Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Cinco de Mayo

Mexicans seem to care for this holiday about as much as Jews care for Hanukkah, but I thought I'd say a few words in honor of this pseudo-holiday.

1. I love our neighbors South of the Border. I have said numerous times that they will come to be as beloved to Americans as the Irish, but with better food.

2. Is the Arizona immigration racist and evil as written? I haven't read it and I doubt many have, but I would imagine a law like that would depend on how it's enforced. If brown people are getting pulled over for no reason and asked for their visas, then yes, it's a bad law. But what if it becomes clear from talking to a person in another circumstance that his immigration status is rather dubious?

- Beldar, you still haven't given me your social security number.
- My social security number... I--....I am sorry. I keep forgetting.
- I need that number. I got state payroll forms. You do have a number?
- Of course. I am a citizen.
- All right. Give me the numbers.
X... point...3...

In that case, it would be pretty clear that the person in question is an illegal alien. Believe it or not, you can sometimes figure out that someone has immigrated illegally without pulling them over for no reason other than to check their papers. I would imagine it sometimes just comes up in other contexts.

If the Arizona law is then directing law enforcement officials not to ignore the immigration status, is that a bad thing? Aren't the lawmakers just wanting the existing law to be enforced, sort of like how doctors are required by law to report parents to Social Services if there's evidence of child abuse? I personally don't really care for mandatory reporting because I think it takes away discretion and common sense, but that doesn't mean it's an evil or bad law.

Again, this very well might be a terrible law and I think immigrants (legal or illegal) from the South make this country a better place*. Just about every single immigrant I've ever met, I have wanted him or her living in this country a hell of a lot more than the average white trash American citizen I see yelling at and spanking his kid at theme marks or holding up grammatically incorrect signs at Tea Parties calling Obama a Nazi.

I think the most glaring failing of the law, from what I know, is that there is no exception for victims or witnesses of crimes. If this law discourages immigrants from coming forward in these situations, it should be obliterated from the books now and without question (or amended). But right now, I'm just wondering if the national reaction to Arizona's frustration over immigration policy is a little knee jerk at this point.

*Do illegal immigrants make this country a better place? Probably. Do they deserve to not be deported....probably not.


  1. Good god. Again, I find myself hearing reason in the voice of a conservative columnist, and it really scares me.

    Please don't tell my mother.

  2. Great post Kenny!

    This doesn't make you sound conservative, it makes you sound reasonable.

    I have not read the law, and am saddened that due to the federal government's inability (or unwillingness) to come up with a comprehensive immigration law that the State of Arizona has passed what appears to be a draconian law and an overreaction to a very real and tangible problem.

    My problems are with the federal government (and their inaction), the fact that Arizona's law seems to be an overreaction, and the fact that this law seems to lower the threshold of "a reasonable suspicion."

  3. I still don't understand why we need to pass a law that tells people to enforce existing laws. What if we passed a law that made gang members who killed people arrestable, which they already are under more general laws. Would it be easier to justify harassing black guys wearing red or blue? Do we really think that a white driver without a license will be questioned the same way that a hispanic naturalized citizen would be upon being pulled over? All that I can understand that this law accomplishes is to add clutter to the rule book, which is already over-cluttered, and to ever so slightly justify profiling for a law (it is illegal to be here illegally, hence "illegally") that already exists for all races, colors, nationalities, etc. It is clear that this law was enacted for one "problem" and one problem alone, and I think we are foolish to think that it won't affect how officers approach these situations. They are smart enough to know why the law was enacted as well.

    I agree that people in the country illegally should be arrested. It has been illegal for many many years. I also think the federal government should reform immigration procedures. I do not believe that a "profile" should exist for how to inquire as to someone's alien status. I am incredibly interested to see what the circumstance of suspicion is set to be by the police, but it doesn't change that this law makes nothing that wasn't illegal before illegal, other than holding a license or "papers," and makes many lawful people who weren't suspects before suspects.

  4. Per redundancy with respect to existing laws, I don't think that's true. State and local law enforcement isn't required to enforce federal law. That's why California's medical marijuana program is able to exist. If cops here had to do the DEA's job, there wouldn't be any dispensaries.

    Per the argument that we all know what this is really about, it sounds like what you are saying is that this is an inherently racist law because it was written in Arizona, where there are a lot of Latino immigrants. Do you think everyone would have such a strong reaction if this same law was enacted in Washington state or Vermont?

    My (and many others) biggest concern is that the language "reasonable suspicion" is the standard in the bill, which is a term of art and basically means that officers would have extremely wide discretion, almost beyond reproach. I think Arizona would have been much better off in terms of public relations and constitutional scrutiny if they had used "probable cause." Would everyone still have a problem with the law if that legal standard was used instead?

  5. This guy pretty much says everything I believe...

    I also think Cali's med marijuana is a bad example because Cali has voted multiple times for special allowances for medical marijuana. These state laws have served to relax local enforcement and not the other way around. Local law enforcement has cooperated with the INS in border states for years. I'm also convinced that if trying to arrest more illegals was a major priority and there were money for it, local law enforcement would have little problem ratcheting up the numbers. But as the man in the video points out, this will not make one bit of difference other than to make things more confusing for the police and to alienate second and third generation US citizens.

  6. Crash course in federalism: A state law can be more strict than a federal law unless it is in conflict with the federal law or in an area that is reserved for the federal government*. But on the other hand, if the state law is more lax than the federal law, then the federal law still controls (Supremacy Clause).

    Prop 215 doesn't tell law enforcement to do anything. It merely allows for the prescription of medical marijuana. But it doesn't matter because the United States Constitution says that federal laws trump state laws and federal law says marijuana has no medicinal value. Medical marijuana is still quite illegal (Gonzales v. Raich). It just so happens that California law enforcement chooses not to enforce the federal law, which it is allowed to do.

    The power to control immigration is solely vested in the federal government. States or territories that have attempted to control immigration have always been found to be unconstitutional. But let's say a state does not want to zealously enforce immigration law. The Federal government does not have the authority to compel state officials to enforce federal law (Printz v. United States).

    As I understand it, this Arizona law is a directive to state and local officials to enforce federal law, and as far as I know, there is nothing unconstitutional about that. Nor do I think it is redundant because right now local law enforcement does not have to enforce immigration law unless it chooses to.

    I think I understand why some people think this will lead to profiling, but are we all so naive to think that profiling doesn't already exist in Arizona? Do we really think this law means an otherwise well trained officer with common sense will suddenly become a racial profiler just because of this new law? I really don't see in the law where it says that.

    I have said why I think certain aspects of this law are misguided or dumb (The part about officers being sued is particularly troubling), but I still am not sure why everyone is so convinced it is racist or fascist.

    Like when this woman asked Gordon Brown about immigration but said nothing remotely racist and he called her "bigoted." (

    Again, I think immigrants make this country a better place but we need to get beyond calling all people who aren't in favor of immigration racists or bigots. It's really isn't advancing the conversation.

    *I think but I also skipped a lot of Con Law classes. Constitutional scholars?

  7. Thanks for the background. I guess one of my concerns would be that, as I understand, anti-immigration coalitions could file suit against the police for not asking for papers/ID, which would lead police officers into profiling from fear of law suit, just as medical professionals are forced to over-diagnose or oversell certain procedures due to fear of law suit. I do think that there are many things that the police are just more aware of and can better handle than the public could ever understand.

    For instance, I live next to SW Boulevard in KC, where a large number of illegals are picked up for work daily. This area used to be riddled with crime and with drunks when the police harassed the illegals who gathered here. Now, the police actually assist the local community group to help maintain an organized and safe place for people to be picked up. I still take issue with people entering the country illegally, but mostly on the side of people who employ them and get no grief from any form of government. But in a roundabout way, I think this is an example of police finding the best method of enforcement within the laws provided, rather than focusing solely on the result of the problem as they have been forced to do for years in the drug "wars."

  8. Very good points. I completely agree that we need to treat this issue differently from the failed War on Drugs. I really believe a lot of people think we should build a wall on the Mexican Border and arrest every immigrant we see. That approach is misguided, wrong, and would be totally ineffective.

  9. No doubt. I think we are on the same pagina. Good points on all sides, but once again it has become a dichotomy of right/wrong, left/right, etc., etc.