alike. It is entirely unclear to me that this law would A. even change that burden (which makes it questionable whether this law, besides the clause Liz mentions, would have any impact at all), or B. if it changes it, such that it lowers the bar on conducting search and seizures based on the type of crime being suspected (in this case, being in the country illegally), how that could possibly be constitutional.

    Comment by Brad — 4/29/2010 @ 9:44 am

  13. More reax here (man, I cant’ compete with Sully’s undrebloggers).

    The relevant bit to what Rojas is talking about:

    The Arizona law makes it a state crime for aliens not to have immigration documents on their person. This sounds draconian, except it’s been a federal crime for more than half a century — U.S.C. 1304(e). Has the open-borders crowd forgotten that it calls illegal aliens “undocumented” for a reason?

    Fair enough. But I don’t think that the legal requirement of being able to prove you’re a legal immigrant when legally called to do so is at issue here. At issue is the bar for being able to legally call someone to do so.

    Which brings me back to where I started—the bill just seems useless.

    “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or agency of this state . . . where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person.”

    I am pretty sure that’s already the law. If you have “reasonable suspicion” of somebody being an illegal immigrant (i.e. committing a crime), you can already try to determine their immigration status, right? Just like, in the course of legal contact, if the police have a reasonable suspicion burden met (say, if I’ve just been caught speeding), they can then take reasonable measures to ascertain my identification (asking me to produce a driver’s license and title; detaining me for a period if I can’t).

    So what does this bill do, precisely, except for the weird “sue the government” clause? In practice, the only thing I can think of is perhaps make the police more likely to consider a person’s ethnicity as itself grounds for “reasonable suspicion”—because, of course, they get sued if they don’t.

    So yeah, back to my original stance. This bill = teh dumb.

    Comment by Brad — 4/29/2010 @ 9:53 am

  14. Well…no, not really.

    The bill employs concurrent jurisdiction to create a direct incentive for law enforcement officials to do their jobs.

    The argument is the Pima County one that you make above–given that it is a dangerous and thankless task to actually enforce border controls, and one with political reprocussions in many communities, many people charged with the duty would prefer to opt out of the process entirely. Hence you have the concept of, for instance, “sanctuary cities”, in which the pretense of enforcement of immigration laws is entirely and formally abandoned.

    Arizona has decided to lower the boom on that by bringing the prospect of civil suits into play. It is possible, I suppose, that people who are making a good faith effort to enforce the law might get caught in this net. But the people who are actually experiencing the situation at ground zero appear to think that the certainty that some substantial number of agents WILL NOT enforce and ARE NOT ATTEMPTING to enforce the law outweighs that possibility.

    So I don’t think the bar has been altered in terms of reasonable suspicion. Instead, teeth have been put into the existing statutes.

    Comment by Rojas — 4/29/2010 @ 11:05 am

  15. Well, since we’re on the rule of law kick, we’re talking about the law as written rather than how we choose to practice it?

    So, the AZ law explicitly tries to pre-approve any suits brought against any agency or officer that “adopts or implements a policy or practice that limits or restricts the enforcement of federal immigration laws to less than the full extent permitted by federal law.” That could mean a whole hell of a lot of things in practice. It could be, in practice, interpreted as you generously read it, as a kick in the teeth to anyone making abdication of responsibility common practice. Or, it could pave the way to suing any law enforcement agency for not going as far as possible to enforce immigration law…which is explicitly how it is written.

    Even granting the rule or law, we certainly do make allowances for law enforcement to set priorities—presumably, they could devote 100% of their resources and manpower to ensuring that nobody, anywhere, at any time parks in a handicap spot without a handicap sticker. I’m talking two armed guards posted at every spot, on a shift rotation, maybe with helicopters hovering overhead, etc. etc. etc. But we tend to think that would be unreasonable, that instead law enforcement ought to balance a desire to enforce the law against parking in handicap spaces with other considerations, like catching murderers or stopping car thieves. So, we determine that they still ought to enforce the handicap parking law, but as part of a larger constellation of responsibilities and priorities, which will mean that yes, sometimes people will get away with parking in handicap spots.

    This law, it seems to me, attempts to swipe the legs out from under using the fact of that practical necessity as a defense against 100% enforcement, 100% of the time. So, if cops have reason to suspect that illegal immigrants might hang out at Home Depot, but determine that they have better things to do than ALSO hang out at Home Depot all the time, an officer posted there during all business hours to check the IDs of anybody not making a purchase…well, this law appears to say that is grounds for lawsuit. Likewise, if it’s determined that Arizona technically has enough police officers such that they could stand within sight of each other and form a line covering the entire Mexican border, but they choose not to do that…again, actionable.

    I’m with you on the rule of law bit, but again, taking the letter of the law, this appears to say that no law enforcement officer in Arizona can do anything but check for illegal immigrants.

    Comment by Brad — 4/29/2010 @ 11:25 am

  16. Good post by Andrew McCarthy explaining the “legal contact” bit and how that would play out here.

    Comment by Brad — 4/29/2010 @ 11:43 am

  17. Those are interesting hypotheticals, and relevant to the question we’re discussing. I guess that the decision, then, comes down to this: does the risk that law enforcement officers might be sued for not spending 100% of their time and resources on border enforcement outweigh the certainty that, in the absence of civil provisions, a large segment of the law enforcement community will do nothing, and will indeed aid and abet immigration through the creation of de facto safe zones?

    I am going to assume that the largely conservative base which supported this bill is not a group of people who can be generally categorized as “anti law enforcement”, and that this law is not written with the primary intent of “getting the pigs and sticking it to the man”. So the question then arises: under what circumstances would generally pro-law enforcement conservatives feel it necessary to actually, for once, pass legislation establishing actual legal accountability for the police?

    The answer, I would hazard to guess, would be “the same circumstances in which a two-bit fascist like Joe Arpaio managed to gain and hold elective office.” It would require something close to a total breakdown of law and order and an imminent threat, real or perceived, to public safety.

    I am not living in Southern Arizona and cannot speak to the current conditions there. But then, the voters would seem to have spoken for themselves. What we CAN speak to, again with certainty, is the fact that there exists an organized political constituency which is actively sabotaging US law where border enforcement is concerned. That is what “sanctuary cities” are, no ifs ands or buts about it.

    So when you tell me that rules have been established that lend themselves to potential abuse, I am not unsympathetic, and I doubt that pro-cop Arizona conservatives would be, either. But when they weigh the potential for abuse against the ever-present actuality of an unwillingness of many executive officers to do their jobs–well, they opt for accountability.

    If you want to persuade them, it would be best to offer them meaningful accountability through some less dangerous mechanism. Statements like “I don’t care about illegal immigration” will probably not do much to win them over.

    Comment by Rojas — 4/29/2010 @ 2:29 pm

  18. Well I don’t much care about illegal immigration, and I’m not trying to win anybody over, but this strikes me…

    I am going to assume that the largely conservative base which supported this bill is not a group of people who can be generally categorized as “anti law enforcement”, and that this law is not written with the primary intent of “getting the pigs and sticking it to the man”

    Interesting way of phrasing it. Here is another:

    Is there a point at which the conservative base who are preternaturally inclined to be excised about illegal immigration, will be satisfied that law enforcement is doing everything it can to stop it?

    I am not convinced there is, nor am I convinced that what I’m spouting here are crazy hypotheticals. Think of guys like Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo, and who they represent. I am unconvinced that we will ever reach a point, vis-a-vie illegal immigration, that could satisfy them. You seem convinced that all they wish is some good faith enforcement of the law and protecting the public interest. I am A. less convinced then you on the apparent total abdication on the front (by and large, we police our border pretty well, at least within practical limits, “sanctuary cities” aside). And B. I am even less convinced that that is the primary goal of the proponents of this legislation.

    This raises heckles in the same sense that abortion does, and just like you can’t go to an anti-abortion activist, so long as there are still abortions, and say “Hey, we’re de-incentivizing abortions, and there are less now than before, so really we’re doing pretty good” and have that be a satisfying and issue-closing answer, so to are you not going to be able to come back to the authors and advocates of this legislation and say “Hokay. We’re trying to comply with this legislation, and sure there’s still 2 million illegal aliens, but honestly, we’ve been stepping it up a notch and are doing pretty good” and have that meet the “full extent permitted by federal law” standard for them.

    Your argument is that all the proponents of this law want is some good faith effort. I am absolutely unconvinced of that. All they want is a total erasure of illegal immigration, and anything short of that will be seen as an abdication, in my view. And that view is, objectively speaking and by the letter of this law, true, frankly. It’ll be really fucking hard for ANY non-Joe Arapio sheriff to prove in court that they have been enforcing immigration laws “to the full extent permitted by law”.

    So, the AZ legislature has just given daveg, Ms. Gillian Duffy, Duncan Hunter, Jim Condit Jr., and whoever else, grounds and standing for any lawsuit they choose to file if there is any reasonable doubt that law enforcement is, in fact, combating illegal immigration to their absolute maximum possible ability. Hard to get excited by that.

    Comment by Brad — 4/29/2010 @ 3:11 pm

  19. We are in an excellent position, then. We don’t have to wonder whether a hypothetical law in Arizona might lead to a blizzard of frivolous lawsuits against well-meaning law enforcement officers–we are about to find out whether it in fact actually does. Be sure to point out those actions in this space as they occur, and we will all wag our fingers.

    We will also, I suppose, be finding out by the same mechanisms just how widespread the abandonment of immigration law enforcement has become. It has taken Liz less than two weeks to point us in the direction of at least one local magistrate who believes himself not to be bound by the rules set by the legislature–and not to be under obligation to resign his civil service position in protest over them, either, but rather, to continue to collect a state paycheck in exchange for not doing his job.

    If nothing else, this law will lay bare the false assumptions on both sides. Should be fun.

    Comment by Rojas — 4/29/2010 @ 3:31 pm

  20. I’m unconvinced that the law manages to hobble itself past legal challenges. But, as you say, we shall see.

    Still, ironic that you’re coming down the side of not disagreeing with my characterization of the letter of the law, but rather defending the character and motives of those that will be using it and trusting that, in practice, it’ll iron out just fine because the people using it surely won’t abuse it.

    Comment by Brad — 4/29/2010 @ 3:35 pm

  21. I am doing so, I guess, for rather the same reasons you ended up backing the health care bill. We both see a problem for which a deeply imperfect solution has been proposed, and are forced to back the solution as a marginal improvement because the folks on the other side refuse to even recognize that a problem exists.

    Really, though, the most interesting questions in this debate are the ones we stopped discussing about fifteen responses ago. To wit:

    1. Should the United States be taking a “papers please” approach to immigrant deportation? We all understand that that is the existing federal law; we seem to agree that said federal law makes racial profiling inevitable and is anathema to a free society at a very basic level. At the same time, none of us can apparently imagine any other way of repatriating people who are in the United States illegally. So…do we repeal the federal law, pay lip service to it while failing to enforce it, or what?

    2. Stemming from #1: if we cannot repatriate illegal immigrants except through pseudo-fascist tactics such as those discussed above, doesn’t that make actual enforcement at the border itself an even HIGHER priority for supporters of liberty?

    Difficult, squirm-inducing questions.

    Comment by Rojas — 4/29/2010 @ 3:45 pm

  22. Your argument is that all the proponents of this law want is some good faith effort. I am absolutely unconvinced of that. All they want is a total erasure of illegal immigration, and anything short of that will be seen as an abdication, in my view.

    How about now? We have the proponents of the law modifying it to eliminate ambiguities that would permit racial profiling; we have its opponents arguing that no amount of of modification is acceptable so long as Arizona continues to assert the authority to restrict immigration on its own.

    Does it still seem to you that the immigration restrictionists are the ones unwilling to compromise and to operate in good faith?

    Comment by Rojas — 5/4/2010 @ 12:05 pm

  23. Sounds reasonable to me, the changes. In particular I like the clarification on “contact” to specifically mean “in the context of enforcing another law” rather than any “legal” contact. Taken as it is, I’d still be wary of the stupid “sue the state if they aren’t enforcing immigration laws to the maximum level allowable by law” clause, and the state vs. federal mandates for enforcing immigration laws are unclear to me (one source in the article you mention says immigration status is solely under federal jurisdiction and thus state law enforcement would have no authority to enforce those laws—anyone know if that’s true?). But, barring those two things, I could support it.

    However, even the opponents quoted in that article don’t strike me as operating in bad faith. Particularly if you represent the Latino community, one can certainly understand why a law like this would make them skittish. Ta-Nehisi Coates, I think, cuts to the quick:

    This comes down to police power, and how comfortable you are with its extension. George Will, in a bit of populist demagoguery, implies that the critics of the Arizona law are people who only know illegal immigrants as cheap labor. But I suspect Will mostly has the exact same relationship with illegal immigrants. Moreover, I suspect that he only knows the police as the kind of Officer Friendlies who only arrest “the bad people.”

    I don’t want to be cheap here, but it needs to said that when you actually know decent people who are dead because of our insane drug war, your perspective on police power changes. This is a multi-million dollar lawsuit waiting to happen. Someone is going to get killed. And the fact that “the vast majority of police are awesome” will not bring them back.

    I think that’s right, but it also has an easy answer: you can’t really legislate if you assume the laws will be enforced negligently or unfairly. Coates’ would also be an argument, theoretically, against traffic laws, or anything really. That said, I can sympathize. And regardless, given how idiotic the right can be in their bugbearing illegal immigration, I certainly can’t fault people for outcry over this law which, on the initial face of it, certainly did seem to smack of racial fascism. I think you’re right that the law will probably be fine; I think you’re wrong in saying that opposition to the law is hysterical or based on bad faith obstinacy.

    Comment by Brad — 5/4/2010 @ 1:36 pm

  24. And of course, the fact that they so amended the law probably means the language was indeed crappy to begin with, making the initial outcry somewhat vindicated.

    A point Michael Gerson makes with aplomb:

    It must be awkward to have risen to the vigorous defense of legal language that even its authors, in the end, could not defend. But the law’s advocates are making the best of things out on their sawed-off limb. The law is now more “explicit” about its true intention. It is a “clarification.” But this isn’t a clarification; it is retreat. The authors of the Arizona law initially wrote it as broadly as they thought they could get away with. But they were caught. Their retreat does not confirm their intentions were good. It confirms that the original law was deeply flawed — a dramatic, disturbing overreach.

    A little “neener neener” for me, and of course as you say the other spin on it is it shows those in favor of the law are flexible.

    People are still unsatisfied that “contact” with police was revised, but now includes housing ordinances and such. Here’s that case. I don’t buy it—a code is a law is a law is a law—but again, I sympathize with the knee-jerk reaction to not immediately hand over new authority to police, particularly where it’s racially tinged, without a lot of knee-jerk vigilance. Would we approached more law that way.

    Comment by Brad — 5/4/2010 @ 2:25 pm

  25. I certainly wouldn’t make that claim about everyone who’s against the law, especially given that I was one of them for about a week. My hope would be that we can recognize that BOTH sides are composed largely of people who are rational about this issue and willing to operate in good faith, and even to compromise when necessary.

    My point was that the actions taken by the proponents of the law over the last week are hardly those you’d assume from a group which is unwilling to countenance any level of illegal immigration whatsoever. They are acknowledging the validity of the possible objections to the law and moving to make accomodations to protect individual liberty. Now it is time for the other side to give a little–for instance, by repudiating the elements of their own coalition who deny the necessity of enforcing immigration law, or who directly abet the practice.

    Comment by Rojas — 5/4/2010 @ 2:27 pm

  26. I buy all that. The changes do seem to me a good faith effort to make the law better, and with them, I’m still a bit wary of it, but it doesn’t strike me as on-the-face-of-it outrageous, although again, I sympathize with those who still aren’t going to “come around”.

    Comment by Brad — 5/4/2010 @ 2:31 pm

  27. And just as I write #25, up goes your #24 with the repulsive Gerson quote.

    If Gerson wants to assert that the people who passed this law are a bunch of troglodytes motivated solely by racism, that’s his privilege. But that’s no reason for the rest of us to join him in ignoring the evidence and demonizing those who disagree.

    In Arizona, people have organized to attempt to enact a legal solution to the problem of illegal immigration. We can choose to be a part of that debate and to make it a constructive enterprise. Or, alternatively, we can sit at a distance and throw stones at them, calling them racists for daring to demand that we actually live under the laws we pass. We can insist that their solution must be one of libertarian perfection while offering no alternative of our own. Meanwhile, we can shop for low-price produce which is provided to us by a de facto system of slave labor.

    I don’t think I’m OK with that approach to the immigration debate anymore.

    Comment by Rojas — 5/4/2010 @ 2:38 pm

  28. I put up #24 mostly because I came across it right after reading and responding to your #22. I don’t really agree with it; like I said, seems to me it represents a good faith effort of the bill proponents to respond to objections and clarify, which ought to be applauded, not flung back in their faces like feces. But, for points scoring purposes, Gerson is right in the sense that clearly, the initial law needed clarification and amendment, as even the proponents now tacitly admit. Like I said, a little long on point-scoring for me, but I happened to come across it as I was replying.

    I do think there’s a lot to your notion that a lot of opponents to these kinds of illegal immigration measures is a sort of tacit belief that NO law trying to dutifully enforce illegal immigration could wind up being just. That’s a fair point, and I think I can cop to a certain amount of that myself.

    I guess my reaction is in part the same as a thought you shared during the McCain/Bush immigration debate, when anti-immigration forces were killing the bill because it would grant amnesty. Your point was that they were shooting themselves in the foot, because if anything short of perfection was objectionable, then what anti-immigration forces were doing was enforcing the status quo. Your comment was: “Well, I can live with the status quo. Can you?”. In this case, it’s not necessarily that I disagree with any enforcement of immigration laws, but here, I can live with the status quo, where police don’t really bother people about their immigration status after the point where they’ve entered the country, except in cases where they pick them up for something else. I can live with that, so I’m not really going to get on board with any expansion of police powers to further “crack down” on the problem that, to me, isn’t much of a problem to begin with. When we allow for legal immigration from Mexico of unskilled workers, and give people who wish to a legitimate shot at becoming a citizen legally, I might start caring.

    Comment by Brad — 5/4/2010 @ 2:58 pm

  29. Immigrants are, taken as a whole, some of the best and hardest-working people on earth. Overwhelmingly, they come to this country to work their asses off at jobs that are brutally hard to do, and which are nonetheless essential to the operation of a modern economy. They are frugal to an almost ridiculous extent, deferring any and all possible pleasure for the benefit of their families. They bring with them a passion for their culture that enriches our own.

    The existing system of immigration is one in which these people are placed in a position where they have to undergo extraordinarily dangerous border crossings that kill thousands of them each year–dangerous, it must be said, not due to the presence of law enforcement, but due to the sheer physical conditions inherent in the crossing process. The difficulty of the crossing dissuades them from making it any more often than necessary, effecively isolating them from their loved ones back home, including the children who thereby grow up without the hardworking role model they would otherwise provide.

    They are then forced into a shadow economy in which they must endure whatever working and living conditions are imposed upon them, with no protection of contract or legal recourse of any kind. The communities into which they are forced become incubators of communicable disease. Sex trafficking is rife. They are forced to work with some of the worst and most violent criminals in the western hemisphere to secure entry. They may not unionize or bargain collectively in any way. To seek any form of protective or social service is to risk deportation.

    Illegal immigration thrives for a reason: it creates an underclass which can be exploited to whatever extent we, the consumers, find desirable, and which cannot even think about asserting itself. And it is precisely this situation which prevents us from considering expedited legal immigration, because then these people would be able to assert their basic rights as human beings, and that would mean the price of lettuce would go up.

    That’s a status quo you’re OK with?

    Comment by Rojas — 5/4/2010 @ 3:36 pm

  30. If, very very roughly, there are three options.

    Option One: Open borders
    Option Two: Status Quo
    Option Three: Closed borders

    Particularly if, to enforce illegal immigration, we have to effectively militarize borders states, create massive federal boondoggles, and spend an awful lot of time racially profiling/skapegoating. I don’t think being an illegal immigrant is anything close to an ideal human condition—that’s a bit of a strawman. But for many it’s clearly a better option than staying put. And ultimately, I prefer to take whatever effects come with illegal immigration than to take the likely requirements that would come with “stopping it”, whatever that means.

    Oh, and I don’t buy your italics. It didn’t seem to me that it was economic interests which killed expedited legal immigration, nor was it an issue of “securing the border first.” It was a total revulsion to the idea of “amnesty”, largely on the grounds that it was inherently unfair. I am not at all convinced that if you coupled a hypothetical strongest border enforcement bill in American history with any form of expedited legal immigration, that it would pass muster with those who lined up behind the Arizona law at first blush.

    Comment by Brad — 5/4/2010 @ 4:14 pm

  31. If you have already decided that any measure which would substantially reduce illegal immigration must definitionally be one which will

    effectively militarize borders states, create massive federal boondoggles, and spend an awful lot of time racially profiling/skapegoating

    then there is not a lot of point in my trying to convince you.

    If that is not your stance, then it is time that we started discussing measures which would reduce illegal immigration without creating the consequences you list above. Because we owe that to the principle of rule of law, and we owe it to those exploited by the system from which you and I both profit.

    You don’t like what Arizona did. What is your alternative?

    Comment by Rojas — 5/4/2010 @ 9:27 pm

  32. Sure. Ways to reduce illegal immigration:

    1. Expand legal immigration, and provide a pipeline into which existing supply can flow. This would include reasonable paths to citizenship for otherwise law-abiding illegals, but also massively expanding our quotas and lowering our standards for legal immigrants from the countries that pour out the most border-crossers. The cap on legal Mexican immigration, 26,000, is roughly the same as it is for immigration from Nepal and Somali, and almost entirely reserved for spouses or close relatives of existing US citizen Mexicans, and the rest to extremely high-level white collar educated migrants. This is, in a word, insane. When you have demand that, under all those horrible conditions you outlined, still brings in 3 million or so people, and you give only 26,000 the option to do so legally, you are creating your own problem. As is often the case, we are throwing bad government action at a problem that is largely caused by bad government action.

    2. Increase penalties for companies and individual employers that don’t accurately verify the immigration status of its employees, hopefully decreasing demand. Libertarians are cool on this (although Ron Paul proposed it as central to his immigration stance), but it strikes me that it’s always going to be incumbent on employers to not hire people who legally cannot work (say, 12-year-olds, sex offenders in schools, etc.).

    3. Find smart and targeted ways to make border policing more effective. I’m even okay with throwing more resources at it.

    You’re fighting a strawman here. My contention is not that we should not enforce laws against illegal immigration. It is that my concern about the effects of illegal immigration under the present system are less than my desire for vigilance against authoritativeness. That is not the case for every measure against illegal immigrations, but I’m not going to take it as a given that expanding police powers is in our best interest because the legislators and police will probably use those powers in good faith. I don’t see why stance here is any more hypocritical than your stance on the War on Drugs, drugs also being prima facially illegal, but I would guess you’d also be against upping the ante in the fight against them for the same reasons I am here. Can you be a “rule of law” guy and still be against increasing efforts to enforce the “War on Drugs” to the maximum possible allowable under the present law?

    Good take from Reason, btw.

    Comment by Brad — 5/5/2010 @ 1:24 pm

  33. Another Reason take.

    Comment by Brad — 5/5/2010 @ 6:25 pm

  34. Man, hate to make this five in a row, but Reason’s running a lot of good debate on the subject.

    A Libertarian Defense of the Arizona Immigration Bill.

    Immigration: Anarchy Worked.

    Not quite the Rojas/Brad debate, but in caricature, it works.

    Comment by Brad — 5/7/2010 @ 10:12 am

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