Strong opinions, weakly held

Go to Hell, Arizona

I’m not too happy with the state of Arizona, but I can’t express myself any better than New York Times Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse did today, in her op-ed piece Breathing While Undocumented. Arizona has passed a law that any idiot can see is inhumane and unenforceable.

Political activists tend to ignore basic issues of enforcement when they propose laws. During the late stages of the health care debate, Senate Republican introduced an amendment that bans the government paying for erectile dysfunction drugs for registered sex offenders. Not to go too far afield, but the idea was that the Democrats would have to embarrass themselves by voting against the amendment for procedural reasons, thus handing Republicans a minor victory.

But what interested me was that while this amendment might have seemed like a good idea, it had huge enforcement issues. Suddenly it turns doctors or health insurance companies into law enforcement agencies — whose responsibility does it become to ask patients whether they’re a sex offender? Do people have to indicate that they’re a sex offender when they enroll in a health insurance plan?

Now that this bill in Arizona has gone into effect, every policeman has immigration enforcement added to their existing list of duties. Not only does it increase their workloads, but it also makes it less likely that immigrants will work with the police for any reason, undocumented or otherwise. If anything, this bill will make life better for criminals in immigrant communities because those communities will be further alienated from the police.

So on top of the reasons of principle that make this bill an awful idea, but it’s likely to be an utter failure for practical reasons as well.


  1. There are many bona fide American citizens that not only look decidedly Hispanic or otherwise “foreign” and have an accent. For anyone to have to carry proof of citizenship to defuse harassment (it doesn’t help avoid it) makes a travesty of human rights. A Driver’s license is not proof of citizenship. A passport is a few hundred dollars, every few years, any other “certificates” are not something easy to carry everywhere and on every situation. This is crazy, as you say unenforceable and, well, offensive. I live in Arizona, have family and good friends here, but my feelings now echo the title of your post.

  2. Carlos,

    Not that I agree with the Arizona law, but please use valid facts, not inflated numbers (“a passport is a few hundred of dollars every few years”) when trying to refute it.

    US Passports are $100 for the first 10 years, and $75 to renew for another 10 years. (There is a proposal to increase these each by $35). Plus maybe $10 for a passport photo.

    Or you can get a Passport Card, which is a normal ID card size (fits in a wallet) and is proof of citizenship but not valid for international air travel, for $45 (first 10 years) and $20 (10 year renewal). (Proposed $10 increase.)

  3. A few points I’d like to make…

    Either enforce the laws or get rid of them. The way we’ve treated enforcement of immigration laws is a joke. Kudos to AZ for stepping up to the plate and enforcing our laws.

    That said, the thought of a cop stopping one and asking “Papers, please” does not make me feel good about the AZ law in fact, it makes me think it’s a horrid idea.

    What it all comes down to is a lot of folks chasing the American dream. I’d much rather see the process for LEGAL immigration made far easier and quicker such that no one has to try and come to this country illegally.

  4. As long as it’s vastly easier to earn money in the US than it is to earn money in Mexico, we’ll see a flow of people crossing the border. It’s the free market at work. If the income difference between the US and Mexico were more like the income difference between the US and Canada, it wouldn’t be a problem. I’d like to see us reform our immigration laws but also pursue a foreign policy with Mexico that is targeted at improving their standard of living as quickly as possible.

  5. ^ ending the senseless war on drugs would likely do more to improve Mexico’s economy and stability more than anything else we could. Fat chance of it happening though.

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