Friday, June 11

Why I am opposed to SB 1070

ArizonaIt has become a common question. People are asking why I am opposed to Arizona's immigration bill. Here is a still-in-process summary of my thinking on the issue:
  1. The unilateralness and tone of the bill creates FEAR and MISUNDERSTANDING. A third of our people in Arizona are Hispanic -- most of them are here legally. The bill makes them feel like they are being targeted for harassment. Whether that is true or not is irrelevant. Communities are built on perceptions.

    Undoubtedly, Hispanics are the people that the police will most often ask to produce proof of legal status.
    Nice white people will never be asked to prove their status but if you are brown skinned your chance of being asked for documentation increases significantly. (If this is true with the current federal enforcement procedures -- and they make lots of mistakes -- how much more so will it be if we have a lot of lesser-trained local police trying to figure out who is legally here and who is not.) I can understand how that would make brown skin people feel like second class citizens. Ultimately this will create resentment and erode community.

  2. Local laws designed to control people movements and immigration will lead to irregular standards and enforcement across the country. Not only is this unfair to the people involved, it will (does) also affect relations with other countries. What Arizona does will affect how Mexico relates to the whole of the United States. Immigration enforcement should be in the hands of the federal government -- exclusively.

  3. A patchwork of local immigration rules adds another layer of complexity to the process of the real immigration reform that needs to occur in the US. We are not making things clearer -- only stirring the waters.

  4. While there are significant problems related to immigration the issue is overblown. The large city violent crime rates in the border states are actually lower than those in the rest of the country. Crime rates in border towns are very low. Studies have consistently shown that the economic impact of illegal immigration is either neutral or positive. There are segments of the economy that it stresses (e.g. health care, education) but the overall impact is probably positive. The problem of illegal immigration is an issue that has been over-stated and massaged to create fear and misunderstanding. People running for political office are the main beneficiaries. It is no accident that this bill was passed and signed during an election year -- an election year during which voters are feeling stressed out over the economy and housing crisis. SB 1070 is a classic tail wagging the dog.

  5. The immigration law is not only a distraction but will become a law enforcement hindrance. If a third of the population (those who are Hispanic) are actively trying to avoid engagement with the local police because they fear that they are going to be subject to harassment (whether that is true or not is irrelevant -- people make decisions based on perception), they will be less likely to call 911 when they spot suspicious activity like burglaries or drug deals. Law enforcement is built on community trust. This bill undercuts trust -- an unintentioned consequence.

  6. The real focus should be on comprehensive national immigration reform. We have brought a lot of this problem on ourselves through our irregular immigration practices of the past. We have informally told people (especially those from Mexico) that they need to have papers to come to the US (wink, wink) but that if they come here and settle in, stay out of jail, become model neighbors, and contribute to the economy we will look the other way (and thank them for paying into social security without ever drawing from it).

    So the people moved north in greater and greater numbers. Then there were promises of reform that would make it possible for them to get legal standing. So they settled in, sunk down roots and produced
    children here (all of whom are US citizens), and patiently waited, living under the radar. But the promised reforms haven't happened. We have failed to follow through on what we said we would do.

  7. This approach will encourage law enforcement to go after the low-hanging fruit rather than the hard to get to rotten apples at the top of the trees. That is, to prove that they are in compliance with the "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act" the posses will be looking for opportunities to round up as many people as possible. In other words, they will be processing a lot more bus boys and hotel workers than drug dealers, human smugglers, and gang members. We've already seen how this works here in Maricopa County where the sheriff likes to stage a lot of high profile raids to capture minimum wage workers.
On May 1st the Arizona Republic had a great editorial that sums it all up well.
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