A friend recently asked my thoughts on Arizona bil SB1070. I usually stay away from political topics on my blogs because once they are published, you can’t take them back. We all learn as we grow, and I still consider myself to be a student – so my opinions may be very strong today, not so black and white in a few years, and on the other side of the issue in a decade. Having said that – here goes:
First the problem statement:
Illegal immigration in Arizona is a problem. As a border state, we feel the economic drain when illegals work under the table, send the money back to Mexico instead of spend it in the local economy, and then use social services paid for by tax payers. We also have higher crime in neighborhood with larger illegal populations. Our teachers are often in the position of having to speak Spanish in order to communicate with their students and our ERs have 6 hour and longer wait times due to illegal immigrants using the ER as their general practitioner due to a total lack of insurance. We must do something.
The benefit of reduced labor costs does not offset the drain from the state treasury (read tax payers pockets) or the local economy.
SB1070 – a proposed solution
Please read the bill here.
My first issue with this solution:
FOR ANY LAWFUL CONTACT [how is this defined?] MADE BY A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL OR AGENCY
OF THIS STATE OR A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS
STATE WHERE REASONABLE SUSPICION [how is this defined?] EXISTS THAT THE PERSON IS AN ALIEN WHO IS
UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IN THE UNITED STATES, A REASONABLE ATTEMPT SHALL BE MADE,
WHEN PRACTICABLE, TO DETERMINE THE IMMIGRATION STATUS OF THE PERSON.
Nowhere in the bill is lawful contact or reasonable suspicion defined. There has been a lot of press stating that ‘racial profiling’ will not be used to enforce this law. That sounds great, however the bill does not define reasonable suspicion and all the press releases in the world are not going to convince me that law abiding US citizens won’t be stopped by police officers and harassed to produce documentation to prove their citizen status. What would convince me would be a definition of the terms “Lawful Contact” and “Reasonable Suspicion”. Is standing in front of a Home Depot on a Saturday morning reasonable suspicion? Is a friendly hello from a police officer considered “lawful contact”? If the answer to both of those questions is yes – then any office passing a home improvement store has the duty to stop and ask anyone in front looking for work to show their ‘papers’.
I am not looking for a promise by the city or state government that this isn’t the case – I’m looking for a bill that is more clearly written to address this concern. “We won’t do that, I promise” isn’t good enough.
My second issue with this solution:
A PERSON MAY BRING AN ACTION IN SUPERIOR COURT TO CHALLENGE ANY
OFFICIAL OR AGENCY OF THIS STATE OR A COUNTY, CITY, TOWN OR OTHER POLITICAL
SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE THAT ADOPTS OR IMPLEMENTS A POLICY THAT LIMITS OR
RESTRICTS THE ENFORCEMENT OF FEDERAL IMMIGRATION LAWS TO LESS THAN THE FULL
EXTENT PERMITTED BY FEDERAL LAW.
An officer is an official and given the vague nature of my first issue; I believe it is reasonable to assume that any police officer that does not stop at the home improvement store and ask to see the citizenship paperwork from the day workers has adopted a policy limiting the enforcement of this law and I can therefore sue that officer in superior court. For that matter, I believe it is reasonable to consider the city and state officials that have stated racial profiling will not be used as a tool to enforce this law have also adopted a policy that limits the enforcement of the law. Is this really what we want our court system to spend time on? Judges deciding if an officer did indeed have a reasonable suspicion during a lawful contact that did indeed require determining the immigration status? How could that possibly help us solve the current immigration problem?
I’ve always been told, don’t find problems with the solution, find solutions to the problem. Under that guideline, I propose we instead do the following…
Finish the fence. Good Fence make good neighbors, and thats been true for a lot longer than I’ve been blogging. Dealing with illegal immigrants that are currently in the US without first building the fence is like bailing water from your boat without fixing the hole.
If we are to have an SB1070, I suggest we define “lawful contact” as “engaged in an interaction that requires a person to be detained outside of the context of immigration status”, examples would be traffic violations, or other civil or criminal offense. This allows the law abiding citizen to be free from harassment making illegal immigration a secondary offense. In other words, if you are suspected of braking a law or statue other than immigration, expect to prove you are legally here in the US. This is similar to having a police officer request your driver’s license when he pulls you over for speeding.
In addition, lets expand the bill to require proof of citizenship for social services, defining specific social services such as food stamp programs, tuition assistance for higher education programs (not primary or secondary education), housing concessions such as Section8, unemployment, etc.
I can even live with the ability of the average citizen to sue an official that does not enforce the bill IF we define lawful contact as what I have described above.
I’ll leave you with this final though – a good sales person does not have to convince you his product is the best to solve your problem – only that he understands your problem better than his competition does. Understanding that illegal immigration is an issue simply means that we must do something – it does not mean we should do SB1070.