Our president today makes his way to the southern border. Over the past few months, various states have followed, to a greater or less extent, the path blazed last year by Arizona, when it took legislative steps to deal with a problem of illegal immigration that the federal government has consistently failed to solve.
The law in question in Arizona was SB 1070. When it passed, I was an immigrant resident of that state.
When I received my greencard two years ago, I was sent a letter from the Department of Homeland Security -- the same letter that is sent to thousands of new immigrants every week -- from which I quote:
We will soon mail you a new Permanent Resident Card... When you receive your card, you must carry it with you at all times if you are 18 older. It is the law.
While a permanent resident, I am here as a guest, and my carrying my "greencard" is a reasonable step on the path to becoming a proud American -- "reasonable" because any nation needs to know whom it lets in, as part of its responsibility to the security of its citizens.
My rights here depend on the rule and enforcement of law, applied equally to all, regardless of background or color. For that reason, the backlash against new state immigration laws is not in any true sense "liberal" or "progressive". A liberal should support the rule of law that protects the security and the rights of its individual citizens.
Not only is SB 1070 blind to color and ethnicity: it protects immigrants from being asked for documents without reasonable suspicion of a violation of the law of which I was notified when I became an immigrant. Therefore, Arizona's law offered immigrants a protection that is not offered to them in the "Welcome to America" letter I quoted at the top of this article.
The true racism around such laws lies in the idea that we should not seek to enforce established law equally because we want to give a particular ethnic group -- singled out only because we assume rightly or wrongly, that group tends more than any other to violate that particular law (!) -- a pass on their legal obligations.
Shouting "racism" where there is none seeks to promote division to the benefit of the group that makes the claim. Evils can only be eliminated when honestly identified. For that reason, I hope that any law officer that implements SB 1070 or any other law with a bias for or against one race or community suffers the full force of the laws that already protect us all against that evil. But that does not speak against recent attempts by states to protect themselves from the increasingly violent consequences of illegal immigration.
The logic of the position of much of the Left on State crackdowns on illegal immigration seems to be, "the laws are unfair because they support discrimination against a particular group that is much more likely to be breaking that law -- even though the same law states that not even basic checks of identity (let alone arrest etc.) can be made until there is reasonable suspicion that the relevant law is being broken". What is meant is that as long as the group that violates a law has a racial identity, we should have no such law. That is to argue from race.
America's immigration system needs radical reform to allow more good, hard-working people of whatever origin to contribute to the USA.
Those who really want to help immigrants should first learn about the current "legal" immigration system that incentivizes illegal immigration.
It is my fantasy to sit one day as a witness in a Congressional Committee on immigration, and to tell of the 700 pages I had to compile each time I renewed my visa; the $200 I had to pay for a photocopy of one sheet of paper from the Department of Homeland Security; the fact that even after I paid, the DHS didn't send me that document for 200 days, until someone who knew someone made a call to a "special number" etc..
I would tell the Committee that the immigration problem is not so difficult to solve. Secure the border simply because security is the first duty of government, and then do the following.
First, prohibit anyone who has committed a visa/immigration violation from ever becoming a permanent resident (and therefore citizen) of the country. A violator who has American family here may remain only under rolling sponsorship of their American spouse.
This will change the incentive calculus for illegal immigrants, and will deal with one of the most important immigration statistics that you have never heard: from 2000 to 2007, two thirds of all legal Mexican immigrants (who represented 35% of all immigrants to the USA) were once here illegally! Those immigrants are making completely rational choices given the system we have, and for commendable reasons. The fault is not with them. It is with us as Americans. This two-thirds compares with the mere 9% of all immigrants who become immigrants legally through work. (Yes, 9%.)
Second, limit family-based immigration to immediate family only. Allow a new citizen to sponsor only his spouse and children into the country - and perhaps, if he can prove the means to support them, elderly parents when they need care. No more uncles, aunties, cousins, grandmothers etc..
Third, send a test case to the supreme court regarding the 14th amendment, which states,
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.
This amendment was passed in 1868 to ensure that all persons, including slaves and their progeny, could be citizens of the nation. Children of diplomats, foreign visitors or similar aliens are not included. Nor was the amendment intended to extend to children of illegal immigrants who perhaps more than any, are not subject to the jurisdiction of this country.
It goes without saying, I hope, that we have a moral and civic responsibility to those whom were brought here "illegally' as minors to let them settle as American citizens.
Let's finally get to the question of the constitutionality of states' legal efforts to protect themselves from illegal immigration: if such laws are unconstitutional, they must be struck down for that reason alone. But it is the height of hypocrisy by the Federal government, which fails every day in hundreds of ways to act within the confines of the Constitution, to bring suit. So once the suits against the States are done, I hope that every state in the Union should take at face value the Federal government's newly found interest in the Constitution, and sue it to force it to meet its own obligations.