Sunday, May 2, 2010

Take off your rainbow shades

It's too early-- or too late-- to react calmly and reasonably to the train wreck generated by Arizona's passage of a draconian immigration law, signed into law on April 24 by Gov. Jan Brewer. Cooler heads do not yet prevail.

If Arizona starts checking ID of people with plaid shirts to see if they're Canadian, I'll take back all my remarks.
That was late April. Now that it's early May, it appears that I need not worry about retracting the above. The tops of people's heads did indeed explode, and stayed that way. Arizonan public officials (and their pundit supporters across the realm) spent the intervening days trying and failing to explain how the new law could be enforced without rampant racial profiling, especially since there is no expressed official interest in illegal immigrants from anywhere but Mexico and points south.

As of April 30, a hastily-signed follow-on bill attempted to quell the uproar by being, ah, just a bit more specific. It clarifies that people can't be interrogated strictly on the basis of race or ethnicity alone, but (from the linked story) "civil complaints, such as an unmowed lawn, could trigger questioning about immigration status." Well, as long as there's a sound reason to check someone's papers, right?

I had one moment of near-sympathy for the Grand Canyon State when talking with an expatriate Arizonan a few days ago. The claim, which I have no reason to doubt, is that border crime and violence has gone so far beyond merely crossing to find work that a radical solution is necessary. Well, you've got me there. Peaceful residents on either side of the border, being overrun by marauding drug dealers? Migrant workers' minor pilfering of water or food escalating to grand larceny? No argument, some kind of hammer needs to come down. I just can't see how the new law, however amended, changes either of these.

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