If you have ever been the victim of a break-in, you know how disheartening it is and how vulnerable it makes you feel. Someone comes to your house, smashes through your security - be that windows, doors, or alarm systems, and makes off with your stuff. If anyone's home, people can be hurt or even killed. But at the very least, some measure of harm is done to the tenants of that residence.
In discussing the immigration debate, it is very important to be as level-headed as possible. Emotions in a debate like this run very high, and it can be easy to assign blame to a person, a group, or even an entire race based on so-called facts and statistics. I have been reading as much news information and digesting various points of view over the past several days since Arizona Senate Bill 1070 was passed last week and signed into law so as to provide a clear perspective on the issue apart from allegations of fearmongering, racial profiling, unfairness to one class of people or another, and the strong emotions that flow through all of it.
Senate Bill 1070 says that officers of the Arizona law enforcement community may,
when they have "reasonable suspicion" that someone may be in the country illegally, and only during a lawful stop or detention of a person, question that person about their citizenship or immigration status, when practicable. The bill further makes it a misdemeanor offence for an illegal alien to trespass on the land of the State of Arizona by being on Arizona land without proper authorization (a green card, travel visa, student visa, etc) and imposes a $100 minimum fine and jail time for a first offense. A later section of the bill makes it a crime (class 1 misdemeanor) to stop to hire a person on a roadway for services to be rendered at a different location, for a person to solicit services if he or she is an "unauthorized alien" (does not have a legal right or authorization to work in the United States under US code 1384a(h)(3)), or for a person to harbor, conceal, or transport an undocumented alien. There's also a new provision relating to employer entrapment, and provisions about where money will be spent for various things.
If you read the bill itself, that's all there is. A bill making changes to 1070 was also passed which includes provisions to dispel some of the protests about 1070, including explicitly stating that reasonable suspicion shall not be based solely on race, national origin, etc. It's not going to cause the downfall of Western civilization, and it certainly doesn't make Arizona akin to Hitler's Germany as some have suggested. No "papers, please" comments are going to happen on street corners.
What will happen is that Arizona LEOs (law enforcement officers) are now going to uphold a part of what has always been commonly asserted as federal law: that a person cannot be in the United States without having legally been granted authorization to be here.
And there are problems. According to the Pew Hispanic Research Center, there are approximately 500,000 illegal aliens in Arizona. About 94% of them are hispanic and come from Mexico or other Latin American countries. There will be allegations of racial profiling in Arizona. For one thing, politically speaking, that is one of the best ways that the community of people opposed to the law will be able to cry foul and hope to get the law repealed in the court system. Governor Jan Brewer also signed an Executive Order with the passage of 1070 which will provide training on how to be in compliance with the bill and not base "reasonable suspicion" on race, given that such a large number of illegal aliens are of one particular race, but I would imagine the cliche holds true for everyone, including LEOs: if you hear hooves, think horses, not zebras.
Another problem is whether or not a person can prove "reasonable suspicion" that someone is here illegally in a courtroom without basing it on race. What makes someone look or sound suspicious of not having been granted a federal paper for travel within the United States? I mean, if I saw a group of people (white or otherwise) standing on a street corner flagging people down and shouting that they wanted to do yardwork while they all turned away when a cop car drove by, I might be a little suspicious and have a good reason to make sure they were all authorized to solicit work in the US. But if I were a cop and pulled someone over for speeding who had a license plate from Mexico and who spoke broken English, would that be enough to allow me to ask them for a passport or green card?
By and large, those are questions the courts will ultimately have to answer. There are other reasons for and against the new law - economic questions of who will take the jobs illegal aliens currently do, logistical problems associated with trying to deport millions of illegals, racial tensions from those who believe the law targets them or their people unfairly (whether it does or not), legal precedent questions about the supremacy of federal law and federal law enforcement being overtaken by state law and state law enforcement, and the good old common sense argument that if you are here in this country without proper authorization and documentation you are breaking the law and are a criminal.
Personally, I support the new law and what it represents: a commitment by this state's leaders to attempt to do something about the problem of illegal immigration. It may well force the federal government to again take up the question of illegal immigration in the House and Senate and will likely force the White House to deal with the issue. It will almost certainly give people something to think about, even though it's likely to continue to divisiveness between Democrats, Republicans, and Tea Partiers who take up the issue. It may spill over into violence, shreads of which Arizonans have already seen at the State Capitol building from the protestors and counter-protestors who oppose and support the new law.
My plan, and I've been stating this for years now, is to toughen state and federal laws to a point of zero tolerance for illegal aliens: you're caught here in violation of the laws, you are deported. No questions asked. No tolerance for "anchor babies" - children born to illegal parents who are themselves citizens, having been born on American soil, and whose parents use them for justification to stay here. Zero tolerance for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. But then, in conjunction with much stricter and tougher laws, the federal government (and only they can do this) need to make it less restrictive for people to come here legally. Increase the quotas for people coming here on work visas and residency visas. Allow people who want to come here to do so faster by utilizing better technology to do background checks on applicants. Utilize biometric identification technology to better document and track immigrants. Allow priority requests for immigration to those who can pass citizenship tests and who know fluent English. Increase student visas and allow students who graduate from US universities to obtain citizenship faster.
By doing this, the hope is that people will not need to come here illegally if they know that it is both unwise to come here with such tough laws preventing trespassing and vigilant enforcement of businesses so there are no jobs available to illegal aliens, and that it is much easier to obtain legal immigrant statuses. Let's face it, it should not take 5-10 years for someone who wants to be American to simply get over our borders legally. It creates an oxymoron - Americans love to spread our ideals about democracy and capitalism and hard work and personal responsibility, and yet we make it next-to-impossible for a good, honest immigrant to get here to try to pull himself up by his bootstraps.
The final problem is purely logistical. The last I checked, estimates were of about 13.5 million illegal aliens in the entire United States. It would be extremely impractical to attempt to deport all of them. A mass roundup of people would indeed create an atmosphere of fear and corruption, and would be way to easy to liken back to the Holocaust or Japanese internment camps. We don't want that. No one does. But we also can't just grant amnesty. It's too easy, for one thing. It didn't work for Reagan and indeed simply enticed more illegals to come over the borders. Amnesty should rightly be reserved for those seeking asylum in the United States due to the imminent threat of death or persecution in their home countries, and for those who come here as illegal aliens seeking better lives, that's just not the case. What we face is a hybrid of something that involves promising not to prosecute people who voluntarily leave the country and reapply as legal immigrants while also collecting a fine from those who come out of the woodwork. It's not likely to work well, if at all. I wish I had a good answer to the problem, but no one does.
For now, the problem of illegal immigration remains just that: an enigma. Arizona's new laws will certainly help, in my opinion, but they are neither the best solution nor the most "nice" solution. They're just something we have to do right now. I will continue to fight for keeping 1070 on the books because I believe that asking someone to prove that they belong here is neither unreasonable nor unkind. As an American - and I would hope as an immigrant - being asked to prove who I am just makes me more proud that I am an American.