MSN Lies about the Arizona Immigration Law

The level of blatant misinformation about the new Arizona immigration law emanating from the media, politicians on all sides of the aisle, and the blogosphere has been stunning. It’s gotten to the point that on NPR I actually heard people interviewed at Saturday’s pro-amnesty demonstrations saying that the law was going to send Hispanic citizens to the “gas chambers”.

Despite the mass hysteria about the horrors of the law, however, it’s self-evident that few have bothered to even read the actual text.

To an extent, much of the confusion is understandable. There are actually three versions of the bill floating around: the original Senate Bill, the House/Senate Bill, and the final Conference Bill. The changes between them were significant, and the press has done a bad job of reporting and citing the latest version only.

Byron York at the Washington Examiner has a great summary of many of these laws in his Top 10 Dumbest Things Said About the Arizona Immigration Law. Well worth a trip over there for the read.

By way of example, on April 26, the New York Times published an online commentary by Linda Greenhouse, a Pulitzer-Prize winning Supreme Court reporter and Yale Law School instructor. In the original piece, Ms. Greenhouse complained:

“In case the phrase ‘lawful contact’ makes it appear as if the police are authorized to act only if they observe an undocumented-looking person actually committing a crime, another section strips the statute of even that fig leaf of reassurance. ‘A person is guilty of trespassing,’ the law provides, by being ‘present on any public or private land in this state’ while lacking authorization to be in the United States — a new crime of breathing while undocumented.”
archived in the Byron York article referenced above.

This “meme” spread rapidly, and three days later the Washington Post Editorial Board condemned the law, claiming:

“Federal law treats illegal immigration as a civil violation; Arizona law criminalizes it by using the legally dubious mechanism of equating the mere presence of undocumented immigrants with trespassing.”

There is in fact no language about trespassing whatsoever in the bill and Greenhouse’s essay now includes at the end the following correction:

“An earlier version of this Op-Ed essay referred incorrectly to the provisions of the new Arizona immigration statute. The version of the bill signed by the governor no longer includes a section under which undocumented immigrants would be guilty of trespassing for being on Arizona soil.”

The Washington Post editorial, editorial, still includes the unedited falsehood.

An innocent mistake? Of course, but still sloppy — the new bill striking out the trespassing language was signed into law by the Governor on April 23, three days before Linda Greenhouse’s essay and six days before the Washington Post’s editorial.

But the misinformation continues. Two days ago, on Friday, the New York Times Editorial Board weighed in against the statute, claiming:

“The statute requires police officers to stop and question anyone who looks like an illegal immigrant.”

The law does not require or even allow police officers to “stop and question” anyone. The law affects what happens once there has already been a lawful stop, detention or arrest. Again, the statute, in relevant part:

For any lawful contact stop, detention or arrest made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of this state or a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who and is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person, except if the determination may hinder or obstruct an investigation.

Any person who is arrested shall have the person’s immigration status determined before the person is released.

The person’s immigration status shall be verified with the federal government pursuant to 8 United States code section 1373(c).

The law is clear: first there must be a lawful stop, detention or arrest. There are of course bazillions of pages of statutes and case law that determine what is or is not a “lawful stop, detention or arrest”. This law does not and could not change any of that.

Given a lawful stop, then there must also be “reasonable suspicion”. Then, and only then, does the new law require an attempt to determine legal status.

And again, with respect to what may or may not constitute “reasonable suspicion”, there are blatant falsehoods — from the Washington Post via Michael Gerson:

“This law creates a suspect class, based in part on ethnicity, considered guilty until they prove themselves innocent”.

No it does not create suspect class based on ethnicity and no it does not consider people to be guilty until proven innocent. Again, the law, in relevant part:

A law enforcement official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state <strong>may not solely consider race, color or national origin in implementing the requirements of this subsection except to the extent permitted by the United States or Arizona Constitution.

A person is presumed to not be an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States if the person provides to the law enforcement officer or agency any of the following:

1.  A valid Arizona driver license.

2.  A valid Arizona nonoperating identification license.

3.  A valid tribal enrollment card or other form of tribal identification.

4.  If the entity requires proof of legal presence in the United States before issuance, any valid United States federal, state or local government issued identification.

Again, Read it for yourself, please.

And of course, invoking Godwin’s law, we have to say that all reasoned debate ended last night with Seth Meyers on Saturday Night Live:

“This week, Arizona signed the toughest illegal immigration law in the country which will allow police to demand identification papers from anyone they suspect is in the country illegally. I know there’s some people in Arizona worried that Obama is acting like Hitler, but could we all agree that there’s nothing more Nazi than saying ‘Show me your papers?’ There’s never been a World War II movie that didn’t include the line ’show me your papers.’ It’s their catchphrase. Every time someone says ’show me your papers,’ Hitler’s family gets a residual check. So heads up, Arizona; that’s fascism. I know, I know, it’s a dry fascism, but it’s still fascism.”

Saturday Night Live, May 1, 2010

Well, in that case, we’ve been living in a Nazi-like state since . . . well, the Nazi’s were marching on Europe in 1940:

13-1509. Willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document; assessment; exception; authenticated records; classification

A. In addition to any violation of federal law, a person is guilty of willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document if the person is in violation of 8 United States Code section 1304(e) or 1306(a).

B. In the enforcement of this section, an alien’s immigration status may be determined by:

1. A law enforcement officer who is authorized by the federal government to verify or ascertain an alien’s immigration status.

2. The United States immigration and customs enforcement or the United States customs and border protection pursuant to 8 United States Code section 1373(c).

C. A law enforcement official or agency of this state or a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state may not consider race, color or national origin in the enforcement of this section except to the extent permitted by the United States or Arizona constitution.

By way of reference, 8 United States Code sections 1304(e) and 1306(a) have been on the books since 1940, and provide the following:

8 U.S.C. 1304(e). 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.

. . .

8 U.S.C. 1306(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.