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April 28, 2010

The GOP's Short-Sighted Immigration Strategy
Posted by Michael Cohen

Over at AOLNews, my latest column looks at the Arizona immigration bill and its potential impact on national politics:

America has always been a country of immigrants. But this historical legacy notwithstanding, it's also been a country that engaged in its fair share of anti-immigration hysteria at times of economic and social uncertainty.

Case in point, the passage last week of legislation in Arizona that would make illegal immigration a state crime and would allow law enforcement officials to demand proof of citizenship based on simply a "reasonable suspicion" that someone is an illegal immigrant. If unable to immediately provide proof, individuals -- even U.S. citizens -- can be arrested by the police.

Pushed through by a Republican state legislature and a GOP governor, the law is a virtual recipe for police intimidation and harassment of both legal and illegal Hispanic residents. After all, in a state with a significant number of illegal immigrants from Mexico, what exactly is "reasonable suspicion" for being an illegal other than being Hispanic?

While the Arizona bill stands on dubious constitutional grounds and has a good chance of being thrown out in court before it is even implemented, the political implications, particularly for Republicans, may resonate far longer . .  Over the long term, the GOP seems likely to have dealt itself a far more grievous blow with Hispanic voters.

You can read the whole thing here


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The ACLU document you link to does not show many so-called dubious constitutional grounds. The vast majority of their commentary is prefaced by "this is unnecessary," in the sense that it's redundant because federal law already covers such-and-such a point.

The ACLU document complains that Arizona police authority will be conducting itself without proper federal oversight in what is a federal matter. But that is an unwarranted supposition. Arizona police officers are trained in proper conduct already by the feds and will continue to be.

The law will not require anyone to display "proof of citizenship" to the police. It requires proof of legal status in the US, which isn't at all the same.

As for the above, federal law has required that immigrants carry proof of status on their persons since the 1940s, when Rooselvelt passed the law. The US is far from the only nation on Earth with this requirement.

You place a lot of emphasis on the vagueness of the phrase "reasonable suspicion." You vent your feeble attempts at sarcasm on the police because, who knows, really, what "reasonable" is in this context? Giving the police the authority to determine "reasonable suspicion" is just giving them carte blanche to intimidate innocent people and to sow terror, etc etc.

But, now that you have referred to the Constitution, how how often is the "reasonable" criterion evoked in our legal system? Unreasonable search and seizure? Beyond a reasonable doubt? There are mountains of case law that specify such terms. Why should it be any different with Arizona's "reasonable suspicion?" Why is this singled out by you?

According to reports, seventy percent of Arizonans support the new law. Are 4,617,044 people in Arizona then anti-immigration "hysterics?" Since most people in Arizona are immigrants, or their families were, this is just poppycock. They have a lifetime of living peacefully with immigrants from Mexico, and even intermarrying with them. You have a lifetime of living in a liberal cocoon on the East Coast where the closest you come to an illegal immigrant from Mexico is your gardener or the waiter in the fancy-ass restaurant you show off in.

You're quite right that the Arizona law has a political dimension. This cuts both ways though. It may end up hurting the Republicans in November and beyond. Who knows? But then, the Obama "comprehensive immigration reform" movement is also part of this kind of politics, too. Or are the Democrats motivated by selfless and noble goals beyond petty politics? Everyone knows that "comprehensive immigration reform" has zero chance of passing this year. The Democrats are not even trying. What they are trying to do is to rally their base by picking on this hateful "wedge issue" and so to improve their chances in November. This political strategy has as much chance of success as the Republican one. We'll see in November which party had the best one.

Anyone with common sense has to recognize that the immigration problem is impossible to solve. There is no solution. There are just trade-offs between admittedly bad alternatives. You can pick the bad alternative you want to, but don't go around saying you have the "solution." The solution is that Mexicans just want to stay home and don't want to cross the border illegally. The Arizona law is an attempt at achieving this but it won't work. The laws of economics are stronger than the Arizona legislature. These say that where there's a demand, there will be people who want to supply it, legal or not. The only way to achieve this is for the Mexican economy to provide opportunities for all its people. This is farther than the farthest star so we're condemned to debating this issue and to reading uninformed opinion like yours for the foreseeable future.

While the Arizona bill stands on dubious constitutional grounds and has a good chance of being thrown out in court before it is even implemented, the political implications, particularly for Republicans, may resonate far longer . . Over the long term, the GOP seems likely to have dealt itself a far more grievous blow with Hispanic voters.
This turns out to be nearly as dubious as the dubious constitutional background you parrot from the ACLU. Gallup reports:
Most Americans have heard about Arizona's tough new immigration law, and they generally support it. The law was passed partly in response to a lack of federal action on the issue. Since the Arizona bill became law, congressional Democrats have considered taking up the issue in the coming weeks, though this initial read on public opinion toward the Arizona law suggests Americans may not necessarily back an attempt to supersede or otherwise undermine it.
If I were predicting which party would be hurt by the Arizona law, today it looks like the Democrats are the best bet.

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Pushed through by a Republican state legislature and a GOP governor, the law is a virtual recipe for police intimidation and harassment of both legal and illegal Hispanic residents. After all, in a state with a significant number of illegal immigrants from Mexico, what exactly is "reasonable suspicion" for being an illegal other than being Hispanic?

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I was reading something else about this on another blog. Interesting. Your position on it is diametrically contradicted to what I read earlier. I am still contemplating over the opposite points of view, but I'm tipped heavily toward yours. And no matter, that's what is so great about modernized democracy and the marketplace of thoughts on-line.

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