Arizona Forces A Decision

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”-Geddy Lee

Immigration always becomes a dirty issue. It’s dirty, because it reveals a lot of truth about people, and the society they live in. In America, it reveals a very ugly truth about our governing class. They want the power of government without the grungy, necessary work of having to govern. They want the benefits of life in Versailles Upon Potomac; they do not want to spend the effort needed to govern the far-flung feudal demesnes.

US Immigration policy is one of neglect. One part is benign, one part is greedy, a third part is craven. However, The State of Arizona has externality problems on its hands from virtually unrestrained illegal immigration into the state, across the national border with Mexico. They have moved forcefully to solve them. This forces President Obama to make a command decision regarding the role of the Federal Government in policing the national border. Even if he chooses not to decide, he’s made a momentous decision.

The State of Arizona has passed a state law that echoes long-standing and oft-ignored USC statute regarding the handling of illegal immigration. The Arizona Bill contains the following language.

“For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official or agency 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 made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person.” (HT: NRO)

The manner in which an individual can prove they belong on American soil is laid out in USC 1304(e). The resident alien in question can carry immigration documents on their person, which revives the old propaganda boogeyman of “Show us your papers, Herr Gonzalez!”

Yet nobody wants to acknowledge the fact that Arizona paid disproportionately for the lax enforcement of Federal Jurisprudence such as USC 1304. States like Vermont and North Dakota, where illegal immigrants don’t congregate in massive numbers, can afford libertarian disdain for the grubby unpleasantness associated with border enforcement. Mark Krikorian estimates the following costs were born by Arizona, with no assistance from any of the “tolerant” people now condemning the state’s legislative action.

The main lesson for federal policymakers is that they need to do their job so states don’t have to. The explosion of illegal immigration in Arizona — where fully one-third of the uninsured are illegals and the state spends nearly $2 billion a year educating the children of families headed by illegals — demanded a response.

So yes, asking lawful Mexican Americans for their papers will appear Draconian. Yes, one or two knuckle-heads will take advantage of this necessary legal action to indulge their racist power trip by taking rights away from innocent people who leave their papers on the coffee table. But the people who favor the law overwhelmingly get that and regret it. They favor the law anyway.

So, if people understand the law makes American authority look, well, authoritarian, and if they understand racists can and will manipulate the letter of the law in mendacious ways to do iniquitous things, how can they favor the bill in good conscience? Because they are making a trade-off. They are accepting this ugly, necessary law with full knowledge of its negative externalities.

These negative externalities are bad, but the status-quo is worse. Yuma has 26% unemployment. The Phoenix real estate market has fallen through the floorboards. The state has received nearly 7.5% of all illegal immigrants believed to be in the US and nowhere near the population or the budget to absorb this influx. Arizona accepted an ugly remedy to a desperate situation.

If President Obama, and the rest of Institutional Washington, don’t want Arizona to aggressively push the limits of Federalism, they need to make Arizona’s actions unnecessary. They have two ways to handle this. They can wave the white flag of surrender, and provide amnesty to anyone in the US right now, or they can put sharp, Federal teeth into the efforts to enforce a series of tough laws already on the Federal books.

They have a 3rd choice. They can choose status quo. They can continue to grow the size and power of the Federal Government while deliberately and consciously refusing to perform that government’s Constitutional duties. If the Federal Government is going to have all the power and all the assets in the Federal Fisc, it has a moral responsibility to govern on behalf of the commonweal and not the connected.

This decision will lead to aggressive assertion of States Rights.. It probably will lead to succession agitation. It will probably also give us an economic disaster that makes a double-dip recession look tame.

A deliberate effort to ignore the continuing deterioration of conditions in border states will lead to arms race amongst state legislatures. They will act to restrict illegal aliens more forcefully than their neighbors. Each state will take turns to send them, and the negative externalities they bring to the state they reside in, packing.

This is not the way the nation deserves to be governed. Governor Jan Brewer, and the Arizona State Legislature just made the Federal Government decide who it works for. If they want to continue claiming that they actually work for the American People, they need to decide that the time has come for them to do their job.


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