Border Politics Get Tense

Border Politics Get Tense

You may have noticed that Arizona is deep in the throes of a political debate about the enforcement of immigration laws. Essentially, they have given the right, no, asked that police officers go out and question people as to their citizenship status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that they are undocumented. Media coverage of the reaction to this move has been largely of the racial profiling and negative backlash from leaders across the country.

And the support for the move has come largely from comments that range from justifications of armchair policy wonks around the country and people who feign patriotism or argue that the law is just a request by the state that officers of the law actively enforce a law that is already on the books- the only new thing about the law is that they are choosing to enforce existing immigration law. The other interesting angle has been opinion and commentary into the effect this will have on tourism and business in the state- largely saying that it will hurt both because anyone with any kind of irregularity in their papers will not want to go anywhere near the state, so it will hurt visitors from all around the world and any kind of business that has international offices and employees. Even if they are legal, opinion articles are saying, who wants to take the risk of actively choosing to go to a state where they are looking for people who “don’t belong.” All good points.

Another aspect to take into account is that this is a state move to enforce a federal law. No one is a citizen of Arizona that couldn’t be a citizen of California or New Mexico. This will certainly have an effect on the flow of immigration, legal and undocumented, into those states. And it will also have an effect on Washington. Reuters ran an article today looking at how close Congress is to dealing with the issue of immigration reform, which President Obama is actively pushing for- and the answer is, basically, not close at all.

"We don't even have a bill yet," said a Democrat aide. Which begs the question of when there will be a debate, when a bill will take shape, and what rank of importance it will have versus the current finance reform bill and the looming climate change bill.

In regard to the climate change vs. immigration question, the aide said, "Both are neck and neck in terms of importance to Democratic leaders in the House and Senate."

John McCain, Senator from Arizona, defended the new law. Obama says it is misguided and has ordered monitoring of how it is implemented. So now we’ll have the federal government watching how the state of Arizona watches the people it thinks are in the country illegally. It’s not going to be pretty.

Even if things go relatively well, I would expect to see something pushing toward the Supreme Court within a year or so- some kind of class action lawsuit that alleges the state of Arizona abusing the law and violating the Civil Rights Act. If Congress doesn’t act soon, this may be an issue decided by the courts rather than the lawmakers. Oh, and it’s an election year.

Photo Credit: cobalt123