So we hear word today that officially after the Arizona state legislature passed sweeping immigration (or more correctly anti-immigration laws) a couple of days ago, state Governor Jan Brewer signed into law the legislation which makes not just racial profiling ok but also mean US citizens may now be fined or jailed for not having documents.
In short the law gives;
- Police the power if the “suspect” you may be an illegal immigrant to ask that you prove that you are not.
- Citizens the power to sue government organizations if they believe they have failed to act on a know illegal immigrant issue
- Requires all residents and visitors to Arizona to prove that they are in the country legally
Now supporters of this bill have essentially 3 main arguments they use to support this type of law which if only was applied literally and all human beings were perfect MAY make sense to a degree. These are;
- Illegal immigrants are violating federal law and thus should be punished for doing so
- US residents and citizens as well as legal immigrants and visitors have nothing to fear from this
- Illegal immigrants who commit crimes, take jobs, don’t pay taxes and use social services are a huge problem for society
So let’s take each of their arguments and state what is misguided about this notion.
1. Yes illegal immigrants are violating federal law as it is written today but all studies have shown the vast majority of these people do jobs that no US worker is willing to do or willing to do for minimum wages. Also most of these people are paying both income taxes and state sales taxes on their purchases.
If they all vanished tomorrow, the retail, hospitailityy, agriculture, construction and tourism industries of the US would be crippled. Then US citizens would be grumbling about either the fact the prices of goods/services are going up from groceries to clothing to hotels. Also given most of the people who are ardent, hardcore supporters of this type of law are also supposedly 100% supporters of the free market and capitalist economic principles. Well except where absolutely necessary, more jobs in the US (and thus wealth and tax dollars) will be shipped beyond US borders as that is how Walmart, Apple, Hilton and every other organization can maximize profit. So for every additional janitor that is hired by McDonalds, that could me additional office staff’s job are made redundant and contracted out elsewhere along with that person’s spending power and tax payments.
If you want this type of law then be prepared for all the consequences of this type of law.
2. Now say you are US citizen of Latin, Mediterranean or South Asian ancestry and you are visiting Arizona for the first time and are just wandering the streets as tourists do and get a little lost and ask for directions, get a bit frustrated and start arguing with your travel companion. Common travel story right! Say a Arizona police officer witnesses this episode. Well as the law is so grey they may feel like your shouting and back and forth walking down the same street seems odd so asks you for some identification. Now b/c you are a normal person, you would not be carrying around either your passport or a birth certificate. You may have a state ID but that may be expired or you left it in your hotel. Well in that moment and from then on how are you supposed to prove you are a legal citizen and you can rightfully be detained. Sounds a lot like some totalitatarean, non democratic states the US always decries. So these people who are so against the government mandating healthcare which actually can save people lives are NOT against the government mandating citizens always carry documents proving who they are. Hypocracy is always strong and used as a tool of fear with Immigration.
3. OK say you are mugged, assaulted or worse in the street, your home, the workplace, etc. and the person/people who witnessed this crime happened to be an illegal immigrant. Now this person who witnessed the crime has no incentive to do the right thing and to help you as by doing so they will get into trouble. Say you have a regular car accident with either an illegal immigrant driver or a legal resident driver who may be travelling with illegal immigrants. That person now has less of an incentive to stay and file police reports, exchange insurance details, etc. as again it could cause problems.
Then since most violent crime is committed by legal residents of the US, while Arizona police and resources are busy wasting their time with people who don’t have documents and trying to find witnesses to speak about what they saw, the really violent in society will continue to roam free.
Some reputable studies say Immigration contributes as much as $26B to the Arizona state economy. So in a state struggle with the economic crisis and a major real estate crash, making the state less attractive for business, tourism and indeed free citizens to go about their daily lives doesn’t seem like the smartest thing to do.
Well with both Governor Brewers and Senator John McCain’s support of this recent bill in light of impending primary challenges from more hardcore right wing Republican opponents, it is not all that surprising. However somewhere between 2040-2050, it will be non-whites who will actually the dominate group in the US and creating all this unnecessary and counter productive hatred between people may cause the type of issues that South Africa has seen since the end of Apartheid with many angry Blacks lashing out in crime and other anti-social ways against White people and indeed society in general.
The big question here is the impact to Arizona leisure and business tourism both domestically and Internationally. Conventions and conferences are very popular in the state with great weather year round and lots of golf courses but Multi-National corporations, International business people and Domestic business people wary of their global reputation may now think twice.
Certainly you can imagine individual tourists will also think twice as given the other 49 states don’t have an issue, people just don’t want to deal with unnecessary hassle when they are trying to have fun.
The US is a country of immigrants. Ronald Reagan himself, the champion of the Right in the US, granted amnesty to illegal immigrants in 1986. There has to be a better solution than this type of reactive and short sighted legislation which will ultimately hurt the US and the so-called law abiding citizens.