I'd like to take a minute to speak on the immigration bill recently signed in Arizona. For those unaware, the basic idea is that legal immigrants would have to keep documentation showing their right to live in the country on them at all times, and law enforcement must demand the presentation of said documentation if they have a "reasonable suspicion" that someone is here illegally.
Are you fucking kidding me with this shit?
How can we even be discussing this right now? And this is apparently super popular in the state with Gov. Jan Brewer's approval ratings soaring and national numbers indicating similarly uncomfortably high levels of support for the Arizona law and similar measures. Common issues voters cite when expressing their support tend to be along the lines of "they take American jobs, they bring a criminal element, put an undue drain on hospitals, etc.". I'd like to take a minute to address each of these, to highlight what meaningful immigration reform could do.
1. 'They take American jobs'
This is true, but by no fault of the immigrants. The problem lies with Americans' addiction to cheap labor to go along with the cheap goods we're used to produced by Chinese factories, with the workers toiling for practically nothing. We don't want to pay for anything, least of which a living wage for those that produce the things that we use every day. Knowing this, American businesses have constantly sourced out and underpaid undocumented workers to do things like work our crops and clean our hotel rooms.
Without actual options and any recourse to demand a living wage or fair working conditions, illegal immigrants have little choice but to take these jobs. Knowing immigrants' situations, companies give them a job Americans would never take; it wouldn't make sense compared to what they could make on unemployment or welfare.
A similar issue exists with the hiring of undocumented day laborers by ordinary consumers. Often this happens outside of a home improvement store or similar facility, where immigrants are often sought out for landscaping, light construction, and similar jobs. While these are jobs that could easily be handled by a licensed contractor or similar reputable source, Americans don't want to pay the costs associated with them.
If you want to fix the jobs problem, you need to aggressively go after those that employ illegal immigrants. If there weren't a market for work, they wouldn't be crossing the border; it's that simple. If you can remove the promise of employment for the undocumented, you severely diminish the reasons for coming here in the first place. Enforcement should be focused on employers, not the employees. Single employees are merely symptoms of the disease - is a business that will re-offend.
2. 'They bring a criminal element'
I get this argument. As a Californian, I have no love lost for the Mexican drug cartels that have made their way into our fair state and are trafficking hard drugs and cultivating marijuana in our state and national parks and bringing turf wars and power killings with them. I'm no big fan of this development, and I want those assholes out as much as the next guy. Probably more; they grow shitty pot.
The thing is, most illegal immigrants are only committing one crime: their existence. For the most part they want to be good neighbors, engage in their communities, send their kids to school, and maybe listen to some Ranchero music. They usually don't come to America thinking that the American Dream involves a balloon up their ass or a knife in Paco's chest.
The new Arizona law, however, would give greater license to criminal activities. The law isn't limited to infractions as when reasonable suspicion can occur. You don't have to be doing anything wrong to be suspect. From the bill itself:
For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or agency of this state or a county, city, town, or other political subdivision of this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be mad, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person. The person's immigration status shall be verified with the federal government pursuant to 8 United States Code Section 1373(c).
Any agency making any lawful contact. This could be acting as a witness, showing up to school board meetings, etc., which the Tuscon police chief confirmed to NPR:
This law is talking about in the course of any legal contact, as well as when we talk to a witness of a crime or when we talk to a victim of a crime. Those are legal contacts of law enforcement. Now we look at it in the context of those legal contacts.
If in the course of them, we develop reasonable suspicion that the individual we're talking with is illegally in the country, we are mandated to take enforcement action. That's where the questions are coming up is how do you develop that reasonable suspicion that they're in the country illegally if they're there talking to you just about being a victim of a crime.Of special significance here is the fact that law enforcement can use race and ethnicity to make that determination, so long as they have some other piece of information to corroborate that suspicion.
3. 'They take up public sector funds in schools and hospitals and don't help pay for them.'
First of all, the majority of students are committing no crime because their American birth grants them citizenship and with it a right and duty to attend school. They're not using anything they're not entitled to.
As to hospitals. Yes, illegal immigrants do bring a lot of expense down upon the public in the emergency room. So do fat white people. American personal healthcare has devolved into put it off, watch it break, have it dealt with in the emergency room, be unable to pay for it. Illegal aliens didn't create this system, it's just extremely well-suited to dick them. If a path for citizenship were offered, they could be helped by new healthcare provisions and would be able to proactively address their health and well-being. As it is, they cannot be part of such a plan, probably because it would make too much sense.
And for taxes: they want to pay, they're just terrified to attempt to do so because putting their name out there would open them up to harassment from the government if dots were ever put together.
To sum up, we need immigration reform. Badly. If this is a sign of things to come whenever Republicans need to shore up their base, the Constitution could be in for a full year. We need to secure the border, actively seek out and prosecute those that employ undocumented workers, and provide a path to citizenship for those that are already here.