Monday, April 26, 2010

The Arizona Immigration Law is Wrong on Multiple Fronts

The new law in Arizona dealing with illegal immigration has caused quite a stir in the country.  The law makes it a misdemeanor to lack the proper immigration paperwork in the state, as well as requires cops to determine a person's immigration status if they form a "reasonable suspicion" that a person is in the country illegally.  In other words, it's a carte blanche for profiling.  But even beyond the moral/racial ramifications of this misguided legislation, Arizonans (and Arizona Republicans) might soon find themselves regretting this one.

First let's take a look at the potential financial cost of this law.  Considering that immigration is a federal issue (a New Hampshire state trial court shot down an attempt by that state's law enforcement to try illegal immigrants with trespassing [PDF], saying that it preempted federal authority and violated the Constitution's Supremacy Clause), Arizona may find itself facing costly legal battles in the name of this new law.  Additionally, Arizona law enforcement will have to go through new training (which is not free) to learn to deal with immigration issues, which is usually left to the law enforcement arm of immigration, ICE.  Tack onto this the inevitable lawsuits arising from law enforcement's "reasonable suspicions" of illegal immigrant status in regards to legal citizens of the country, and you have a very expensive new law for Arizona.

Then there is the political ramifications of this law.  In a country where the Latino population has been rapidly rising [PDF], the fact that this law was sponsored, passed by, and signed into law by Republicans will not be soon forgotten by this powerful demographic.  In an election year many Republicans who may have opposed this bill decided to tuck their tails in between their legs and simply support it so as not to look like a bump on a log (this includes the further-debased John McCain, who co-sponsored a bill with Ted Kennedy in 2005 that would, among other things, allow a path for illegal immigrants to gain American citizenship).  With the passage and institution of this bill, it essentially sends the message that Republicans (at least those who represent Arizona) aren't interested in courting the Latino vote and are much more content trying to gain the last of the angry white vote.  But here's the problem: the right already has the angry white vote locked down.  This Tea Party business, while entertaining, is a fad and the number of people willing to embarrass themselves by aligning themselves with this fringe political group is not infinite.  Republicans trying to get even more of the angry white vote is like trying to squeeze blood out of a stone.

Arizona certainly has a fight approaching on the horizon.  Calls for a boycott of the state have commenced, and if history has any insight to offer Arizona it's that Arizona may be on the losing side of this fight.  Not only are Latinos an ever-growing voting bloc, but they buy things just like everyone else.  Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's proposed 1% sales tax hike might not be enough should Latinos and others opposed to the new immigration law who would otherwise buy products in Arizona take their purchasing power elsewhere.  In my humble opinion, Arizona is going to spend a lot of money defending an equivocal law that, should it reach the Supreme Court via the extremely slow bowels of the American justice system, will be struck down anyway in light of the Supremacy Clause.

Photo - Cartoon of the first illegal immigrants in America (Imgur)

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