Courtesy of: Fox News
Arizona’s new immigration law, Senate Bill 1070, passed and has now given rise to many heated debates in the streets, schools, and the courthouses all across America. What is the crux of the issue? And even though the bill may be unconstitutional, how is it that the federal government will most likely not challenge it?
On one side, there are a lot of people who are against the bill because they say that it incites hatred, racism, and promotes racial profiling. In essence, the law states that police officers have the authority to request identification of United States citizenship when it comes into question during a routine traffic stop, such as when an officer pulls someone over for speeding, swerving, running a red light, etc. According the Terry v. Ohio case in 1968, police officers can search someone on a routine traffic stop in order to uphold civil order and maintain public safety.
Well, the gist of racial profiling is that in order to have a legal stop, the officer must have valid probable cause. The officer used to need an objective reason to pull someone over, but in the Whren v. United States case of 1996, the Court expanded police authority by creating a ‘reasonable officer’ standard, creating a wide understanding of what â€śprobable causeâ€ť could mean. This case, which is still good case law (which means it stands as the foremost precedent by which all other cases of this nature are judged), basically holds that now, police officers can give subjective reasons for pulling people over. They do not need to substantiate their claims. Therefore, if there is a racist police officer, he would be able to defend his rationale for pulling a young African American man over, as opposed to a young white male, by claiming they were acting suspiciously. This dynamic can lead (and has led) to many abuses and civil rights violations.
However, The United States government has been doing these things for years, which doesn’t make it ‘right,’ but where is the outcry over the blatant mistreatment of natural citizens? Per the Patriot Act, the United States can and does detain American citizens without due process, as required by the Constitution, for reasons relating to national security, and that security doesn’t just stop with supposed terrorism. Some people feel that national security is not only comprised of our general welfare and freedom from tyranny and terror, but also the ability to have a well-funded and regulated education, health care system, and state and federal economy, as well as a secure border. It is for these reasons (among many others), that the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)Â drafted the legislation that Arizona has adopted and which many other states are currently trying to pass along to their own masses.
When a piece of legislation is held to constitutional scrutiny by the Court, it will be upheld if the state can show that it has a significant interest that trumps the interest of individuals. The state, as a whole, has an interest in governing everyoneâ€”a very diverse population with diverse needs. For example, think about your ‘right’ to smoke cigarettes. The state cannot take away your ability to smoke. They haven’t made the act illegal, but they can regulate it. They can tax the heck out of it as a way to encourage you to stop smoking and potentially endangering others. The logical correlation here is that Arizona has infringed upon the rights of some in order to promote and protect the rights of the majority and to secure its own social, economic, and political interests. Whether we like it or not, this entire discussion about the infringement of ‘rights’ encompasses illegal aliens.
I can’t imagine that anyone is arguing against legal immigration. Our country was created by immigrants. The Statue of Liberty has more meaning than a bobblehead on the dashboard. However, it must be remembered that my ancestors and perhaps yours, came here, wanting a better life, and were met at Ellis Island by government officials, willing and able to help through the process. Our ancestors were fully documented. They respected and upheld the laws to which they were grateful. It is being argued by the proponents of the legislation that the illegal immigrants in question have not adhered to Americaâ€™s immigration laws. They have not taken the steps to procure a legitimate passport, VISA, or greencard. Although some consider it racial profiling, many of the illegal immigrants that have been detained or removed were those that illegally, fraudulently obtained documentation and have been working under the table, under the radar of the Internal Revenue Service.
As a matter of comic relief, we should consider that Willie Nelson, Wesley Snipes, and even Al Capone couldn’t escape the wrath of the IRS. Many of these illegal immigrants were detained due to routine traffic stops, in which they broke a law. No one likes punishment; no one wants to deal with the consequences of their actions, especially if they are incredibly unfair or unduly harshâ€”and this bill could prove incredibly unfair and unduly harsh. Nevertheless, the outrage seems to revolve around due processâ€”a constitutional protection for citizens of the United States. As with any part of the Constitution, due process can (and certainly, e.g. frequently does), get molded to fit any given circumstance. If there’s one thing that can be said about the constancy of the law, it’s that it is fluid, flexible, and malleable.
There are many arguments from learned legal professionals and renowned commentators that this bill is unconstitutional. They say that the state’s sovereignty cannot usurp the authority of the federal government because it is the former’s constitutional authority, alone, to regulate immigration. Arizona has effectively overstepped its legal and ethical boundaries. However, it must be argued, as well, that Arizona has the right to protect its residents. What practical good is state sovereignty if not to enact laws that will increase the quality of living in the state? Because of this interest and due to the political nature of this issue, it is highly unlikely that the federal government is going to do anything about it, but instead take a different approach by letting the law fall where it may and letting the good people of Arizona reap the benefits or the deficits of their decisions.
Either way, those of us that do not live in Arizona need to know how to pick our battles. Immigration reform has been a hot-button issue for many decades and President Obama is currently in the process of drafting new policies which will have to be ‘checked and balanced’ by the Congress before given over to the states. That is the appropriate arena for voters, for citizens to ‘fight back.’ If our citizens radically oppose the legislation of any kind, let their voices be heard, but in a democratic and civil way. Name calling, insults, mud-slinging, call it what you will, is simply counterproductive and will only increase the confusion and conflict.
Posted by Melissa on May 24, 2010 at 4:15 pm.