As I type this, the Supreme Court has just wrapped a day of hearing arguments on the case of Arizona v. United States, concerning Arizona's immigration-related bill, SB 1070.
When it was originally passed, I was an immigrant resident of that state.
I received my greencard three years ago and received 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 the true sense "liberal", per se. A liberal should support the rule of law that protects the security and the rights of its individual citizens.
I am pleased to see that it now seems that the Feds have decided not to push the "racial discrimination" objection to SB 1070. Not only is that bill blind to color and ethnicity: it specifically protects immigrants from being asked for documents without reasonable suspicion of a violation of law, including the very law of which I was notified when I became an immigrant. Therefore, SB 10707 offers immigrants a protection that is not offered to them in the "Welcome to America" letter I quoted at the top of this article.
Any racism around such laws must surely reside in the idea that we should not seek to enforce established law, or to do so 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.
Evils can only be eliminated when honestly identified. Shouting "racism" where there is none seeks to promote division to the benefit of the group that makes the claim. That fact does not contradict the importance of ensuring that any law officer who seeks implement SB 1070 (or any other law, for that matter) 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. And that, in turn, should not under any circumstances be set against the obligation of states like Arizona to protect their citizens from the very real and increasingly violent consequences of illegal immigration.
To be clear, the logic of the position of some of the Left concerning 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.
Certainly, America's immigration system needs radical reform to allow more good, hard-working people of whatever origin to contribute to the USA, and as something of a classical liberal, I see the benefits of much more open borders, but 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 is critical as it 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 percent of all immigrants who become immigrants legally through work. (Yes, 9 percent.)
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.. through repeated application of family sponsorship by new immigrants.
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.
All the while, we can recognize our moral and civic responsibility to those who were brought here "illegally" as minors to let them settle as American citizens. That benefit need not be extended to those parents who brought them here, although we might wish to allow these new citizens to sponsor their parents to stay on a rolling basis?
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 on such a basis. 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.
They can begin by following Virginia in establishing a state law that protects the basic civil rights of citizens against the anti-Bill of Rights abuses as are contained in the National Defense Authorization Act.
Indeed, we might dare to hope that Gov. Brewer keeps her backbone and signs the very similar bill that is probably sitting on her desk right now. If she does, she'll be surprised by the support she has the next time she has reason to visit the Supreme Court.