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.