Posted by: Jeff | April 30, 2010

The Danger of Politicization

I keep coming back to this immigration law in Arizona because I think it is not only fundamentally wrong and unconstitutional, but I also believe that it fails to address the underlying problems that cause the emotional anxiety many are feeling about the issue.

Illegal immigration is a huge problem, though I am very skeptical of claims that immigration in and of itself is a threat to security, whether national or individual.  The latest rash of violence in Arizona is clearly the work of someone who crossed the border illegally.  I don’t think there is much doubt about that.  But was it perpetrated by an immigrant?

Immigrants to the US who cross the Mexican border illegally are by large pursuing work.  Economic conditions are very poor throughout much of Mexico, and endemic corruption and rampant violence make subsistence very difficult.  For millions, America is an attractive place promising economic sustenance.  It really isn’t much surprise that so many seek to enter the country by any means necessary.  However, that doesn’t mean that they are prone to violence.

Yet violence clearly occurs.  Why?  Well, it would seem that there is a second group of individuals also taking advantage of America’s permeable border.  Smugglers routinely ferry illicit goods (including drugs) across the border, and the trade is quite lucrative.  In order to protect it, many cartels equip their smugglers with weapons.  The initial reporting from Arizona suggests to me, at least, that this is a smuggling-related crime.  The perpetrator was tracked from the scene of the crime to the Mexican border, where footprints led back over the fence.  This wasn’t somebody coming to the US to pursue a livelihood in the promised land.  This was somebody who moves back and forth across a porous border rife with smuggled goods and trafficked drugs.

Which is why it is a shame that many in Arizona and elsewhere in this great country are using a horrible crime committed by drug traffickers to legitimate a terrible crackdown on people of Hispanic descent in Arizona.  I’ve written a bit about how the bill is unethical, and I will write soon about the constitutionality of such a measure.  But beyond whether the bill is right or wrong, it isn’t even effective.

How does a bill that gives state police in Phoenix and Tucson the right and ability to detain and investigate Hispanic individuals they encounter an effective method of border control?  This is a bill designed to crack down on immigration and migrant workers.  It is not a bill designed to do anything about the illicit drug trade that is spawning violence.  Nor is it doing anything to actually secure borders.  Checking the identification of American citizens and illegal aliens working to sustain their families through hard work on Arizona’s ranches and farms is counter-productive, and just serves to embitter Hispanic constituents against the American political process.

And it continues to grant free rein to violent smugglers who operate with impunity at the border.

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