Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Arizona Bill: A Good Place to Start the Conversation

After sitting through months of hype on CNN and Faux news, I finally made time to read through Arizona's infamous S.B. 1070. Having expected to see a work of tea-stained Beck-isms and back-door racism, I was actually quite surprised to encounter a perfectly constitutional, surprisingly impotent, politically neutral law.

From an enforcement standpoint, the law really does not change all that much. Actually, from its wording, it seems plausible that the law was explicitly written to incite controversy and discussion--not racial profiling.

Legally, S.B. 1070 primarily accomplishes three things:

1. It sets a state-wide standard of enforcement of already-existing federal law.

2. It authorizes law-enforcement officers to question the immigration status of persons suspected to be in violation of other local, state, and federal laws (but, outside of suspected human smuggling, immigration status alone explicitly does not constitute probable cause under this law).

3. It adds the potential for an additional 500$ fine to be imposed on persons found to be here illegally.

The caveat here that prevents racial profiling is that in order for a person's immigration status to be questioned in the first place they have to be legitimately stopped by a law-enforcement officer for some other reason. An illegal immigrant walking down the street, not causing any trouble cannot--and would not--be stopped. Even passengers in a car subjected to a traffic stop, so long as the driver is cooperative and able to produce his license, registration, and proof of insurance, cannot be questioned because, unless the passengers provide it, the officer would not have probable cause.

Most foreigners carry a passport with them at all times, most adult legal residents have driver's licenses as do most adult citizens. If, as a citizen, I am stopped by a police officer for any reason, even on the street (as I recently was when a friend of mine was caught urinating on the sidewalk), the first thing they ask to see is my driver's license. Failure to produce it or any other form of identification would be suspicious and, were I driving, would earn me a fine. A person who is in the United States legally who is stopped legitimately should be able to produce some form of identification--S.B. 1070 simply allows for the arrest of suspicious persons found violating the law so that they may be identified. So long as they behave themselves, even illegals have nothing to worry about.

The purpose of S.B. 1070 was not to stop the flow of immigrants across our borders--with the exception of a very small minority, this entire country was built by immigrants--the purpose of this bill was to catalyze a discussion about the changes that need to be made to existing American immigration policy. For that effect, the bill has worked beautifully; the American people have put immigration reform back on the front burner. Now is the time, let's work together to figure out how we can best continue to welcome the "huddled masses" of the "tempest tossed" into the land of the free.


  1. I like your blog!

    Contrary to what you state in this entry, the Arizona bill is arguably not constitutional because it violates the Federal preemption rule.

  2. Not necessarily, only if it contradicts federal law--which it doesn't seem to. It simply sets a state-wide standard of enforcement.

  3. I never said "necessarily"... And the government tends to think the law does seem to violate federal law: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/07/us/07immig.html?_r=1&scp=3&sq=arizona%20immigration%20law&st=cse