Friday, April 30, 2010

Civil Rights and Civil Wrongs in Arizona

Much fuss is being kicked up about a new piece of legislation in Arizona, which makes it a legal requirement to carry ID with you wherever you go; and expands the rights of police officers to demand the paperwork of anybody they suspect of being an illegal immigrant.

This has outraged liberals across America, who claim that police demands to 'present your papers' will be akin to living in a police state, and that the law will be tantamount to racial profiling.

I, on the other hand, completely disagree.

Yes, it's true that 99.9% of people suspected of being illegal immigrants will be of Hispanic origin. That's not racial profiling, though - that's just the sad fact that 99.9% of illegal immigrants living in Arizona happen to be Hispanic (it does border Mexico, after all.)

If similar laws existed elsewhere in the country, like New York City, then it would be a different story. New York's teeming with illegals of all sorts of different hues - I know for a fact that many young Irish kids spend a couple of years working illegally in Irish pubs just for the craic of it. Visitors from Tel Aviv, or the Caribbean, are equally common.

And if it wouldn't be racial profiling here in New York, why is it considered so in Arizona? It strikes me that the law itself isn't inherently racist, just the demographics of Arizona.

The second criticism is one of civil rights - America is a 'free country' and many liberals argue that the notion of demanding that people carry ID cards is tantamount to fascism. Saturday Night Live even joked that every time an authority figure demands that somebody 'show their papers,' Adolf Hitler's family receive a royalty check.

However, I disagree with that notion on two grounds: Firstly, it already is law to carry ID if you're not an America citizen. I know this for a fact, since I'm required by federal law to carry my 'green card' everywhere I go (it even says so on the card.) This change in the law doesn't really make any difference to legal aliens in Arizona; just the illegal ones.

Secondly, it's already law in many parts of Europe to carry ID anywhere you go and as much as we might like to claim so, the EU isn't yet a fascist state. In a country with 300 million residents, targeted by both Muslim extremists and a tidal wave of illegal immigrants, the idea of a American ID card isn't offensive; it's inevitable.

In fact, a biometric ID card is one of the headline facets of Obama's touted immigration reform bill.

But my biggest problem with people wailing about this immigration bill in Arizona being racist is that it's not. It's dealing with a very specific problem that just happens to originate within a specific racial demographic.

I'm sorry that only Hispanic people will be affected by this bill; but it's been introduced to deal with an issue caused almost exclusively by Hispanics.

Illegal immigration isn't just the bugbear of rednecks and tea partiers - it's an enormous, legitimate problem and it needs to be dealt with. I'm not one of these lunatics crying 'send 'em all back', but I am a concerned resident of the United States forced to deal with the aftermath of rampant illegal immigration every single day.

Just what do I mean by that?

Here in New Jersey, illegal immigrants kill dozens on the roads every year, as they drive in uninsured, uninspected vehicles that simply aren't safe. Our neighbor, who was an illegal alien, got arrested and deported twice for driving drunk - yet was back in his apartment three months later both times, and cruising around in his rickety old minivan just hours later (often drunk.)

Other seemingly minor crimes - like fencing stolen goods, selling pirate DVDs and producing knocked-off merchandise - are often the only source of revenue illegal immigrants have access to; but that doesn't make it right.

Yes, I do blame these illegal aliens for breaking the law. There's no reason to. Take my drink-driving neighbor - who had no insurance. While in most states it's impossible to get a driver's license without legal immigration status, it's perfectly possible to get valid motor insurance (I drove legally insured on my British license for about three months after moving here.)

The simple mentality of too many illegal immigrants living here is that the America's laws don't apply to them, since they're already here illegally. This might seem unfair, but it's true; I bear witness to that every day.

There are a host of other issues that America's illegal immigration problem creates - such as driving down the minimum wage, taxing the overburdened free health care system and creating an underground, tax-free economy that depresses everybody's earnings.

(Paleo-conservatives have other concerns; like how every other sign and brochure seems to be printed in Spanish these days, and how what makes up quintessentially 'America' culture seems to be getting increasingly diluted by influences from south of border. I'm not sure how valid these claims are - after all, they said the same thing about the Italians and Irish at the turn of the 20th century - but it certainly goes a long way towards explaining why this immigration law is so popular in Arizona. )

But my issue isn't with any of those concerns - I'll leave them to the more rabid conservatives on the Internet. The reason I support this bill is because I object to people breaking the law with impunity; and having lived and worked in a country which required people to carry ID with them, I really don't see what the big fuss about this issue is.

If people accuse me of being racist for supporting this law, they're wrong. What's more, I think many liberals know that themselves; and are only using the 'racist card' to try and shame people into silence. That's a bad ploy, and has forced formerly moderate people like me to side with the right wing on this issue.


One Salient Oversight said...

I'm not too sure of the law either but I do have one question.

If police are given power to question someone who they deem to be "suspicious", doesn't that automatically mean that they'll "go with their gut"? If you place an equal amount of Irish illegals and an equal amount of Hispanic illegals in a border town in Arizona, which group would get targeted by police do you think?

Secondly - as a legal immigrant you point out that it is mandatory to carry your Green card with you at all times.

But if you're a citizen you don't carry a green card. Green cards are also not carried by illegals obviously.

So if a Hispanic citizen is pulled over in Arizona for being suspicious, the fact that he doesn't produce a Green Card means that he is either a) A citizen or B) An illegal.

Officer: "Please produce your Green Card sir"

Citizen: "I don't have one. I'm a US citizen".

Officer: "Well you need to prove that"

I suppose the problem here is that US citizens are forced to prove their citizenship rather than the accusers having to prove illegal status.

Which sort of goes against the whole "Innocent until proven guilty" issue.

Brandi said...

Just as a reply to the above comment...

Don't you have to have a license to drive? And to get that license don't you have to prove citizenship of some kind?

If you were to be pulled over and didn't have a license to show...wouldn't you at the very least be breaking the law of carrying proof of licensure?

From there wouldn't it stand to reason that you would either go to court and prove that you were in fact a citizen and just had a brain fart that day...or you were in fact an illegal immigrant and shouldn't have been driving in the first place....

paul mitchell said...

The Arizona law does not say that police have the free reign to ask anyone for their papers, it requires them to ask for the paperwork of someone caught in the commission of a crime, felony or misdemeanor. This is a non-issue.

By the way, US Code requires ALL adults to be able to identify themselves at all times, not just immigrants.

And Hispanic or Latino is NOT a race.

Thanks for the sober thought on this one, Roland. You know, with you being a legal immigrant, you are probably in the mainstream with your ideology on this one, too.

Andy said...

Roland, I was curious as to what your take on this issue would be.

Knowing that you are a legal alien (I don't really like that term "alien," but I'll use it anyway), I figured you would have very good insight into the issue.

Just curious here. Have you ever been asked to produce your green card for any reason other than employment?

btw, I am linking to this post. That should drive your traffic through the floor!

Moogie P said...

Good, thoughtful analysis from a perspective we would all benefit from hearing.

And I must agree -- this isn't an issue of race, but rather one of ethnicity.

If that should be an issue at all. Duh.

Susanne said...

Thank you for providing your point of view.

Skunkfeathers said...

I came over from Andy's Place, and wasn't surprised by the typically ignorant-of-law-and-order OSO.

But here, on a blog Andy says is written by a "liberal", I find a balanced, well-reasoned argument, and one that I agree with.

I'm a US citizen by birth, as have been generations of my family. I carry with me my state DL everywhere I go away from home; not only because it's necessary to drive with it -- OSO, that means the law requires it thus -- but also because if something happens to me in a place I am not known, I have proof on me of who I am. It isn't really a difficult concept, except for those who seem to revel in supporting spurious allegations of racism, fascism, etcism.

And funny how those who make those allegations, are frequently THE purveyors of the very things they accuse others of doing, as a distraction. But I digress.

Arizona was right to do what they did. More states will need to, since the current federal administration is sitting on its hands, trying to come up with any illegal votes it can find for '10 and beyond.

At any rate...excellent post.

Soloman said...

Came here through Andy's link.

From an Arizonan - thank you for your common sense perspective on this extremely important issue.

One Salient Oversight said...

Okay I can appreciate the Drivers License issue, but what if the police decide to check on passengers? You don't need your DL to be a passenger. Will the Arizona police arrest you for not producing proof of ID in that situation if they suspect you of being an illegal>

The Maid said...

Awesome! I was so glad to hear your position on this one was sensible and filled with personal perspective.

Being a resident of Arizona, I am very concerned about the black eye our state keeps getting when our government actually produces a solution. (Sheriff Joe, Jan Brewer, etc.)

I have been most encouraged by Hispanic citizens who have shared their own perspective which often agree that "if you have nothing to hide, you will hide nothing."

We have to get over being so concerned about hurting someones feelings that we allow our own systems and processes to be overtaxed beyond repair.

We can't keep doing what we are doing and expect a different, more positive result...afterall, isn't that the very definition of INSANITY????

Have a blessed weekend Roland! :)

Safiyyah said...


Standing ovation to you, Roland, for writing a clean non-emotional post on which should be a no brainer.

I am a Muslim woman, born and raised in America to non Muslim parents. I wear hijab, and most often, am suspected of being a foreigner. In the post 9/11 climate with its Islamophobia, I have found myself having my citizenship questioned more than once (was asked for my passport to fly from Pennsylvania to Illinois, lol). I now carry my passport to avoid problems. Unlike others, I do not mind. Why not? Show them the passport, and call it a day. I, too, came here through someone who linked to you :)

BTW, my nephew had a Mexican step-father. My nephew wanted dual citizenship in Mexico/US. To make a long story short, my nephew paid a few thousand dollars to a Mexican attorney to LEGALLY get Mexican citizenship!!!