The new Arizona immigration law has been met with much fanfare in the conservative media. Border security and law enforcement are both important issues. The negative economic hit our country takes from underground immigration and black market wages is real and tangible. However, this particular piece of legislation raises serious questions on the size and scope of government power as well.
Yes, I am about to go off the reservation on this one. To prepare you, I have included my photo complete with evil Spock beard and Yankees cap pictured to the right.
Enforcement: According to this legislation immigration status may be checked for “any lawful contact” with a person if the officer has “reasonable suspicion.” What it does not say is “upon lawful arrest” or even if the officer has “probable cause.” These terms are intentionally vague to leave individual officers open ended discretion to stop and question anyone without probable cause. This new immigration law may go even further because it puts non-law enforcement officials in a law enforcement capacity. The way the law is written is “A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL OR AGENCY OF THIS STATE OR A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE.” The dangerous and slippery slope of Big Brotherhood is a serious concern with such a precedent.
Here in Massachusetts they tried to turn our seat belt law from a secondary enforcement act to primary enforcement act a few years ago. Police were given the authority to pull people over for “suspicion of not wearing a seat-belt.” Thankfully, this government intrusion failed. Just imagine the open ended and broad ranging authority the police would have to harass innocent people if it did. In practice, an officer could pull over anyone, at any time, for any reason.
With the Arizona law similar problems could occur. As with all laws, selective enforcement should be a concern. Here in the United States we continue to seek the unobtainable goal of blind justice. The intentionally subjective standard of “reasonable suspicion” may take us further from that goal.
Government Control: If someone in Arizona (citizen or otherwise) is stopped by a police officer it is now incumbent upon the individual to prove his status without an underlying crime nor the burden of “probable cause” being placed on the officer. Here in Massachusetts, a drivers license is only required if someone wishes to drive a vehicle on a government road. Under this new Arizona law, government identification could be required as a condition of existence. If a person in unable to produce identification he could be detained or arrested for this without committing any underlying crime.
Most conservatives have come down on the right side opposing an individual mandate for health insurance, opposing a national gun registry, and opposing an national ID card. We should apply those same principles to this law as well.
MORE BELOW THE FOLD….
Many aspects of this well intentioned law are worth keeping. If anyone is arrested in Arizona, or any other state, his immigration status should always be checked. However, it’s current form should be changed to protect our individual liberty.
“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.” – Thomas Jefferson.