Sunday, May 02, 2010

Your Papers Please - the "Arizona Immigration" Debate

The issue of the week(apart from oil spills and terrorist attacks in New York City) is the new Arizona immigration law. I've heard a lot of misinformation and disinformation over the last several days. For example, these discriptions of the law are just a bit coy

From the Washington Post "Under Arizona's new law, to take effect in 90 days, it will be a state crime to be in the country illegally, and legal immigrants will be required to carry paperwork proving their status. Arizona police will generally be required to question anyone they "reasonably suspect" of being undocumented -- a provision that critics argue will lead to widespread racial profiling, but that supporters insist will give authorities the flexibility to enforce existing immigration laws."

From the New York Times "The law, which proponents and critics alike said was the broadest and strictest immigration measure in generations, would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Opponents have called it an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status.

NPR says "Protests were held throughout the weekend after Governor Jan Brewer signed a measure that makes it a state crime to be in the U.S. without proper authorization."

The Post and NPR mention, without elaboration, that this is a state crime. The Times doesn't.

I think that the important point is the federal statute. First, the law requires that aliens must register.
(a) Willful failure to register. Any alien required to apply for registration and to be fingerprinted in the United States who willfully fails or refuses to make such application or to be fingerprinted, and any parent or legal guardian required to apply for the registration of any alien who willfully fails or refuses to file application for the registration of such alien shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall, upon conviction thereof, be fined not to exceed $1,000 or be imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

Also the law requires that aliens must carry proof of that registration
(e) Personal possession of registration or receipt card; penalties. Every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all times carry with him and have in his personal possession any certificate of alien registration or alien registration receipt card issued to him pursuant to subsection (d) of this section. Any alien who fails to comply with the provisions of this subsection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall upon conviction for each offense be fined not to exceed $100 or be imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both.

But this isn't how the opponents are framing the debate, the requirement to register and carry that proof. Remember, the law quoted above is federal law, not the Arizona state law. But this federal law is important because this is the US Code that the Arizona law refers to. The state law makes it a state crime to be in violation of federal law. The Arizona law is simply authorizing and requirement their law enforcement officers to enforce the law.

It is federal law that requires aliens to register and carry papers. If this is so horrible, so terrifying, so reminiscent of a Nazi police state, so inconsistent with our values, then it must be changed.

So Mr. President, Madam Speaker, Mr. Majority Leader, if you are serious about this issue, change the federal law. Mr. President, if you really believe that the people of Arizona are "misguided," and that Americans "deserve common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform grounded in the principles of responsibility and accountability" then change the federal law. Madam Speaker, if you really believe that the people of Arizona have shown the "need for urgent, bipartisan action at the federal level," then change the federal law. Mr. Reid, if you really believe that his is an "important example of why we need to fix our broken system," Then change the federal law.

If the federal law is changed, Arizona will have nothing to enforce. If you don't at least attempt this, then you are intellectually dishonest, hypocrites, demogogues, or maybe just crybabies.

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