On immigration, Arizona’s law is right and proper

On Immigration, Arizona’s Law is Right and Proper

Arizona’s newly passed law requiring police to determine the immigration status of persons suspected of being in the country illegally has created a firestorm of controversy in all the usual quarters on the left. Democrats and liberal pundits decry the state’s attempt to get a handle on its burgeoning illegal immigration problem as heavy-handed, inherently discriminatory, and racist. President Obama calls the law “misguided,” Rev. Al Sharpton promises “freedom walk” marches in the state if the law is not rescinded within 90 days, and San Francisco—the nation’s pre-eminent “sanctuary city”—has called for a boycott. This criticism is as expected as it is wrong.

But there are some on the right as well who are critical of Arizona’s actions, if not its intent. Among those critics is Matt Lewis, who penned an op-ed that appeared here in The Daily Caller yesterday. In his piece, “Avoiding hypocrisy on immigration,” Lewis argues that conservatives should be skeptical of the new law on the grounds that it gives too much power to government. Lewis is concerned about discrimination against people of color, too. But primarily he thinks that conservatives are principle-bound to oppose the law.

“I can’t help but find the willingness of many conservatives to grant the police unprecedented power to question U.S. citizens in Arizona as somewhat ironic,” Lewis writes. “Conservative activist Grover Norquist has dubbed the conservative movement the “leave us alone coalition,” and as Justice Brandeis might have said, this law infringes Arizonans’ “right to be left alone”—free from government intrusion. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer should have vetoed it.”

First, let’s establish what Arizona’s law does and does not do. It does not empower police to stop random people on the street and demand their papers, Gestapo-style, as many on the left have claimed. The law quite simply requires police to check immigration status with reasonable suspicion only after they have made “lawful contact.” In other words, the police have to have good reason to stop someone for some other reason before even getting to the immigration check. This power is not unprecedented. In fact, police in all 50 states already check immigration status in this way every time they ask for a driver’s license, since in most states, illegals cannot obtain one. Furthermore, the law specifically prohibits racial profiling as a tool. So the worries about discrimination seem themselves to be an emotional overreaction.

The charge of hypocrisy leveled here from the right echoes an argument that liberals and Democrats have used, to great effect, against Republican and tea party activists on the issue of government spending and deficits. Namely, that conservative criticism of the Obama administration’s profligate spending habits should be dismissed because Republicans ran up deficits when they were in charge. Proponents of this rationale often cite the Bush Administration’s “unfunded wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other things, to make their case.

What these arguments have in common, and where they go wrong, is that they treat all government actions as inherently the same, without regard to whether or not they spring from a proper role for government as defined by the Constitution. Therefore, spending on a war in Iraq is equal to spending on welfare programs. And government “intrusion” to check immigration status is the same as government restrictions on gun ownership. But this equivalence of government actions is a false one. All government spending is not the same, and neither are all enforcement actions.

Conservatives argue that the government should spend whatever money is necessary to protect the nation from attack, whatever the deficit implications. Defense is a basic responsibility of the federal government, and few but the most ardent liberals would argue that the US should not pay any price in its own defense. Conservative acceptance of deficit spending in this context does not preclude them from arguing that the government should not spend exorbitant sums to provide universal health care, for instance. Despite the Obama Administration’s insistence, health care is not constitutionally mandated. Therefore, conservative criticism of its deficit implications is justified.

Similarly, on immigration, conservatives may rightly argue that Arizona can have its police check the immigration status of people stopped for lawful reasons, while at the same time arguing that the government has no right to intrude somewhere else, as in private health care decisions. One is justified, while the other is not. There is no hypocrisy in expecting the government to enforce its immigration laws and to “leave us alone” when it comes to buying health insurance.

But critics of the Arizona law, left and right, have a bigger problem to contend with. Federal law already requires all resident aliens—i.e. green card holders—to carry their identification papers on them at all times. Arizona, then, has done no more with this law than the federal government itself.

Lewis is right to say that immigration is a touchy subject that is fraught with emotion on all sides. Indeed, many of the nation’s political issues are. But in the case of Arizona’s new law, all of the emotional arguments appear to be coming from those who oppose the state’s actions. Conservative supporters of the law need not be reminded to make their arguments on principle. They already are.

Mark Impomeni is a conservative opinion writer, blogger, and contributing editor at RedState.com.

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  • stevecan

    ObamaCare ID Card check is OK, Immigration status ID check NOT OK …

    Makes perfect sense to me (if you live in some twisted bizarro world).

  • plarenuts

    In the 1980’s we had Simpson/Mazzoli
    It promised to end the flood of illegal immigration by making it illegal to hire to hire undocumented persons. It gave 3 million amnesty.

    After 25 years what do we have? More illegals than ever!!

    The Federal Government has failed and failed big.

    They say we can fix it this time.

    No more lies from the Fed’s. They have had their chance. Round them up, fine the employer, use that money to send them home.

    Arizona is a start.

  • grannysunni

    Many hispanics and legal immigrants in AZ support this new law. Anybody of any skin color – blue, purple, polkadots, are subject to providing ID when stopped by LEOs. Federal immigration law was established 70 years ago. Where have all the protests been in past years? Why protest now? Because Obama wants to give all the illegals amnesty and this messes up his plan.

  • rick013

    I haven’t heard of any lawsuits yet. However, there may be some nuisance suits in the near future from federally funded la raza, la mecha, lulac, maldef, splc, aclu, etc. Some religious organizations may even get on the band wagon. You can bet BOo and his trolls are going to attempt to destroy Arizona. However, since the Arizona law was copied from federal statues, it would seem that a serious challenge of any substance would also challenge existing federal law. Now wouldn’t that be an oxymoron.

  • hispano

    “In fact, police in all 50 states already check immigration status in this way every time they ask for a driver’s license, since in most states, illegals cannot obtain one.”

    In that case the law is redundant, and quite stupid as Arizona is facing several lawsuits, not to mention boycotts. So in effect, Russel Pierce and Jan Brewer will do nothing more than hurt the state financially, and to hurt the Republican Party by alienating Hispanics.

    I find it hard to believe that we couldn’t enact a law to combat illegal immigration without the potential of abuse towards citizens, but it makes sense when you understand that Russel Pierce hobnobs with white supremacists: http://vivirlatino.com/2010/04/27/russell-pearce-author-of-sb-1070-connected-to-white-supremacist-organizations.php

    I’m Hispanic, a Republican, and an Arizonan; and I find this new law deeply disturbing.

    • thephranc

      Do you find federal law as disturbing since they are basically the same thing?

      • hispano

        No I don’t, as the Federal law doesn’t require local police to act as immigration officers.

        The new law requires immigrants to carry proof that they are in the country legally, and that makes sense as Federal law requires that. However, the potential of abuse inherent in the Arizona law will now force Hispanic residents and citizens to carry proof of that they are in the country legally, out of fear that they may be arrested. Its a valid fear. What other ethnic group in the United States has to do that?

        What this new law will do is drive Hispanics from voting Republican, and it will hurt Arizona’s economy. We’re seeing the effects of that already, with organizations canceling conventions and people throughout the world boycotting Arizona. The police will have more work, and my friends that are in law enforcement already work overtime. Who wins here? The flies have conquered the flypaper.

        • thephranc

          You don’t understand this law or the federal law. Actually federal law does require local LEO to contact ICE when they have an illegal in custody. Immigrants most carry proof they are here legally anyway. This is nothing new. Any LEO can demand ID from any one. All ethnic groups have to carry ID. Your arguments are ignorant and dishonest. Why would a law that effects illegals drive hispanics away from republicans? Are you saying hispanics are so intellectually dishonest that they will only vote for the party that allows illegals to run free? Many legal immigrants and hispanic citizens are just as fed up. Or did you miss the 70% that agree? Unless you think those are all just white people your point fails. So what if people all over the world are boycotting. They are as intellectually void as you are in their reaction. The police are over worked because of the crimes illegals cause. When they start cleaning up the illegal mess by getting rid of them the work load will go down. Who wins? America wins. The tax payers win when they don’t have to pay for all the crime and medical and schooling costs the illegals foist on the tax payers.

        • evelynlexo

          Do you feel like carrying passport? Some Hispanics have light skin, and some illegal immigrants aren’t Hispanic at all and may come from a variety of national and ethnic backgrounds. But Still at most of online polls people support the Law. http://immigration.civiltalks.com/
          You can influence the law by simple VOTE

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