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Arizona’s law a step in the right direction

Mike Taylor //May 27, 2010//

Arizona’s law a step in the right direction

Mike Taylor //May 27, 2010//

No reasonable and halfway attentive citizen questions the contribution of immigrants – legal and illegal – to the United States. The “business case for immigrant labor” has been made over and over with different conclusions – that is, the net gain (or loss) to the U.S. economy when you weigh the benefit of cheaper goods and services vs. the costs to our health-care system, schools and other social services.

But taking a don’t-ask-don’t-tell approach to federal immigration law in the interest of cheaper goods and services or because it would be politically perilous to address isn’t acceptable in a country that holds itself up to the rest of the world as nation built on lawful free enterprise.

We seem to have no trouble decrying Mexico’s neglect of its own people, as the country makes vast sums from oil production (the U.S. imports more oil from there than anywhere except Canada), as well as from tourism, automobile and textile manufacturing to name just a few industries, yet doesn’t seem to re-invest in job development for its own people.

But by turning a blind eye toward alien workers who, because they lack the legal standing to be in the United States — and thus have no voice to report substandard working conditions, unfair pay and other exploitive measures — we are no more than enablers of Mexico and its reported humanitarian deficiencies.

Come on — we’re better than that.

I support Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 requiring aliens to carry documentation because it’s a better step toward immigration reform than anything put into action previously — Which was nothing. And it isn’t really a new law at all, but a means of enforcing existing law that the federal government wouldn’t enforce itself.

Kris W. Kobach, who served as Attorney General John Ashcroft’s chief adviser on immigration law and border security from 2001-2003, points out that since 1940 it has been a federal crime for aliens to fail to keep registration documents with them. Arizona’s law simply adds a state penalty to what was already a federal crime, making it a misdemeanor for an alien to fail to carry certain documents.

The biggest outcry against the law has been that it will encourage racial profiling. This amounts grasping of straws by proponents of a lax or open border who can’t find anything else on which to base their disapproval of Arizona’s law.

Kobach writes in an op-ed piece for The New York Times that the Arizona law actually “reduces the likelihood of race-based harassment by compelling police officers to contact federal government as soon as is practicable when they suspect a person is an illegal alien, as opposed to letting them make the arrests on their own assessment.”

Kobach also points out that Arizona’s law does not require anyone, legal or otherwise, to carry a driver’s license. But it gives any alien with a license a free pass if his immigration status is in doubt, the presumption being that anyone who produces a license is in the country legally.

A longtime friend of mine who handles counter-intelligence for a division of a police agency in a border state told me that the level of outcry by the Mexican government tells you how effective a particular U.S. immigration measure is likely to be. For obvious reason: Mexico gains about $25 billion annually from its citizens who work in the U.S. and send money home.

“People who favor an open border want INEFFECTIVE measures,” he said. “To me, this (outcry) is a direct reflection of how effective they expect it to be. It’s what they call in my business a ‘force multiplier.’ This is empowering police to do what the federal government was supposed to do.”

Like it or not, the Arizona law is the price we pay for inaction. The federal government wouldn’t attack the issue, so Arizona took matters into its own hands.

And guess what? The law doesn’t go into effect until July 29, and already it’s prompting – and perhaps shaming – the previously inert Obama administration to act.

Obama initially called Arizona’s law “misguided” and said he would examine the legal legitimacy it. But he must not have liked his chances of overturning it because just days later, Tuesday, his administration said the president will send 1,200 National Guard troops to help secure the U.S.-Mexico border and will request $500 million for border protection and law enforcement activities.

While decried as too little by Arizona citizens near the border, it is, like Arizona’s law, a step in the right direction, measures that U.S. citizens and businesses alike can only hope lead to a guest-worker program for low-wage workers comprehensive enough to accommodate Mexican workers who are contributing mightily to this country.
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