Monday, May 10, 2010

Red Herring Alert: Arizona immigration law.

The Drudge Report ran a headline on Saturday of a Seattle police officer kicking and cussing at a prone Hispanic man who had been stopped as a potential suspect in a crime. Moments later the officer apparently realized that he had the wrong person and let the young man up. Later the cop tearfully apologized.

Stories like this one demonstrate clearly what everyone in the country knows, that racism does exist and that sometimes bad things happen to good people and innocent people are sometimes suspected of things they didn’t do.

The thing that most people don’t recognize however is that part of the reason it’s so shocking and sensational is that it is so unusual. Although some people would suggest that it is the capturing of the abuse that makes this event unusual, I would suggest that it is the reckless unprofessionalism that is unusual. With the ubiquity of cheap and easy to get video cameras, not to mention video enabled cell phones and police dashboard-cams, if this kind of abuse were rampant, thousands of videos a week would be showing up on the local news and on YouTube. There are almost 1,000,000 million police officers in the United States and they deal with 10 million crimes a year and interact with ten times that number of citizens, criminals and suspects. If this Seattle event were indicative of police conduct in general, we could have 500 channels dedicated solely to police brutality. The fact that we don’t have wall to wall such videos doesn’t condone what went on in Seattle or any other act of police brutality, rather it simply demonstrates the truth of the fact that the vast majority of police are good, honorable public servants who put themselves in harms way every day in order to protect the citizens of their communities. It is when this aberration becomes commonplace that all of us, whites, blacks, Hispanics and everyone else needs to worry.

Nonetheless, this video is particularly painful because it comes amidst the debate over the Arizona immigration law. The law has been decried as giving cover for racist police and government officials to harass, abuse and discriminate against Hispanics. Nothing could be farther from the truth, but this video will only help to amplify the invective being thrown about.

Despite the distraction of a bad acting policeman, the issue of the Arizona law remains. The reality is that the citizens of Arizona are simply looking for a way to deal with a problem the federal government has created. Phoenix has become the kidnapping capital of the country and is second in the world only to Mexico City. The state has become a primary thoroughfare for smuggling of both drugs and illegal aliens while citizens and police often find themselves dealing with the violence that follows both. Arizona’s citizens were simply tired of being the hapless dupes who by geography were forced to pay the price for the federal government’s dereliction of duty.

Given such a dire situation of crime and chaos, what did the citizens of Arizona do? Outlaw Hispanics? Make it a crime to be from Mexico? Decide that Hispanics are no longer allowed to receive government services like emergency healthcare or police protection? No. They simply passed a law stating that they would enforce a heretofore unenforced 1952 federal law which states that resident aliens must carry documentation to demonstrate they are in the country legally. Not only that, the law explicitly states that such documentation is not a primary, but a secondary violation. Similar to laws in some states where seat belt laws are considered a secondary violation… you can’t be stopped for not wearing your seat belt, but if you get pulled over for reckless driving or speeding you get a bonus ticket for not wearing your seat belt. Faced with the same situation, most states would likely travel a similar path as Arizona, and indeed its law is downright inviting when compared to Mexico’s draconian immigrant laws.

The bottom line is that by abdicating its responsibility to police our borders, the federal government has created a situation where states are helpless to deal with problems not of their own making, then when they choose to take matters into their own hands, the federal government wants to slap them down.

The border has been a problem for well over 30 years. While Democrats want it open to increase their voting base, Republicans from Ronald Reagan to George Bush choose to punt the ball down the field rather than deal with the political consequences of taking a principled stand. The result is that there are between 10 and 20 million illegal aliens in the United States, most of whom crossed the virtually unguarded southern border. When conservatives suggested building an actual wall a few years ago in the midst of the last immigration debate, they were pilloried for wanting to build a “Berlin Wall on our southern border.” The fact that the Berlin Wall was built to keep people in seemed to be lost on the open borders crowd…

The Arizona law is not really the problem. Nor is the Seattle cop abusing an innocent man. Both are but sideshows to the real issue: National and border security. Fundamental to the role of government is the protection of its people and the integrity of its territory. Article IV – Section 4 of the Constitution states: “The United States… shall protect each of them (States) against Invasion;” By definition there is simply nothing more important that a government does – or in this case, doesn’t do. As Cinco de Mayo demonstrations, American flag wearing students and high school teachers calling for a La Raza revolution demonstrate, immigration is an issue the government can not sweep under the rug for much longer.

Where does one start? The idea of trying to track down and kick out 20 million illegal immigrants makes for great talk show call in fodder, but it’s not particularly realistic. What can be done however is the building of a 1600 mile or so wall from Brownsville, Texas to San Diego, California. Even if it cost $15 million a mile, the $25 billion would still be less than the government spent propping up Government Motors. Once the border is closed we can have a discussion on what to do about people who have come here illegally. It’s a lot like arguing about how to arrange the deck chairs on a boat with hole in its hull. If you don’t fix the hole it won’t matter how you arrange the chairs, eventually the whole thing will be lost and all will be moot. The Arizona law may actually begin to put the discussion on the front burner, exactly where it belongs, hopefully the Seattle video will not serve as a catalyst for continuing to do nothing.

1 comment:

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