When it comes to illegal immigration, I disagree with the “round ‘em up, ship ‘em out” folks and am against the new Arizona law for two broad reasons: For one, the so-called “threat” of illegal immigration is illusory when one looks at the numbers. They are not a bunch of violent criminals and terrorists – in fact the numbers show that they commit crimes at a lower rate than legal American residents because they fear deportation. Secondly, economically, they are a net benefactor to the country. Their work has the effect of reducing production costs and overall increasing the American standard of living.
Illegal immigrants are an albatross of the American political psyche, scapegoats for our frustration with the welfare state. The problems we hear about hospitals losing money because of illegal aliens using emergency rooms are really caused by bad healthcare policy. We forget about the myriad legal residents who use hospitals the same way. The same goes for the bad economy and the recession. The real enemy during a depression is not people who are willing to work for less, but a government that puts so many burdens on employers that qualified people cannot find a job.
The second broad reason as to why I’m against the Arizona law has to do with what such laws force us to become. From Fox News’ website:
– PHOENIX—Arizona’s governor vows the state’s tough new law targeting illegal immigration will be implemented with no tolerance for racial profiling…”We must enforce the law evenly, and without regard to skin color, accent, or social status,” she [Governer Brewer] said. “We must prove the alarmists and the cynics wrong.” –
That goes right into the “who are you kidding” file. What the hell does she actually expect cops to do? Examine body language and clothing? See if people smell like tacos? Brewer is not five years old. She has to know that sheriffs like Arpaio with an axe to grind against illegals are not going to be patting down Norwegians. In practice and in statistical reality, the first clue of illegal status is going to be Hispanic ethnicity and a Spanish accent.
The appropriateness of racial profiling as such is another debate. I can see it being justifiable in specific circumstances. But let’s not kid ourselves about the consequences of the Arizona law. Arpaio, using his county as a laboratory to create the model for Arizona’s new law, has cost his state millions in settlement money for wrongful deaths, been the subject of multiple federal investigations, lost accreditation of his jails for inhumane conditions, improperly cleared numerous real crimes like rapes, and by a study he himself commissioned, was unable to improve recidivism rates. Anyone think he managed all of that by being race-neutral?
You might expect a black guy from NYC to take issue with cops using skin color to determine who to question and detain, so let’s forget profiling for a sec and consider some more basic issues. Do we really want to be a society that demands people always carry their “papers” with them for fear of being arrested? Do we really want local and state police enforcing federal laws at their whim (I’m talking to you, pot legalizers)? Do we really want not only illegals, but Hispanics and people of color throughout the state to be even more mistrusting of cops, refusing to cooperate in investigations of other crimes? Do we really want battered wives and rape victims to fear going to the police because they might end up having their lives uprooted?
Isn’t our side supposed to be the one that is suspicious of increasing government’s size and power? You think 16,000 IRS agents is bad, imagine what we would need to locate, capture, and expel 20 million illegals. You will need to expand the scope and authority of the government on a MASSIVE scale. Estimates put it between $10,000 and $25,000 to process just one deportation. Toss in the usual bureaucratic inefficiency and you’re looking at a trillion dollars or more. Is it worth that much debt just so you can pay more for your produce? Look at the local communities that passed anti-illegal immigrant ordinances and became ghost towns not long after. Arizona is already billions in the red and this new law is going to cost a ton in litigation and implementation. Is that where we want to go?
To me, illegal immigration is a largely victimless crime analogous to speeding. 99% of the time, driving over the speed limit is harmless, and actually increases economic efficiency by allowing people to get around faster. We drivers are all “criminals” in that we knowingly break the law expecting it not to be enforced and tacitly understanding that police usually are wasting our time when it is. If we tried to get the police to crack down on all speeders, we would need to dramatically increase their number and authority. It would also choke local economies by reducing transportation speed and requiring lots of new government spending.
The same is true of illegal immigration. There are victims, to be sure. No one is defending identity thieves or murderous drug runners. But we are kidding ourselves if we think more raids and deportations are going to do anyone any good. They won’t, except for maybe helping the sort of competition-hating union thugs we complain about here. Getting rid of illegals won’t reduce crime and will only hurt our economy. I agree with securing the border and doing everything we can to keep criminals out. But ultimately we need to be intelligent about the people that are already here and dispense with this ridiculous fantasy that it is even possible to deport them all. They are not hiding in the shadows stealing children. They live here 20 million strong because Americans willingly hire them, house them, trade with them, and live with them. We should accept the fact that we admit far too few legal immigrants and Americans, in their daily lives and explicit actions, show a de facto demand for more immigrants, not fewer.
Originally appeared at www.right-thinking.com.