Arizona Status Police

There’s been a lot of controversy about the recently signed Arizona law (SB 1070) which makes it a lot easier (by which I mean mandatory) to determine the residency status of people in Arizona. There’s a lot of back-and-forth as to what the bill actually says, so here’s the relevant portion:

ARTICLE 8. ENFORCEMENT OF IMMIGRATION LAWS

B.  FOR ANY LAWFUL CONTACT MADE BY A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL OR AGENCY OF THIS STATE OR A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE WHERE REASONABLE SUSPICION EXISTS THAT THE PERSON IS AN ALIEN WHO IS UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES, A REASONABLE ATTEMPT SHALL BE MADE, WHEN PRACTICABLE, TO DETERMINE THE IMMIGRATION STATUS OF THE PERSON.  THE PERSON’S IMMIGRATION STATUS SHALL BE VERIFIED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PURSUANT TO 8 UNITED STATES CODE SECTION 1373(c).

So when a lawful contact is made, and there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is an illegal alien, then the official is required to make a ‘reasonable attempt’ to determine whether that person is actually an illegal alien. (‘Shall’ and ‘when practicable’ both mean that if the status can be checked, then the status must be checked.) It also makes it a misdemeanor to not carry your immigration papers, if you have any. So if the officer reasonably suspects that you might be illegal, and you can’t prove that you aren’t, then the officer is compelled to detain you until your status can be confirmed.

I don’t see the big deal here. Let’s dismantle some of the main arguments of the opposition:

  1. You can’t tell by looking if someone is here legally or not, so how can the officer ever have ‘reasonable suspicion’? Well, maybe you can’t tell who’s illegal just by looking, but I sure can. It’s like gaydar. And cops have an even more developed instinct for identifying criminals. We need to trust their instincts for choosing who is innocent and who is guilty. After all, aren’t most arrestees eventually convicted? That proves that cops have good instincts.
  2. This will lead to racial profiling and the harassment of anyone who looks foreign. Well, no one can know what will happen in the future, but way to be pessimistic. I’m sure that the cops will also be on the lookout for all of the illegal Canadians to stop them from kidnapping people and smuggling drugs in to Arizona.
  3. This is unconstitutional. The federal government is in charge of immigration, not the states. Technically, true. But meaningless. As the governor herself said, Arizona was forced to take this action because the federal government refused to do its job. And besides, Arizona isn’t deporting anyone. They’re just going to hand the illegals over to the feds for deportation, and let them do their job. If they don’t refuse to. Again.

Anyway, why worry about how a bunch of illegal aliens are treated? Aren’t we trying to make it harder for them to live here?

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