06/26/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Arizona -- The Newest Soviet Republic

In a move that would fit right in with the Soviet Union's policing style, Governor Jan Brewer signed bill SB-1070 into law, making it a state crime to walk the streets of Arizona without papers proving one's immigration status.

A person could be detained by police and charged with a misdemeanor for forgetting their wallet. Let's only hope Arizona starts building its own Gulag Archipelago to contain all these new arrests.

What happens to citizens or legal residents of Hispanic descent who happen to go to the grocery store without their passports? Will they be arrested too? Ms. Brewer said that police would have proper training so as to avoid racial profiling, but how exactly are the police going to pick out the immigrants from the natives strolling the streets?

In a chilling quote, Ms. Brewer said, "We have to trust our law enforcement." Ask any young black and Hispanics in New York City about that. Ask anyone who lived under Stalin, Ceausescu, Tito, Pol Pot, or Milosevic about how law enforcement should be trusted when it comes to interrogating civilians about "carrying their papers."

Yes, illegal immigration across the US-Mexican border is a problem. Our society needs to face this and start dealing with it. But casting a net so wide as to dragoon scores of innocent people hardly seems the most efficient way to deal with it.

Given all the crime that is occurring, let's let our law enforcement spend their energy going after criminals committing actual crimes. For immigration issues, we need our elected officials--and our society in general--to get serious about how to reform immigration so that legal immigration is a realistic possibility, not a Byzantine impossibility.

Until then, anyone wanting a reality tour of Stalinist society should fly into Phoenix and try out their Spanish.




Danielle Ofri is a writer and practicing internist at New York City's Bellevue Hospital. She is the editor-in-chief of the Bellevue Literary Review. Her newest book is Medicine in Translation: Journeys with my Patients. Her book is about the medical care of immigrants and Americans in the US health care system.


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