Arizona Immigration Law

Critics of the recently-enacted Arizona law governing illegal immigration in that state generally say that the law is flawed because it could be abused, that it might lead to racial profiling by Arizona police. If this were the standard by which we judged laws in this country, we would scarcely be able to pass any laws. Almost as soon as any new law is proposed, someone is setting about searching for loopholes or other ways to circumvent it or, in some cases, illegally take advantage of it. Some laws are deemed by individuals as just too inconvenient to obey. How many people cheat on their income taxes? Plenty (including federal officials). How many drivers continue to talk on their cell phones while driving in states where that is illegal? Plenty. The list is virtually endless. To paraphrase Hamlet, many laws are “honored more in the breech than in the observance.”

Laws don’t act universally as deterrents, either. It’s against the law to murder, yet murders occur. The same goes for robbery, rape, fraud, assault, etc. Should we repeal our laws against assault simply because, occasionally, regardless of the law, someone will take a swing at someone else?

Those, including the President, who criticize the law because it could lead to racial profiling, cast aspersions on the Arizona police. They assume that police are just waiting for a chance to arrest people because they have dark skin or are wearing a Tee-shirt with a Mexican flag on it, that police are racists. Yet, by that reasoning, we are all in great peril because we rely on police officers throughout the country to protect us and to enforce our laws. If we allow people to continue to degrade our reliance on honest police work, our system falls apart. When President Obama said that the Cambridge, MA police “acted stupidly” when they took Professor Gates in for questioning, he was implying that the police were unreliable, and not to be trusted.

Of course, there might be instances of profiling under the Arizona law, just as there might, and almost assuredly will be misapplications of any law, anywhere, at any time. The Arizona law expressly prohibits profiling. Any officer who engages in profiling puts his career, his pension, and his reputation at risk. The Arizona law mirrors Federal immigration law. It will be tested in the courts. Until then, let’s not get carried away with scare tactics, political rhetoric, and finger pointing, activities that are threatening to replace baseball as our national pastime.

Dwight Boud
© 2010

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