After the struggle to pass a "comprehensive" health reform and dealing with a stubborn Wall Street regarding restrictions on corporate greed, it seems the Obama administration has decided to wait with immigration reform.
That is until Arizona—a border state with a huge influx of illegal immigrants—decided to ... well, not to take the law in its own hands. Rather, it took the law in its own "state" hands. By that I mean immigration law is federal law and should be enforced by federal institutions—not by state institutions, like local and state police. At least that was the case until Arizona decided differently.
What this new Arizona state law says is if the police stop someone, there must be a reason for pulling them over; the second requirement is that police must "have reason to suspect" the individual might be an illegal immigrant so that the officer may ask if that person is legally in the country. It is this "reason to suspect" that is the real cause for all the excitement: Officers risk others will claim profiling when enforcing this rule.
Profiling, or worse, "racial profiling," is a very sensitive subject which should be avoided at all costs. Look at the air safety and terrorism debate and you know why. Arizona borders Mexico ... so how would a presumptive illegal immigrant look? That’s right: He or she would probably look very Mexican and speak English with a Spanish accent, if at all. So I believe we can clearly establish the risk group for profiling in this particular case.
This has made Arizona stand out as a particularly harsh anti-immigration state and the wrath from various political personalities and organizations.
So how do you go about checking for illegal immigrants without upsetting everyone? Here’s a thought: Why not have the police ask every singe person being stopped whether that person is in the country legally? It could be checked instantly by using people’s social security numbers.... Now THAT would really upset a lot of people who feel like that would infringe on THEIR rights. Imagine to have to prove that you are a citizen every time the police stops you?
They do have a point, so where do we go from here? Back to ignoring federal law, not asking anyone whether they are in the country legally or, finally bite the bullet, recognize the 800 pound gorilla in the room, and once and for all reform the immigration system in this country. This would involve legalizing millions of undocumented immigrants so you can imagine the reaction in congress, not the smartest thing to do right before an election.
However, this is an eleven-million-people problem to solve and if nothing is done we will end up with more states like Arizona going their own way, and eventually we could face a true constitutional crisis with individual states ignoring Washington and taking it upon themselves to enforce or not enforce various federal laws as they see fit.
Be that as it may, Aila (the American Immigration Lawyer Association) has already decided to move its fall conference to another state and I suspect other organizations will follow suit.
Obviously it is not a good thing when individual states start to enforce federal rules and regulations on their own, but in a state where crime has increased dramatically and the public has started to feel increasingly powerless to defend themselves against what they see as a threat to their well-being and that Washington is ignoring them, what are they supposed to do?
"Washington" is both democratic and republican and the two sides have their own way of looking at reality. The problem is that immigration and immigration issues have superceded the old party lines and what is needed is a bi-partisan approach with the common good as a goal to handle this problem, not short term "victories" to please their own districts in order to get re-elected for another term.
So, perhaps something good will result from the Arizona upheaval: Immigration reform!